8 Reasons Why Social Media is Such a Powerful Marketing Medium

Twitter in The 1960'sWhy has Social Media captured the imagination and participation of so many people with up to 40% plus of the Internet population in some English speaking, developed countries creating a personal Facebook page. This is a social phenomenon worth contemplating and looking at, as this reveals a lot about who we are as human beings living on a planet wanting to communicate our messages, beliefs, photos, videos and their “Song” to their friends and the world.

What drives this activity and participation at levels that border on obsession with increasing hyperactivity? There seems to be a few observations that make sense and hint at at its causes. Is it wanting to make money, to connect, its novelty or is it a more basic drive and motivator that makes it compelling and compulsive to us as humans? The answers are simple but it is powerful, it is a shift and permutation in our conciousness that has us Twittering, Blogging, Facebooking, Linking and YouTubing with passion bordering on obsession and addiction. Are we seeing the largest revolution in human knowledge since the “Gutenberg Press” that leveraged and transformed the spread of knowledge from handwriting to print centuries ago?

So what are some of these drivers?

1. Money– It’s Seen as a Gold Rush by Marketers, Investors and Companies (This was even picked up by Business Week in April, 2006)

On April 19,  2006 Business Week had an article, “Social Networking’s Gold Rush”  (Note: This was observed in 2006, which I find rather insightful ) “The movement continues to defy doubters and draw big investments. The latest includes $25 million for a piece of Facebook. Just a few months ago, many experts and investors were inclined to dismiss social networking sites as a mere fad. Regardless of how many members sites such as MySpace (NWS) and Facebook racked up, critics warned that supposedly fickle young Internet users were likely to rush away as soon as the next hot startup came along. And some advertisers were skeptical about the effectiveness of the medium, which features user-created content of a sometimes questionable nature.”

2. It Has Become Mainstream, Socially Acceptable and Credible (Not Geeky).. Twitter is still struggling though!!! with CNN’s Article  Headline saying Oprah, Ashton Kutcher Mark Twitter ‘turning point’

CNN says “As Ashton Kutcher becomes the first to collect 1 million followers on Twitter and Oprah Winfrey sends out her first tweet, tech observers are debating: Does Friday mark a new peak for the microblogging service? Or the beginning of its demise? Ashton Kutcher told Larry King Friday that the battle was about proving one person can have a voice. 1 of 3 Some bloggers and Twitter users have expressed concern that the once-cultish site is being overwhelmed by celebrities and media hype, while others are excited by Twitter’s ever-growing reach. “It’s a big milestone. This brings Twitter mainstream,” said Andrew Cherwenka, a Huffington Post contributor and Web developer at Trapeze.com, referring to Kutcher and Winfrey’s Twitter breakthroughs. “A lot of people are saying this is going to be the death of Twitter, and I don’t understand that at all,” Cherwenka added. “It’s just another stage in Twitter’s acceleration.” “The challenge for Twitter — besides, of course, getting a business model in place to handle the infrastructure required to sustain this kind of growth — is going to be maintaining the fact that it’s the community at large, not the celebrity users, that’s at the core of this service,” said Caroline McCarthy, who writes a CNET News blog about social media. “The power of Twitter is about the millions of people using it and how easily it is to filter and aggregate their thoughts and conversations,” McCarthy told CNN. “It can’t be all about Ashton and Oprah.”

3. Its Used by the Powerful Brands ( and it works)

The “Top 100 Brands” Companies like Star Bucks, Dell and others use Social Media to connect, communicate and market to their customers with as many as 11 different Social Media channels. The other companies small and large are paying attention to this

4. Its Power as a Distribution Channel

Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication and she says “It’s an unsurpassed tool for getting it distributed”  Creating stellar content for your marketing is great. But great content doesn’t (quite) distribute itself. It needs vehicles for people to pass it along, discuss its merits, argue over its controversies, blog it, mash it, tweet it and even scrape it. Which is, of course, where social media comes in.”

I use “Social Media” to communicate and promote my “Song”  and its effect can be viral as the message is passed and the conversation is engaged… see the real life example below showing its power as a distribution channel due to Social Media on my blog traffic chart.

Note: See below a screen shot of the effects of the leveraging effects of social media, showing the traffic increase to my blog site after a popular recent post from my blog was passed around the social media space.

