Why do people use social media?
The question is an important one to anyone that is developing a social media strategy or hoping to apply the principles of social media to their organisation’s research process.
Uses and gratification theory provides a useful framework for categorising the needs that social media satisfies.
A recent study by Whiting and Williams interviewed a range of social media users and explored what keeps them coming back to social networks.
- Social interaction – social media, not surprisingly, allows people to be social. They meet new people and keep in touch with friends, acquaintances and family.
- Information seeking – this refers to the process of finding information about products/services, keeping up to date with real-world social events, and learning new things.
- Passing time – social media is a great time killer and can cure boredom whether at home, at school, or in the work place.
- Entertainment – games, music and videos are all accessed through social media. Watching the stream of updates from people is also a form of entertainment – whether intentionally humorous or not.
- Relaxation – whilst people find others updates humorous, they also find them relaxing. Social media is a way to alleviate stress and escape from reality.
- Expression of opinions – expressing thoughts and opinions, criticizing others and blowing off steam (either anonymously or named) is regularly undertaken through social media.
- Things to talk about – like the daily newspaper, social media provide subject matter for people to talk and gossip about with others.
- Convenience – social media is readily accessible, even more so as mobile devices become ubiquitous. Furthermore, people can talk to several people at the same time.
- Sharing information – people can use social media to broadcast things about themselves. By publishing updates, videos and pictures, people market their own personal brand or business.
- Knowing about others – social media allows a window into the lives of others. By checking out other profiles, they can be nosey or ‘keep up with the Jones’’.
These elements are a great launch pad for thinking about any activity that involves using social media tools. By designing a platform or strategy that works to gratify the needs above then you will significantly increase engagement in your project.