Social Media

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Social Media Referrals

Familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Either way, learn to earn more social media referrals. Find out how Maslow's can help you become a better referral marketer.


In 1954, Abraham Maslow laid out a theory that would radically reshape ideas on human development: the Hierarchy of Needs. In layman’s terms, the theory held that individuals couldn’t realize true emotional development unless basic needs were satisfied.

Over 50 years later, this theory still holds its weight, albeit in a different form. Today, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can easily be applied to the current generation of brand ambassadors. How, you ask?

Well read on, dear reader, as we explore the psychology behind social media referrals.

1. Physiological Needs

tumblr_mdhmruz7wO1qm7sffAt the bottom of the pyramid you find the most primitive needs necessary to sustain human life (i.e. food, water, shelter), which is easily applicable to an individuals everyday buying decisions. After all, in our consumer–driven society, as well as on a global level, customers are drawn to particular products—infatuated with the idea of obtaining said goods, until that desire is met by following through with purchase. Up until that point, all other needs pale in comparison.

2. Safety Needs

Once an individual completes such a purchase, their need for economic, familial, and physical safety takes priority. In social selling, this applies to a customer’s level of trust in your brand, and the ability to feel secure in their purchasing decisions. Developing a strong social media presence is crucial to establishing this relationship. So, don’t neglect your online community—doing so, could generate a level of uncertainty amongst online shoppers that could have otherwise been avoided. Reputability and accessibility are central buying factors for today’s consumer; the successful establishment of each generates a confident purchaser, and repeat customer.

3. Social Needs

Social needs include love, family, and belonging—all of which are central to promoting brand ambassadors. Once a customer experiences the joy of using your product/service, they will promote your brand without even being asked. After all, what better way to build strong social ties than by helping friends and family find cool, new products?

4. Esteem Needs

Esteem needs are comprised of social recognition, accomplishment, self-esteem, and personal worth. Sound familiar? If your customer is already looking for ways to share a product, why not incentivize them for a job well done? The combination of a brand offering free rewards, and appreciation from grateful friends and family will satisfy the esteem needs of any brand ambassador.

5. Self-Actualizing Needs

This is the pinnacle of Maslow’s need pyramid. Self-actualizing people are concerned with personal growth, and fulfilling their own potential. For the social buyer, this means taking advantage of your businesses referral program, and reaching their full potential as a brand ambassador.

While Maslow may not have been thinking about referral marketing programs some 50 years ago, he sure hit the nail on the head by establishing the Hierarchy of Needs. Understanding customer psychology will enable you to satisfy a customers’ unsaid need for emotional stability, better leverage your brands current social networks, and empower enthusiastic brand ambassadors.

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