What’s Your Motivation In Social Media?

“Why are you here?”

This was the question that social media potty mouth smart guy and best-selling author Julien Smith asked in a thought-provoking session at PodCamp Montreal this weekend.

Julien Smith and Tara Hunt at PodCamp MontreakJulien gave us three options:

  • You
  • Them
  • The Game


If you’re into social media for you, you’re in it to better yourself. Perhaps that’s through gaining attention, building your network or developing your skills. Either way, you’re in it primarily for yourself.


If you’re into social media for “them,” you’re in it for the community. You do it to help others; for a feeling of belonging. Perhaps that leads to personal benefit down the road, but right now that’s not the objective.

The Game

If you’re in it for “the game” (not meant in a negative sense), you recognize that there’s a system at play. You’re likely coming at this from a business perspective and trying to figure out how that system works so you can work within it as best you can.

Julien’s thought was that if you focus on one of these three motives and become an expert at one, you will be more successful than if you spread between the three.

My take

I struggled when it came to my turn to answer the question:

  • I constantly look to better myself, whether it’s floating thoughts for your input here, exploring new avenues at work or attending conferences like PodCamp, where I meet new people and learn from the conversations. I find it incredibly frustrating if I finish a day feeling that I haven’t achieved that.
  • I find helping others extremely satisfying. I enjoy speaking at conferences because I enjoy seeing lightbulbs go off in peoples’ heads. I wrote my ebook on communications planning because I wanted to help people do this difficult task the right way (in my opinion, anyway). One of the most satisfying parts of my job is helping other people to understand social media a little better.
  • I make my living from social media. I came into this career out of a strong interest and enthusiasm for social media’s potential, but the bottom line is it now pays my bills. I can’t help but be motivated by that to an extent.

Julien acknowledged that in reality you’re unlikely to just relate to one of the three motivations. Meanwhile, I overheard numerous discussions where people posited that ultimately everyone is motivated by themselves – whether it’s personal success, the network and self-fulfillment benefits of helping others, or the business motivation of doing succeeding in “the game.” Tamsen McMahon also suggested that if you want to help others, you need to improve yourself first.

Why are you here?

I agree with all of those ideas to an extent but for myself, I think personal improvement has always been, and continues to be, my primary motivator in everything I do.

I put 110% into everything. Sometimes that leads to me burning out on hobbies, but if I don’t go at things with that level of intensity I lose interest. The one thing that I haven’t burned out on so far is self-improvement. That doesn’t mean it’s only about me – I love the sense of community and, as I said, I enjoy helping people – but I think if I improve myself I’m able to help others better and to better in my job (“the game”).

Does that make sense? What about you? What drives your interest in social media?

(Thank you to all the PodCamp Montreal organizers – Sylvain Grand’MaisonJulien SmithMitch JoelBob GoyetcheJean-François BlaisLaurent LaSalleLaurent MaisonnaveCaroline FontaineMélanie MilletteHarold Boeck and Michelle Sullivan– for another successful event this weekend. I know from PodCamp Toronto that it’s a lot of work; you did a great job.)

35 Responses toWhat’s Your Motivation In Social Media?

  • I like your take on being in it for all 3 reasons at the same time dave. I’d kind of have to agree that I can say I’m here for all three reasons as well.

    I’m in it for me because as a student I want to learn as much as possible while at the same time making myself known in the community so I can help myself to get a job soon once school is done.

    I’m in it for them because while I’m learning things for myself I can also help others to learn things. As well, I love the community that I’ve formed through social media, it allows me to make new friends and business contacts that come from all corners of the world which I think is just amazing.

    As for the game, I, like you, would love to make a living off of social media, so I have to learn to “play by the rules” to some degree while at the same time trying to change those rules and the game on my own.

    Wish I could have been at #pcmtl myself

  • Interesting question – I think it’s probably a mix of all three weighted towards You and Them.

    It’s a good exercise to ask a group of social media types, and see what conversations spark off, and these will probably reveal the true answer for all of the participants. Like many things, I don’t think it’s a case of one or the other.

  • I have been doing it for me and recently discovered the business angle to it and have since decided to approach it from that business angle here in Kenya. But I am conflicted as far as my personal blog goes. I like it and I write on every other thing. Does this mean that I let it go when I eventually set up my business oriented blog or do I run it with a disclaimer.


  • I would have to say that I started with the intentions of it being for others. However, as I create my content, I found the release to be very therapeutic for me. Although I have considered the idea, I have yet to transition into purpose #3.

  • I really relate to your drive toward constant self improvement. I agree, I am not selfish in this process of continued learning but rather feel more empowered and self-proud when I have helped someone else.
    Social media is new to me. Sure, I’ve Facebooked but never got into it for a long period of time. I really this as an opportunity where as I give and share important issues and thoughts that others will share back. My job is to assist Realtors grow their business via their MLS. I feel I succeed when I see them learn something new about social media. It’s a two way street.

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