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pinterest_badge_redA successful business is not all about sales and numbers. A large part of a company’s success is knowing how the target consumer thinks. Their needs. Their motivation. The why behind the buy.

It is rare these days to find an agency with the capacity to do primary research on consumer behavior. But at Baker Creative, our in-house research lab delves deeper into the psyche of a consumer. We know that figuring out what makes a target customer tick is an essential part of a successful business plan.

But how does the psychology of consumers translate to an online world, specifically social media? More than you think.

ImageSocial Media: Fulfilling Our Basic Needs?

The more we begin to analyze social media’s effect on our psyche, the more it parallels Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs.

Begin with Maslow’s third basic need of love and belonging. We connect with friends and family via Facebook, reinforcing the belief that we are loved when someone requests to be our “friend.” Or we “connect” with people on LinkedIn and “follow” people on Twitter. How interesting are the word choices “friend,” “connect” and “follow.” The creators of social networking sites chose these words for a reason. They have a connotation of love and belonging. Doesn’t everyone desire to feel that, no matter if the form is physical or online?

Maslow’s fourth basic need is self-esteem. Doesn’t it give us all a little boost of confidence when we gain followers on Twitter or someone “likes” our Facebook status? We often post about an accomplishment with the hope of people congratulating us. We share a Good Samaritan story to show our respect for others or flesh out our LinkedIn profiles to gain respect from others. As much as we may not like to admit it, the online world has become a source for approval and acceptance when our confidence is lacking.

The fifth and final hierarchy of needs is self-actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. Most social media platforms don’t seem to fulfill this final need. But this is where Pinterest comes into play.

A Fully-Realized Self

Unless new to the social media world, you have probably heard of Pinterest. Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create theme-based image collections. Users (called “pinners”) can create and share collections (“boards”) of images (“pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips, organize their homes, or save recipes.

“Pinterest boards are like its users’ personal happiness collages,” says Dr. Christopher Long, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University.  “[They represent] things that I appreciate, that I desire, and that express who I am, whether the things are cupcakes, shirtless David Beckham, or an inspirational quotation.”

Pinterest is a getaway for many users. It is a place where everything has a space. A way to step out of a chaotic life and into an alternate world. A secluded oasis to create visions of the future.

But most of all, Pinterest encourages self-actualization. This is what sets it apart from other social media platforms. Pinterest users’ activities on the site are directly connected to their lives outside the Internet. What they see on the site can inspire them to act. To travel to that beautiful destination. To live out those inspirational quotes. To tackle a DIY project that will complete their dream home.

It could be a bold statement to say that an online outlet may be the thing that is fulfilling one of our most intangible needs. But that is where our world is headed.

Pinterest is inspiring us. Motivating us. Sparking new passions. Helping us realize our real-self. And when we finally discover what makes our soul happy, we should pursue it.

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Photo Sources: psychology.about.com & about.pinterest.com