Why Do People Post on Social Media Anyway? (And Why Your Business Should Care)

Do you ever scroll through your Twitter feed or through your friend’s Facebook posts and just shake your head in disbelief? What are some of these people thinking when they post and share what they do? Like, do we really need to see 15 different selfies of you in the bathroom mirror? And it’s embarrassing to see some of the clutter or stained carpets in the background. At the same time, you kinda feel like you’re playing a social media “I Spy” game with hidden embarrassing gems people don’t realize they share online.

There is a little science and a whole lot of psychology behind why people engage with social media the way they do. And you should care about the why. Sure, it’s helpful to juice up your knowledge bank for that next round of Trivial Pursuit. But when you understand the behavior and driving factors behind what inspires people to use and live on social media, you can use that perspective to improve your company’s social media engagement.

Find out what makes your core audience tick, and then use that to your company’s advantage. Here’s why people are crazed about their social profiles and what you can do to tap into that behavior for ROI results.

Meet Steph: In Steph’s optometry office, she sees a lot of school-aged patients. So, naturally, she expanded her social media marketing strategy to include messaging that speaks to families. But she’s wondering if there is a more thoughtful way to attract those decision-maker moms and dads. Is there some kind of science behind how parents make health decisions for their children? And how do those parents use social media to help make those critical determinations?

Lucky for Steph, we have a little social media science that might help.

How Social Media Actually Affects the Brain

Social media has a number of distinct ways in which it affects the brain. Because of the various stimuli it contains, social media’s effects on the brain may appear in a variety of forms.

According to new studies, the way you use social networks might be affecting your brain more than you realize. As a result, social usage has the potential to make people spend more money. According to a recent study, increased social media usage is directly linked to lower self-control, which market experts believe may cause consumers to spend more. You read that right.

Low self-esteem is another potential disadvantage of social media. This might be due to misaligned beliefs that others’ lives are “better” than theirs. Additionally, some suggest social media, for some people, can lead to increased isolation and loneliness, as well as reduced sleep patterns, especially if there is increased social media usage right before bedtime. Then there’s the element of FOMO, or the fear of missing out to consider, which can lead to even more social spending and overuse. It also drives some of these other adverse side effects among users.

And there’s more. Positive attention on social media, for example, influences many areas of the brain. According to a Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience article, “gaining likes on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram activates the striatum and ventral tegmental area, which are also implicated in the experience of obtaining Likes from others.”

Stay with us here.

The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is one of the brain’s leading players in the reward system. For example, when people get positive feedback on social media (likes), their brains release dopamine, which is aided by the VTA.

A recent study that used MRI technology to monitor brain activity reached similar conclusions. When researchers analyzed the brains of adolescents’ Instagram feeds, they discovered that “viewing photos with many (compared with few) likes was associated with greater activity in neural regions implicated in reward processing, social cognition, imitation, and attention.”

Again, with social networking so strongly linked to people’s earnings systems, users should be aware of the platforms’ power and potential for misuse. Gambling and narcotic drugs have the ability to control a person’s reward system in the same way as they do. Social media users should be conscious of these links to avoid being caught up in difficulties. And businesses should understand these triggers and factors when developing a social media strategy.

What Drives People to Post on Social Media?

We know what you’re thinking. All that science is great and everything, but how does that help your business, really? You’re like Jerry McGwire shouting, “Show me the money!” And we’re getting to that point now. When you understand why people use social media and what drives them to prefer the platforms they do, you can use that knowledge in your social media marketing strategy. And that’s where we show you the money.


People use their social media channels to convey their identities to the world. This is where achievements are immortalized and accomplishments celebrated. As a business, you can connect with consumers by helping them celebrate those achievements. Support and share those special moments to engage with these folks ongoing.

Develop and Nurture Relationships

The original intention, at least for the Myspace and Facebook generations of early adopters, was to connect with others. Social media is still used today as the primary way to develop new and nurture existing relationships. Your business is no different. Your audience wants meaningful and valuable relationships online. So give them what they crave!

Find Benefits and Information

Social media has grown to become an invaluable resource for consumers who are looking for added benefits and general information. It’s so much easier to ask a question on Twitter or Facebook than it is to go on a Google search for something. Your business can leverage this motivating factor by offering the answers to those questions when you can and sharing the relevant information your audience seeks often.

Meet Austin: Austin’s doing a solid job with his social media marketing. He’s promoting the gym side of his enterprise, along with the nutrition supplement store. But he’s wondering if there is a better way to engage and build onto the audience he has. He starts joining existing social media groups based on health, wellness and within his community. He finds he can answer a lot of the questions people ask in those groups and soon begins gaining traction, as his own profiles start earning more likes and followers.

