Friday, January 30

Developing Networks: The Hierarchy Of Need

For as long as there have been social networks, there have been tip sheets on why you need them and how to make them. But do social networks really work this way? Are there tips, tactics, techniques, and secrets to Digg, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, and countless others? Enough so that you need an entrance strategy? Maybe.

Or maybe it's much simpler than that. Abraham Maslow, who published A Theory of Human Motivation and the hierarchy of human needs, suggested that people tend to prioritize basic needs before personal growth before achieving self-actualization. Maybe they do online too.

Scaling The Maslow Slope In Social Networks

• The Need for Hope. When people first join a social network, most of them are looking to fulfill a hope: personal interaction, professional development, community involvement, or some combination of the three. Their initial focus tends to be concentrated on learning the culture of the social network. (Equivalent to physiological needs.) "Maybe this is the next big thing!?"

•Security. As they begin to engage individuals and develop relationships, they start to feel more secure within the network. Their focus shifts to engaging others in conversation, especially people they have met in person or people who support them. (Safety and security.) "Everyone is so nice!"

• Acceptance. As their confidence grows, they begin to feel accepted as part of the group and stand on their own. They are more likely to initiate conversations, even among strangers, because they belong. (Belongingness.) "We belong here!"

• Achievement. As their network grows around them, they receive more recognition and respect. They are more likely to set topic agendas, lead conversations, and earn the respect of others. (Self-esteem.) "Wow! They think I'm brilliant!"

• Change The World. As their perceived influence reaches a peak, they feel empowered to problem solve and perceive social networks as a means to change the world. They take more chances. They originate more ideas. (Self-actualization.) "We can change the world!"

Reversing The Curve In Social Networks

• Insecurity. If self-actualizers distance themselves from people or promote ideas that do not resonate, they become more likely to seek out support from their friends. They are also more likely to leverage relationships for validation. (Self-esteem.) "Maybe I need to look at other people's ideas."

• Reputation. As they leverage relationships, they become more concerned about their reputation and image. They look for ways to recapture their sense of belongingness instead of indebtedness. (Belongingness.) "I was here first."

• Fear. As their individual networks shrink, they become less focused on presenting ideas and more focused on why they are losing followers. Their focus shifts toward attempting to please others. (Safety and security.) "Why am I losing followers?"

• Despair. As the content they share diminishes, they eventually claim network fatigue and abandon the network or reduce their presence. Some will look for other networks; others will claim social media failed to meet their expectations. (Equivalent to physiological needs.) "This network isn't what it used to be."

Staying In A Place Of Self-Actualization.

This might even be why so many people advise that you be yourself. That you don't confuse yourself with a product. And you never mistake authority for popularity. People are people. Maybe you can be too.

"What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization." — Abraham Maslow


zohner on 1/30/09, 9:46 PM said...

Very interesting. I've never thought of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in terms of social networking.

Rich on 1/31/09, 10:11 AM said...


What has always been interesting to me is how many relationship discoveries in social media are tied to what we already know (or don't know) about the way our brains process information.


Barry on 1/31/09, 3:48 PM said...

All of this happens to a person relating to other people through a keyboard and screen.

For some reason the inner life of a social network passing before my eyes reminded me of the times I have come across a web page which belongs to an individual or small group who set out to change the world all by their lonesome.

They saw the internet and decided it was a brilliant way to spread their personal fire only to have that fire grow cold because they percieved nothing happened.

Like a boom town they came to the web but unlike in real life where you rarely see a sign on a corner which say's "I started something that failed here" On the web this is not at all uncommon. "I put my heart into this but no one cared..." is a pretty common sentiment.

Ghost towns.

Tangent inducing post's are alway's appreciated.

Thank's Rich


Rich on 2/1/09, 8:21 AM said...


In general, the brain doesn't distinguish whether the interaction is in person or via a screen.

If anything, written words have a way of resonating with more power than the spoken word because they are more absorbing than spoken communication. When we speak, 80 percent or so of the communication is nonverbal. When we write, it's 100 percent message, especially if the words are mostly graphic neutral.

The Internet can change the world, but only if the intent of the communication drives the outcome offline. But if the intent of the communication is only designed to produce online outcomes (Web site hits and 'friend counts'), then it is destined to fail as a flash-in-the-pan.

I love your ideas. It's keeps it real. :)

All my best,


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