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.)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.