Social media is not a fad.


The industries that are growing around it are here to stay.

What will change is the way we interact with it. The platforms will update, some will shut down (toodles Google Plus), others will change completely. Facebook today is a far cry from what it was in 2004.

There are however a host of people online claiming to be gurus and experts about social media. The truth is that any expertise that is specific to one platform is volatile.


An algorithm can change tomorrow that will render methods useless. What is hot today can become archaic in a matter of weeks.

The very thing that makes social media what it is, is the thing that makes it fluid: speed.


Contrary to popular opinion, not all businesses are a good fit for social media.


There are many executives who see everyone else doing it and approach it as the fashionable thing to do.

Without understanding what you can really bring to this digital platform, you run the risk of hurting your brand rather than improving it.


People often say that likes don’t matter, but somewhere in our brains, we associate higher likes with validation.

Sometimes we see profiles and we know nothing about them, but think to ourselves hmm, if their follower count is so high, they must be doing something right.


Often times we follow accounts just because they have a lot of likes. So yes, likes do matter, but their usefulness is short lived.

Most times when we realise that an account is doing nothing for us, we are quick to unfollow.


This phenomena has found itself as a social scale for dating and even interviewing. Some people actually evaluate a person by looking at how many people they follow versus how many follow them.

If they follow more than follows them, they are deemed weird or socially unacceptable. If the ratio is tipped the other way, they are deemed as interesting or popular.


As superficial as this is, it is the sad reality of our times.


There are many books and articles that try to explain how it all works using technical information like metrics, engagement rates, impressions and the entire arsenal of analytics available to us.


I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to understand the psychology below all of this, so I studied dozens of accounts and what made their content popular. It’s obvious that visually appealing things like cars, food, houses, fashion and sports are all extremely popular, especially on Instagram. These are examples of subsets however. They belong to bigger categories, which are the triggers and motivation for social media engagement.


These triggers are what appeal to us on a deeper, psychological level. They drive our decisions to engage with content because they connect with who we want to be, where we want to be and how we want people to perceive us.



As humans we are built to be curious. We want to explore, we want to know what’s out there. Glimpses of new worlds fill us with intrigue and take us to a different place for a brief moment. That modicum of an experience through our eyes makes us wish we were there too, or brings back memories of a time when visited for ourselves. Falling into this category are travel, space exploration, deep sea exploration and even accounts that explore our immediate environments through a different lens.



We want to be fascinated. We want to be amazed. We look at giant aircraft or succulent meals and we wonder ‘how did they do that?’ Wonder can be amplified when we either know nothing about a topic or when we know a lot about it. The focus changes between the two. When we know nothing, our awe is that they’re able to achieve this in the first place. When we know a lot, our awe is in how they achieve it, possibly comparing our own methods to theirs. In this category are science and engineering, cooking, architecture, documentaries, culture, music, art, performance.



Sex sells. Humans are visually stimulated. Men more so than women, but both sexes will quickly double tap on an image of someone they find attractive. Women who show off appealing bodies usually have quite the follower count.



This is the kind of content that is actually good for the world. While there is a lot of spam from ‘motivational’ accounts, there are truly some gems out there. 60 second documentaries, Prince Ea are examples of content that genuinely uplifts and guides you on how to be a better human. Outside of motivation and self help, learning accounts cover a variety of topics. From how to decorate cakes to how to illustrate characters to how to play the guitar, we value content that makes us better.



Usually linked to some form of customer service, accounts that provide utility are very useful to users. Whether it be that we can complain about a bad experience, compliment staff on a great experience, find out store opening times or make dinner reservations, it can all be done through social media. This responsiveness and utility sets companies apart, giving a human touch to otherwise automated functions.



Remember the world famous egg? Some accounts get engagement simply because it’s the in-thing to do. While this rarely lasts, it does illustrate how fickle people are on the internet.

Things like political movements are a mix of the above categories. We show our support for things that we believe in; a belief which comes from shared values or an aspirational viewpoint of a leader. These individuals make us wonder what the world would be like when they achieve their vision. They edify us through their ideas and they create a movement that is inclusive of people who share their vision.



If your organisation doesn’t directly fit into one or more of these categories, then for your social media to work, you need to find some facet of your business that can fit. 


An otherwise boring financial institution may be able to fascinate people with shocking statistics. A toilet paper manufacturer can create a humorous campaign about having to go to the loo at awkward times. A water bottle manufacturer can focus on training for marathons versus the bottles themselves.


If you can’t find any aspect of your business to post about, then don’t force it.


The truth is that while social media works wonders for B2C businesses, it doesn’t always work for B2B businesses. People are a lot more likely to purchase something for $20 after seeing it on social media, than something for thousands of dollars that they have to budget and plan for.


Leave a Reply