Blog Post Showing Growth 29th July 2009

5. It  Communicates Your Song .. Your Passions (Your Movies, Your Photos, Your Blog, and Your Passion)

Sonia also goes on to say “If you create great content that’s worthy of attention, the world will show up and talk about it. I don’t know how they’ll show up in 5 years (or 5 months), but I know they will. My job is to make something amazing, then use the global network of digital campfires intelligently to find the people who will love and appreciate it.”

How about you? What songs and legends are you bringing to your campfire? If you create content that’s worthy of attention, the world will show up and talk about it.

6) It Is So Compelling, Compulsive and Addictive …Why?

And the best answer I have ever found was embedded in a post by Kathy at Headrush who says “It’s a Near-Perfect Example of the Psychological Principle of Intermittent Variable Reward, (the key addictive element of slot machines)”, who went on to say: “I was looking for credible explanations of the why Social Media including the up and rising micro-blogging platform Twitter is compelling (some don’t think so). One of Skinner’s most important discoveries is that behavior reinforced intermittently (as opposed to consistently) is the most difficult to extinguish. In other words, intermittent rewards beat predictable rewards. It’s the basis of most animal training, but applies to humans as well… which is why slot machines are so appealing, and one needn’t be addicted to feel it. From a Time magazine feature story on multitasking:
Patricia Wallace, a techno-psychologist,…believes part of the allure of e-mail–for adults as well as teens–is similar to that of a slot machine.
”You have intermittent, variable reinforcement,” she explains. “You are not sure you are going to get a reward every time or how often you will, so you keep pulling that handle.”

Note: I will ask a question here: Do you ever feel the need to

  • Check your email to see who has responded
  • Fire up Twitter, or have “Tweetdeck” always on, to see who has DM’d you or responded to your Tweet or
  • Looked up your Facebook page to see what is happening with your friends lives or who has commented on your photo postings.

Guess what, you are a the victim of  “Intermittent Variable Reward”  Principle which keeps you coming back time and time again until you get your reward (that feedback..that comment). This is what makes Social Media so powerful, it taps into our basic human drives.

7) Creates the strong “feeling of connectedness” Twitterers get can trick the brain into thinking its having a meaningful social interaction, while another (ancient) part of the brain “knows” something crucial to human survival is missing.

8) It Encourages The Curious “Voyeur” in our Nature

A post titled “Voyeurism: Social Media’s Delicious, Guilty Pleasure” says “a very small percentage of people actively create content online. A vast majority of users just like to watch. Grandiose personalities thrive in social media, just like they do on the tube or the big screen. Why? Because there’s something incredibly hypnotic about watching a psychological trainwreck of flaring egos and emotions. It’s like porn: the content and the performers are nothing special, but people get a strong voyeuristic pleasure from watching others expose their raw, private details.”

In summary Social media has grown so explosively because “connection” is probably one of the deepest drives we have, but for me the “Intermittent Variable Reward” principle seems to me be the strongest driver.

So what makes Social Media so compelling for you? Love to hear your thoughts


  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/malloryperkins @Mallory8

    I would definitely say the connectedness is most compelling for me. I’d say it almost makes you feel less alone and more significant because now you are regularly connecting with people from around the world. Also, on social media – with pictures, status updates, etc – you get the feeling that you are really getting to know the people you are following or friending.

    In addition to those obvious more broad answers, I would say I also use social media a LOT simply for the reason of keeping up with people you normally would not be able to stay in touch with. My parents have told me numerous times how lucky I am to have these tools just for that reason alone.

    Plus, I just like getting to know people and hearing people’s stories, so it’s fun that now I can do that online as well.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/VJYoung Vernon Young

    What I like about this social media is its connectivity on my time and without being in ones face. It is a new game or experience and that intrigues me.

  • http://bridalmarketing.net Mark

    I think each of the social networking sites has its merits and pitfalls. For me, Twitter is great for keeping up with what is going on amongst a vast group of people, but Facebook is probably better for the more close and personal interaction.

    In any case, and as Vernon says above, it delivers a “pull” model rather than an in-your-face “push” of information.

    Great article!

