Over the past ten years, our perception of social media has transformed from a seemingly useless fad to an integrated way of life. As over a billion people worldwide use social media every day, we can recognize how it is becoming a vital channel in society. It is now second nature for people to search Twitter for the news, connect with an old friend on Facebook, or seek a job opportunity on LinkedIn. Not only do we desire the luxury of these tools, they have become a necessary aspect of our lives. As different needs develop, social media finds a way to fulfill them. It is easy to see how each successful social network strategically establishes a specific need for its users.

According to a blog post from All Twitter, social media may even play a role in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that addresses the stages of growth in humans. Facebook and Google+ help us maintain a sense of belonging through connections to friends and family. Twitter is good for our self-esteem, because it empowers us to reach out to others and self-promote, while keeping us informed. LinkedIn satisfies our need for safety, by providing security in employment.

With this realization in mind, we can see why some social networks are successful, while some are never adopted.

  • When Facebook launched in 2003, it was exclusive to large groups of people in college. It gained popularity through social proof and eventually people everywhere joined the network because they didn't want to feel left out.
  • A more recent addition to the digital world, Pinterest, saw the need for connectivity and sharing that social media users crave. Pinterest's popularity sparked because it is integrated with Facebook. When a user joins they are automatically shown which of their Facebook friends are on Pinterest, revealing several accounts full of interesting and exciting pictures to "pin". Once a user "pins" a picture, it can easily be shared through Facebook as well. Pinterest also fulfills a need by sharing photos that inspire a call-to-action- whether it is a recipe or a home decorating idea.
  • Other examples include Foursquare's ability to make location relevant online, Google+'s integration with the world's largest search engine, Twitter's ability to spark creativity with the #hashtag, and LinkedIn's discovery of a professional way to interact online.

Additionally, the more these social networks integrate with brands, the more useful they are to businesses and customers. Brands can create fan pages on Facebook, have Twitter chats with their followers, pin their products on Pinterest, track their customers on Foursquare and increase their search engine optimization with Google +. Also, LinkedIn is known as the best social network to generate business leads online.

If a social network can satisfy an individual's needs, it is essential for companies to take advantage of these platforms. Have you capitalized on your business' need to be socially available?