In 2014 I began to develop my own version of Maslow’s hierarchical pyramid of needs, adapted to social media. My goal was to be able to identify more precisely when influencers stand out and reveal themselves in the learning and adoption curve of social networks and different platforms.
Based on the idea that the hierarchical needs theory (which is still taught in marketing and communications schools) also adapts to the social media adoption curve, Use of the GlobalWebIndex media to transpose and compare the level of maturity of users – consumers on one side (left) with that of the influencers (right).
I published an analysis of my research on my blog (in French) and on Maximize Social Business. A new approach that once again demonstrated that in the digital age, Maslow’s pyramid could also be adapted to all areas of professional activity.
In 2015, I accepted the invitation of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) to update the pyramid, and the results were published in the winter of 2015-2016 in the fourth-annual pan-Canadian magazine Education Canada. The pyramid has been read and shared by several thousand readers on different platforms, including nearly 1,500 social media specialists via the Maximize Social Business website.
Here is the original pyramid:
and here is the revised one:
This new pyramid reflects both the adoption curve of the different social platforms and the type of content they consume, share or disseminate at each hierarchical level of the pyramid of needs. Each of the 5 levels of the hierarchical pyramid of Maslow’s needs (discovery, security, sharing, esteem, achievement) corresponds to one of the stages in the learning curve and adoption of social media. No one can escape from following and climbing each step of this pyramid before claiming that they’re a social media influencer. The theory of hierarchic human needs and the effectiveness of Maslow’s pyramid has been scientifically demonstrated, and it can be perfectly adapted to the usual curve of adoption of social media, as well as building influence:
1 – Learning to navigate a new ecosystem (discovery)
Initially, any beginning user (including influencers and opinion leaders) must be familiar with and learn to safely navigate the ecosystem of web and social networks, where every action, every gesture is a form of a fingerprint. Where each code, word or speech emitted contributes to its digital DNA. Users learn how to use email and search on Google and Wikipedia, while influencers begin to structure their presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
2 – Securing digital identity (security)
During this initial phase, the main challenge remains to secure its digital identity. This is the foundation of the reputation that will be created later on social networks. At this stage, professionals are already defining their strategies, and further streamlining their activities on the web and social media. It’s at this level that users gain confidence by securing their presence in turn and experimenting with new platforms.
3 – Developing community (sharing)
It’s at the third level of the pyramid that influencers begin to stand out among professionals and they affirm their leadership and brand image. They engage in conversation on chat sites and discussion forums and share comments and content relevant to their community. This content, widely amplified through their blogs and social platforms, brings them a certain social capital. It is also at this level that niche influencers are beginning to stand out on Twitter, YouTube and platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat.
4 – Establishing social network (esteem)
At this stage, companies, and organizations solicit the participation of influencers for presentations, training or coaching workshops. Their books are widely published online, and they offer webinars on different platforms. Niche influencers and micro-influencers use new tools for exchanging, aggregating and disseminating content, and begin to exert an even greater influence.
5 – Confirm leadership and influence (achievement)
At the last level of the pyramid, influencers further assert their leadership by collaborating on projects for companies (such as studies or research), and present at corporate and institutional events. Their work is often studied in business schools.
In the adoption curve of social media, achieving each of the levels of the pyramid of influence will depend on the result obtained at the previous level. It is at the first 2 levels that the digital identity will be secured and influencer personal branding is built. They will then have to be relevant, interesting and consistent through the content they broadcast, before gaining the credibility that will establish their authority in their sector.
What are your thoughts on the pyramid? Share your opinions in the comment section of this article.