The Psychology of Social Sharing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Social Media Marketing


It is clear that there is a strong correlation between psychology and the act of social sharing. As a B2B marketing professional trying to create your social media and content strategy, having a basic foundation of human psychology can help amplify your efforts, more effectively reach your audience, and encourage your customers to share your message.  But how do you get your audience to share? By understanding the psychology behind human motivations, you can have greater insight into how to target your audience.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In 1943, Abraham Maslow, a prominent American psychologist created Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to explain fundamental human behaviors. By being conscious of the motivations behind need fulfillment, you can better understand how your message will resonate with your audience and create campaigns that your audience wants to share.

This is the largest, most fundamental need in Maslow’s pyramid. It covers the most basic physical needs for survival such as food, water, sleep, shelter, warmth.  This and the next tier are more product and service focused. Focus on calling out the physiological if your company sells  a product or service that helps enhance or fill one of these basic needs.

Safety and security can include protection, order, law, employment, health. This is also the level that income falls under. Having a healthy income and a steady job is also part of this tier. Note, that these needs aren’t as crucial as the initial physiological ones, but are still important for human comfort.

Now we are beyond the physical and get up into the deep psychological and interpersonal needs such as friendship, family, and intimacy. According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance within their social spheres.  This sense of belonging motivates people to lean on their peers and listen to their recommendations. This is one of the primary reasons for social sharing–the group-think mentality. If your friends are sharing a piece of content, you are much more likely to look at it and share as well. This concept can also be seen in a Groupon like group deal. The more deals that show as purchased, the more likely you are to see the item or service as desirable. Conversely, if the group deal has a low purchase rate,  you might think twice about buying it yourself.

After the desire for beloging, the next level of needs is self-esteem. Esteem exemplifies the desire to be recognized and rewarded for achievements. Because esteem is so closely linked with belonging, this level illustrates the need to be listened to and accepted by others. Growth both personally and professionally can also fall under this tier. This can fuel competition in a social sharing campaign, or be a motivator behind writing a review and participating in a poll. Everyone wants their opinion heard. Additionally, by rewarding your influencers (those that evangelize your message the most) you can tap into this need.

Self- actualization
This is the concept that refers to the desire to realize one’s full potential and to achieve a high level of accomplishment or mastery. This is the driving force behind the need to succeed, and perfect his or her chosen interest or profession. Tap into this need by fueling competition through your social channels. Go further by asking your audience to be creative or to show their expertise in some way. The desire to be the best is a great motivator.


What can be learned?

A lot can be learned from Maslow’s basic explanation of human needs, and this can easily be translated into what motivates people to share. Social media fosters a strong sense of group mentality — learning from your peers, being recognized by your peers, relying on your peers for that sense of belonging. As a marketer, keep this in mind when both developing your content and your social campaigns. Always ask yourself what “social sharing need” your campaign is fulfilling.

To learn more about how you can motivate social sharing with your customers and prospects, download our ebook 5 Ways to Encourage Your Customers to Share Your Content.