Discovering Your Tribe on Google+: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied to Social Media

We now continue with the discussion on how to build your ‘tribe’ on Google Plus using Maslow’s hierarchy.


Esteem has its roots in the human desire of being accepted and valued by our group. Google+ has several mechanisms to cover this need. The ability to take part in ongoing discussions through comments is one of them. Good interacters in Google+ always comment back on sensible input left by people in their stream. Great anchors like +Guy Kawasaki, +Mike Elgan or +Robert Scoble will cross comment on their posts in the next minutes after they put them online. This allows many of their followers to get a feeling of appreciation, and also provides them with valuable feedback to fine-tune future posts.

Resharing content posted by someone is a way of telling the world that we agree with the original ideas of the creator. This also applies if the content is not original but a link to an article or a photo on the Internet. In this case we are saying, “Look at the cool stuff that X found.” Resharing has its own rules, since Google+ will remove the intermediate sharer’s info after the third level reshare. Thus most people would include a “via” or “hat tip to” (h/t) comment in the reshare.

If a post is reshared many times it might make it into the “Whats Hot” list and go viral. Having a post go viral is the writer’s version of musicians listening to their song in the radio. Reaching this tipping point gives even seasoned Google+ members a kick. It basically means that a lot of people agree with your idea and the way you presented it.

To be successful in the resharing game you need to have a group of followers that will help you amplify your message. Resharing is a 2 way street. You will be more likely to reshare content published by someone who has reshared your content. And this also means that you would have found your “birds of same feather” groups.

Circles come back at this level when we start creating “inner group circles.” We usually put in there people whose post we like, whose interactions we appreciate and with whom we might have spoken at a hangout. These close-knit groups are the people we would invite for dinner or would go visit if we ever happen to be where they live. Due to the global nature of Google+, these groups include people from all over the world.


Maslow’s theory says that the last stage is when a person discovers his/her full potential, where (s)he becomes more of what (s)he is. It is where we are everything that we are capable of becoming. We all have different goals and objectives, dreams and desires about what our full potential would be. It could be to start selling your own music online, gain positive peer feedback for your photography, start your own business, become financially independent, help others, learn, teach, etc.

You need to know yourself and your goals before you can achieve your full potential within your online life. You need to have a consistent message to get results out of your social media relationship. How you can feed it and how it will nourish you. If you simply want to follow others then joining circles and reading about what’s going on the world may feel sufficient to you. Think of it like finding your own tribe. You are defining yourself by those you hang out with, your peers.

Others like to lead and to set trends. Malcolm Gladwell referred to these individuals as information mavens. They are at the crossroads of the information superhighway directing the traffic and building a tribe around them.

Where most of the interesting developments in self-actualization using social media occur is in the creative arts. Writers, artists, photographers and musicians are able to discover their own tribe. This tribe discovery is slightly nuanced from the other two user types. While these artists may not aggressively seek out followers, the nature and quality of their work will provide them with positive feedback channels and leads to a great many followers. Great content attracts peers and fans alike.

Maslow did make one proviso however. He felt that the individual must master the needs in the previous four stages before they could self-actualize. In social media this means providing great content and becoming a valued member of the social community. Having a good level of engagement with others, providing comments on posts and being insightful with your views are the secrets of social media titans.

The person who hits +1 on a post will be remembered for moments. Those who comment with some insights, personal account or level of appreciation show extra effort which the post’s author will take into consideration. Reshares are the social media equivalent of a high-five. They are essential for popular posts to go viral. Even a basic share forward with no additional comment is appreciated for the potential this has of turning a simple post into something viral. However, a reshare that includes some personal comment, perception or opinion really does show the person has gone the extra mile. At the very least it shows they read your article and got something out of it. These are valued readers who appreciate your work and want to see you achieve a wider readership.

Business leaders look at social media and ask, “How are we going to make any money out of this? Self-actualization is all very well and good but if we have resources working on this then I want to see a return on investment.”

The truth is if you’re in business and engaging in social media then your goal is to discover and build a tribe. You will not get direct economic profit off of your online presence. It is about customer loyalty and retention. This is the reason why supermarkets have loyalty cards and customer feedback loops. Why? Because your tribe can:

– Give you feedback,

– Engage users with other users forming a collaborative learning network,

– Build awareness of new offers, new features and benefits of your product or service, and

– A loyal customer is more likely to come back and purchase again and again. Getting a sale from an existing customer is so much easier than hitting up someone who has never used your brand.

Remember that social engagement is people engagement. It’s putting down roots in user communities to open feedback channels and foster further growth. Get the technology in place, Hook up your sites. Get involved. Go discover YOUR tribe.

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