Customer Experience, digital marketing, Why Social Media Is So Addictive (And Why Marketers Should Care)

Has the hype about social media turning us all into narcissists, egomaniacs and internet drug-addicts run its course? I doubt it. A quick search on Google and you’ll find hundreds of articles warning us of the “drug” that is social media.

Some interesting facts:

  1. Google+ boasts more than 343 million users as of July 2013. (Expanded Ramblings)
  2. 40 million photos are uploaded to Instagram per day (Instagram)
  3. Teen Twitter use has grown significantly in 2013: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011. (Pew Internet Research)
  4. 1 in 10 young people rejected for a job because of their social profile (ondevice)
  5. 751 million monthly active Facebook mobile products users (Facebook)
  6. The Netherlands are most active social network users in Europe (65 percent of all users); the UK is in second place (57 percent of all European social network users). (The Office for National Statistics and Eurostat)
  7. Health care workers who misuse social media are more likely to not get hired. More than two in five (43 percent) health care hiring managers said information they’ve found caused them not to hire a candidate (CareerBuilder)
  8. Worldwide PC, tablet and mobile phone shipments will grow by 5.9 percent in 2013, while tablet shipments will increase by 67.9 percent. (Gartner)

It’s hard to argue against the idea that many people are addicted to Social Media. It’s also tempting to suggest that it’s turning us into narcissists and egomaniacs; I don’t buy it.

So what does drive social media use?


My answer: Human nature.

In an email interview with Dr. Pamela Rutledge, she explained:

“Social validation is important; a Facebook like is a social signal. It affirms our existence the same way that someone nodding at you on the sidewalk does. But we’re also just learning to use social tools, experimenting to find out what it all means.

We have a tremendous double standard about what’s ok. Sharing inconsequential events is superficial; liking 'likes' is dangerous; if you post a selfie you’re a narcissist. All these worries reflect a level of moral panic or techno-fear about new technologies.”

What drives us to use social media in the way we use it has less to do with social media platforms and more to do with psychology.

Brands must realize that they no longer hold the reigns as to what people want to see, think or buy. Understanding how and why this balance has shifted can make or break a social marketing campaign.

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not how social media works that drives people to use it how they do -- it’s people who are driving how social media works for us.

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Five psychological traits that drive the use of social media:

1. Fear of Missing Out

People love to say that social media has led to the curse of “fear of missing out” (FoMO). This is a bit absurd as FoMO is hardly a new “fear.” (Check your FoMO ranking here.)

FoMO is certainly one of the human traits driving how social media works, particularly with people aged thirty and under. Texting and status updates allow us to be more easily involved in the lives of others than ever before. And social media platforms and marketers are beginning to understand and make use of it.

For example, My Life, a personal social media management platform, recently released Data that found:

  • 27 percent of consumers admit they check social networks as soon as they wake up, and 51 percent continue to log in periodically throughout the day.
  • Exclusive access to promotional prices, coupons or product releases plays on the FoMO trend.
  • 56 percent believe not regularly checking their sites means they’ll miss important updates, news content or events from the pages they follow.

By posting first thing in the morning, branded content gets the most exposure. Following up with regular updates ensures continued engagement.

Researchers from the University of California and University of Rochester found that if individuals “psychological needs were deprived,” a fear of missing out also provided the temptation of writing and checking text messages and e-mails while driving.

Dr. Stephanie Rutledge explains again: