Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Motivation to Share

Last month, I read an interesting piece by Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch concerning Robert Scoble's use of social platform FriendFeed. Arrington's article highlights the vast amount of time spent by enthusiasts such as Scoble in generating content on platforms which essentially belong to 'someone else'. As our capacity to devote time to activities is restricted by the number of hours available in a day, time spent in one area is invariably to the detriment of time spent in another. As the number of platforms continue to increase on a near daily basis, it is becoming ever more difficult for social media professionals to adequately apportion their time. A number of questions have arisen as a corollary of increasingly restrictive time constraints concerning the professional's motivation to act.

Whilst blogged content is clearly the product of the blog's author and has the capacity to be both powerful and thought provoking, content submitted to sites such as Twitter and FriendFeed is arguably more fractured. This suggestion will invariably draw both proponents and opponents, I am sure. In either case, the 'value' recognized through content creation will differ dependent upon the platform. Whilst value resulting from blogged content may be directly recognizable as financial gain, the value resulting from conversational development on platforms such as Twitter is likely to represent another form of benefit; arguably that of self fulfillment.

The conversation turns to motivation; what motivates us as social media enthusiasts to submit content to a given social platform. Arguably, most of those that engage in UGC do so out of a passion for engagement in the conversation; the value stems from developing shared knowledge as a community. The fulfillment recognized through the creation of UGC is often sufficient. Conversely, as suggested by Arrington, motivation may be financial, and hey, that's alright too. Why shouldn't we profit from engaging in something which we are passionate about? What I would suggest however, is that financial reward alone is unlikely to pose a motivator in itself; remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The total absence of passion is unlikely to ever be successfully overcome, no matter how great the financial benefits.

The point of this post is to highlight that even in times of economic crisis people continue to engage in content creation for reasons other than financial gain. The personal fulfillment recognizable through a comment, a 'retweet' or a mention help make content creation the enjoyable pursuit they keeps millions of us coming back day in, day out. As discussed yesterday, whilst it would be naive to assume that this mentality will last forever, I find it unlikely that the main reason for social media engagement will change any time soon.

What keeps you coming back to the social media day in, day out?

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