Express Their Opinions

As a social media user yourself, you surely don’t need anyone to tell you that social media platforms serve as a popular channel for sharing opinions. People want to be heard and believed. So, they’ll post what they think, and often. Having a social media profile means having a megaphone for personal convictions, allowing literally anyone to share anything with the entire world. Sure, some posts get flagged, and accounts get banned from time to time. But for the most part, it’s an open forum for almost any topic of conversation.

Display What They Value

People like and follow brands they find valuable. And they do it because they want others to see what it is that’s important to them. Moms brag about their kids. Teens brag about their new driver’s licenses. Hunters show off their fresh game. Find a way to be valuable to your customers, and they’ll show you off, too.

The ‘Belonging’ Aspect

Social media groups are great for offering that sense of belonging that so many people desire at their core. Browsers join groups based on hobbies, habits and community involvement. There are stay-at-home mom groups, esophageal cancer groups, veterans’ groups and even collectible horse figurine groups. In a world that feels increasingly isolated, it’s social media that helps people belong.

Meeting Physiological Needs

On the mental health side of things, social media can fill a lot of voids for people, for better or for worse. People have physiological needs that can easily be met by collecting likes and comments. They can find ways, albeit addicting, to meet those fulfillment needs 24/7. And you know examples all too well when scrolling through your feed. We guarantee you know at least one person who constantly posts touched-up selfies in duck-face, hoping to drum up fresh DMs and likes.

There is a Safety Component

When things happen in the world around you, you often turn to social media to find information, verify dangers and take necessary precautions. The pandemic taught us just how important social media could be in times of a global catastrophe.

Positive Effects of Social Media and Business

As a business owner, you can focus your efforts on the positive aspects of social media. You can develop your strategy to harness the benefits of social integrations and interest groups. Your brand can join in the healthy lifestyle conversation. Use your company profiles to support the community and share important information. Build relationships with your audiences and introduce new ideas and trends. These are all positive reasons people engage with social media. You can connect with them using the same motivating factors.

Here are additional benefits and positive effects doing social media the right way can have on your business.

  • Social media offers a faster and easier way to communicate with customers. Customers often use social media for customer service-related questions and concerns, allowing company reps to quickly address and resolve issues.
  • Social media gives your brand life and a personality, making it more relatable to your core audience. Humanizing your brand means people are more comfortable with engaging with you.
  • Social media is the best way to promote content. If your company has announcements, tips or relevant tidbits to share, social media will deliver.
  • Social media is an excellent resource and online tool for brand reputation management. See what people think about your brand and manage any misrepresentations immediately.
  • Social media provides businesses with a channel for direct and indirect lead generation.
  • Social efforts are ideal for developing new networks and grooming strategic partnerships.

Negative Effects of Social Media and Business

Just as there are negative side effects of social media overload, at the individual level, there can be some unwanted aspects to avoid in business. People experience the FOMO (fear of missing out) and make terrible decisions sometimes. Don’t make similar mistakes with your company social media efforts. It’s important, too, that companies maintain a moral position to not take advantage of those individuals online who may be suffering from anxiety or depression. Cyberbullying is real across all age groups, disciplines and interests. Don’t allow your brand to get caught up in it.

Here are some additional social media pitfalls to avoid with your company profiles.

  • Be mindful to monitor employee engagement with your company social media pages. Teams can experience reduced productivity by spending too much time there. But there are also concerns about providing admin access to disgruntled employees who might sabotage your brand online.
  • Cyber threats are more prevalent the more visible you are online. Make sure you have precautions in place for password management and account monitoring.
  • Being visible on social media, with a robust presence across a variety of channels, provides more transparency into your company. This can also be viewed as a vulnerability, with potential confidentiality missteps. Be careful about what you share, including sensitive information about your company and employees.
  • Be careful to not cross social, economic or political boundaries with your company social media. While it’s encouraged to humanize content and promote your company culture position, aligning with extremes can turn off potential customers.
  • Have a plan in place with specific guidelines regarding bad reviews or hateful comments. Even if the negative attention is a result of trolling, how you handle these posts and reviews is a direct reflection of you and your brand.
  • Don’t allow your social media profiles to go unmanaged. Abandoned and infrequent engagement can do more harm to your brand. And coming back from that can be more complicated than starting from scratch. Rebounding from losing trust with your audience will require more strategic effort.

When you understand the science behind why people use and rely on their social media, you can structure your efforts to complement their behaviors. Tap into some of these motivating factors to drive engagement across all of your social media channels. And, of course, when you need help with your strategy, especially if the goal is to generate more leads from social media, let the Awareness Business Group show you how.

Marcus Wendt

Chief Executive Officer

Marcus helps lead and grow companies from the ground up. He has a proven track record. His experience is diverse with expertise in sales, branding, marketing, automations, manufacturing, building teams, managing operations, sourcing suppliers and outsourcing to offshore locations.