There are a number of different reasons for using Twitter – news, business, social and more – but which of your and your customers needs are met by using it?

Most people have basic needs. If you believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll be familiar with many of the core needs we all have as humans as shown in the diagram. Although Maslow’s theory has its critics, it’s a good solid theory to think about when understanding what you and your customers want out of Twitter.

The first stage in the theory refers to physiological needs – sex, sleep, food, water, breathing etc. Although many of us would love to think we had our customers so engaged we were as good as sex, it’s unlikely. Our tweets may be good, but they’re generally not that good.

The second stage of the theory refers to safety needs – shelter, family, employment, resources, health. Although the actual tangible nature of Twitter doesn’t provide these things in a tactile way, some of our needs can be met here through our communication. Twitter creates a community, a family, where safety of expression is paramount to good engagement. This stage can also relate to resources and having those available to you. Again, Twitter is a wealth of resources and let’s not forget how often Twitter is used now to call for help in a dangerous situation. Safety is important and when it comes to your customers, they want to feel safe in your hands.

The third stage of Maslow’s theory looks at love/belonging needs. This is where your social media use should flourish. Creating a community is about friendship, respect, understanding and making the customer feel like they’re part of your companies family. When you use Twitter for personal reasons, you’re most likely using it to chat to friends, share thoughts on events, TV, news and so on. You retain a distinctly human nature and this is essential when Tweeting from a business perspective. If you can make your follower feel included and loved, you’ll have their loyalty.

As Maslow’s theory continues up into the fourth stage, it becomes more difficult for every individual to fulfill these needs. The fourth stage refers to esteem needs – confidence, achievement, respect, self-esteem. Through your own use of Twitter, think about whether you satisfy any of these needs in your communication. On a personal level, you should feel confident in using the social media channel, and always respect others in that space. From a business perspective, respecting your customer and instilling confidence in them with regards to what you’re saying is extremely important. Remember – be honest, own your mistakes and be open when using Twitter, it’ll gain your customer’s trust.

The last stage of the theory is the Self-Actualization stage – morality, lack of prejudice, enlightenment. Critics of Maslow state that self-actualization is impossible because once you reach it you have no further goals. When you’re communicating through Twitter, is it part of your dialogue toolbox, or a way of ‘self-actualizing’. Most people would concur that it’s just another way of communicating and therefore any ‘enlightenment’ that comes from it is a bonus. If you’re communicating with customers, put yourself in their shoes, think about how you can help them attain the highest need they have.

Always consider the psychology behind your communication through social media. It’s all about building communities and understanding people, so take time out to focus on your needs, the needs of your customers and the channel that you’re using.

Originally written for Social, my company website.