  • lorigama

    We agree on so many things, Jeff.
    The invention of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners Lee is the equivalent of the invention of the Gutenberg press. Both inventions allowed information to be accessible to the masses. In the 14th century, the printing presses had been built all over Europe and about a hundred years later, the Renaissance occurred and scientists, artists, writers, inventors, thought leaders thrived.

    Social Networking is OUR renaissance. We are evolving as a human race because of Social Networking. We have access to thought leaders. We’re exposed to evolutionary ideas. We share this information freely, and out of good will toward each other. We are listening, connecting, collaborating, communicating, growing, creating movements (mini revolutions) that solve problems and/or allow positive growth at an accelerated rate. I am grateful and excited to live during this historic time!

    • http://correlationist.wordpress.com correlationist

      @lorigama – I could not agree with you more.

      Thanks Jeff, for an enjoyable read.


  • http://pr2muse.wordpress.com pr2muse

    Every day, this new social media becomes a greater part of who I am and how I live… and I am growing to expect being able to access this level of engagement and would miss it if it stopped. I appreciate the words you shared from Sonia Simone, referring to a “global network of digital campfires.” What a great comparison! And we get to enjoy all of the benefits, without the smoke in our eyes.

  • http://marklatimer.ca Mark Latimer

    I’d like to read more about social media, keep it coming! Thanks for the post. @marklatimer

  • http://www.TweetNinjaMaster.com Glenn Sojourner

    Twitter is one of the few social media tools I use that my two daughters don’t use. Point 4 slapped me right in the the facebook(sic) Twitter is a GREAT distribution channel! And in number 6…your’e right…it is addictive!

  • http://www.innersights.blogsppot.com Lynda Lehmann

    Excellent article. I’ve been both fascinated and troubled by the net’s addictive nature. We may actually be losing authentic social connectedness & social skills. On the other hand, I’ve met some really interesting creative people and had a lot of validations of my art come to me through the net, in different forms.

  • http://www.skypulsemedia.com Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    Doesn’t move sales needles yet for medium to big companies. I don’t think it ever will. But it can be used very effectively to convert customers into loyal fanatics one person at a time. I just see such lack of scale it will always be an AND vs the primary marketing tool. The problem is people’s live feeds are so packed with crap now even on Twitter, but especially on Facebook people on average see only 3-8% of their feed each day. And being really busy do we really want to talk with more than 1-4 brands a day? I don’t think so.

    The key is to find ways to use it to help you grow your business. There are many technologies available many more coming. Prepare for life after Facebook and Twitter because this will come sooner than you think. Prepare for changes in how you can listen or communicate. They are coming too. Much more social media communication is going to go private blocking your access. Give people a reason to share they will. But you need to work at it. When I see a Brand Fan Page like Doritos promote a $5mil contest to their 1.5mil Fans and only get 100 or 300 people responding on their page its tough to get people to care. Do the math 100 or 300 divided by 1.5 mil and you can see Fan Pages are not mass marketing forums.

    Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Reason #9: it’s mobile and so are we; social media fits seamlessly into our lifestyle.

  • @olivat

    SM – especially Twitter – is so compelling as it allows me to connect with experts and thought leaders around the world. I value the opporutnity to learn from others in my field. It is not only stiumulating mentally but satisfiying personally to connect to others in our Global VIllage….that’s my “Intermittent Variable Reward”.  @olivat:twitter 

  • http://twitter.com/moecrazy13 Moises Pacheco

    I think a large part of it is the connectedness and our “appetite” for it.  We have several “appetites’ that we manage as humans – hunger, sex and intimacy (or connectedness).  Just like fast food appeals to our hunger and porn (and most of pop culture) appeals to our sexual appetite, social media appeals to our desire for connectedness/intimacy.  There is always growth in trends that allow people to indulge in there appetites without any accountability.  These are just my thoughts.  However, I found this article very interesting and this is one of the things I love about Social Media is getting in touch with such articles.

  • http://twitter.com/JacobLester1 Jake Lester

    Only problem I have is the cartoon, the great part about social media is we can develop an identity, not just fall in with the sheep:/

  • http://twitter.com/LorianL Lorian Lipton

    You have hit upon some of the really deep reasons people are turned on by the medium, though many refuse to admit it. I love #6 and #8. You are right on target. Social Media is compelling to me for all those reasons and then some. Mostly because, as a global social butterfly, it is how I communication with my colleagues, clients, and universe. Thanks for the fun read.