Understanding Social Media Motivation to Sell More Books

It’s the million-dollar marketing question: What motivates people to buy? That’s where human psychology comes in to help savvy authors better promote their books. A little knowledge about human behavior can make a big difference when it comes to connecting with your readers in social media.

So What Does Motivate People?

In 1948, American psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced what he called a “hierarchy of needs.” This pyramid categorized the most basic human requirements in order of importance.

In the very center of this pyramid is the most important motivation when it comes to social media marketing: Love and belonging.

The two needs below this level of the pyramid are base needs. The two needs above this level are needs that result from a desire for love and belonging (sex is in there too, but well, I'll let you be the judge of that!). 

Essentially, what it boils down to is that we depend on social connection. This need explains, to some extent, why social networks themselves are so popular and why it’s so difficult for new social sites to thrive. Social networks don’t just happen. They happen most often through other people. It’s easier to friend someone if they’re already connected to someone you trust. This is an important thing to remember because according to the Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising Survey, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends.

Belonging as a Core Social Media Driver

Most of us received our first lesson in marketing on the playground when we were in grade school, hoping to be picked for the team with the popular kids. We all know that feeling — wanting to be part of a group. Wanting to belong. No one wants to be the last kid picked for the team.

Fast forward to today and the world of social media. I for one, have to admit that there’s a special thrill when a favorite author, celebrity or personality I admire follows me on Twitter, because I’ve been invited into their circle (whether or not they look at my tweets is irrelevant). There’s a feeling that I’ve been accepted. Raise your hand … I bet you’ve felt that too.

Essentially, social media takes the desire to belong to a whole new level.

A desire to belong drives individuals to:

  • Post a photo of a fun event so family and friends can connect and comment
  • Engage in social sharing of information and content across networks — a desire to be seen as knowledgeable, helpful, or cool
  • Join Facebook, Goodreads and other types of groups to talk to likeminded individuals
  • Make purchases based on high ratings: “If they like that book, I might like it, too.”
  • Become a member of a club — for special deals, for exclusive access to events, to test a product or provide feedback.

The Power of Belonging: The Underpinning of Your Social Strategy

Belonging is a powerful motivator and call-to-action. Fans who feel they belong are more likely to buy your next book and recommend your book to family and friends.

To tap into this type of buying behavior, consider the following when developing your blog and social media content.

  • How will the content you’re creating make your reader feel? Will it give them a sense of comfort, nostalgia, happiness, affection, or hope? These are all emotions that tie back to a person’s sense of belonging.
  • Are you inviting your reader into the fold, onto the team, or to be part of an exclusive circle?
  • Are you responding to people who engage with you in a way that makes them feel important or special?

Social media has propelled us into the world of community in a hyper-focused way. As a result, our thinking is changing. The idea of belonging is more important to us as humans, perhaps more so now than it ever has been. It’s time to ask yourself, how can you make your readers feel like they are important — that you are deliriously happy that they are on your team?

Some very simple examples:

  • Reply to individuals who reach out to you in social media, even if it is a simple follow-back or to “heart” or like what they have said.
  • Call out fans who have shared interesting things that you like. For example, “Thanks @crystallyn for giving me the heads up on this article about social media motivation.”  Feel free to steal that one!
  • Ask your fans questions. If they tell you that they loved your book, ask them why, or who their favorite character was. They’ll be delighted that you took the time to find out and it may lead to more word of mouth as the affinity they have for you and your story grows.
  • Be kind, compassionate and empathetic in your content and your responses. When you are aloof, condescending or snotty, it will not only turn off a reader or two, but it may lead them to tell others why they are no longer a fan. Someone once told me that it takes five positive actions to erase the feelings left by one negative action. I would imagine that is a much higher number when there are computer screens between us.

Some authors who do this well: Paulo Coelho, Celeste Ng, Catherynne Valente, Heather Webb, and Stephen King (yes, he actually often does respond to people!).

How will you change up what you are doing to help your readers feel like they are SUPER fans?

This post first appeared in a modified fashion on the HubSpot Academy User Blog (aimed at B2B professionals). 
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About the Author

Crystal King is a 30-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and THE CHEF'S SECRET about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website:

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