Asking Better Questions: Why Do People Use Social Networks? - Social Media Explorer
Asking Better Questions: Why Do People Use Social Networks?
Asking Better Questions: Why Do People Use Social Networks?

Three winners have been chosen in The Social Habit’s call for research questions in the first of our quarterly research reports on the social media habit of Americans 12 and over. Steve Dodd, Rhonda Hurwitz and Susan Baier will receive a free copy of the first report. Our first instrument goes into the field in the coming weeks.

You may recall I’m partnering with Edison Research/Tom Webster, Jay Baer and Mark Schaefer to present a new, quarterly version of Edison’s formerly annual survey of Americans 12 and over who use social media. If you haven’t already, do subscribe to free updates on our findings via The Social Habit’s email list, or follow along on the Social Habit blog.

Jay and Mark are diving into Steve and Rhonda’s questions this week over at Convince and Convert and Grow while I talk a bit with Susan to dive a bit deeper into her question and get a better sense of what she’d like to know from our panel of 3,000 survey takers. I caught up with her yesterday and asked a few questions.

Question Mark Graffiti
Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

Susan runs Audience Audit, a custom research solutions firm based in Phoenix. She’s been in marketing strategy work for 25 years and is laser focused on delivering the answers of why consumers do what they do in order to help companies better offer relevant messaging, marketing and the like. She’s one of those types that likes to get granular, not just play the numbers, which makes her a lot smarter than a lot of people.

As you would imagine, in her submission to the Social Habit, Susan said, “I’d like to know which motivations are the driving force for various types of social media users, and what roles social media plays for them.” We think this gets to the heart of the consumer insight by asking, “Why do you use these channels.”

My Questions:

Are you really looking for the “Why are you using this?” answer?

SB: Yes. That is it exactly. My work is all about identifying why consumers make choices. From a social media standpoint, I’m interested in uncovering the role these social media tools are playing for people. You and I both know they can use social media channels for different things. Some people use social as a news source, some a Yellow Pages replacement, a review resource or a place to find recommendations from friends … there’s lots of reasons. I’m sure it varies by tool. I’m curious to get to the bottom of that. I see a lot of talk about what people are doing, but not why.

Why is understanding the why important, especially if you break it down by channel or network?

SB: Because people can do the same thing for really different reasons. If you have a restaurant, let’s say a Mexican restaurant, you can have people coming there because it’s owned locally, it’s Mexican food, it’s next door or that it’s cheap. All of those people are motivated by different things. Understanding the role the channel is playing for people means you can serve them more relevant content more of the time. You can use these tools better if you know what those audiences are looking for. The more you know about why they’re doing things, the more intelligent you are about providing them with opportunities. I don’t think knowing the “what” is nearly enough.

So what if you find out the why and wind up with multiple whys with none standing out? 

Thats’s where the segmentation comes in. Instead of looking at the averages, when you do a multivariate segmentation analysis you uncover significant groups of people who use these tools for certain reasons. That helps you better deliver relevant services and content to each one. 

Is it more important to know the big “Why?” — Why do you use social media? — or the more granular one — Why do you use Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter?

I think they’re both valuable. With the question of social in general, my guess is you’re not going to find one reason. There’s not one reason. We might get some insight into the slots that social media is is filing. I would hope with the number of respondents you’re working with (with the Social Habit) we’ll have some significant data by tool to know a bit more about how they differ from each other.  Everyone can understand the difference in say, LinkedIn and Facebook from their own experience. But I think we can dig a little deeper and understand more specific differences in the different networks. The more we understand the “Why,” the better we can use social media to fill their needs.

Certainly, we’re thankful for Susan’s question and perspective and will be fielding a number of questions in the first quarterly iteration of The Social Habit to help begin to answer them. I say begin because we’re not convinced there will be a definitive, final answer to find. But we’ll certainly explore the question and answers to try and get more insight into why people use both social media in general and social media channels specifically.

To subscribe to The Social Habit, you can jump in at three different levels. We would love for your company to subscribe to the research, get it and consulting time from one of the four of the key partners on the project or even get that plus the ability to submit custom questions to be fielded to our panel of 3,000 Americans 12 and older. Pick which plan suits your business needs best and put The Social Habit to work for you.

More information is available on each on The Social Habit pricing page.

The blog and email updates are free, however, so please subscribe to those.

For more on Steve and Rhonda’s questions, check out Jay and Mark’s respective deeper dives. And stay tuned for more insights into why people use social media as the first round of The Social Habit’s new iteration comes to market.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at


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