Secret to Social Media Success: Feed the ‘Social Self’

Social media is nothing without cats

This article continues a series of posts depicting the continual evolution in how we think about Social Media in our digital political strategy practices. You can read Beth’s earlier pieces on Social Sharing and Social Shopping here on

In the earlier post on Social Shopping, I posited that if we take a step back from our work and consider what kinds of content our audience wants from us, we would have more digital success. But what about what our audience wants at a deeper level than individual stories, pictures and videos? One obvious answer: it depends who the audience is and what we’re offering. But in the broadest sense, I’ll argue that what most people really want when they act publicly online is:

Content they will WANT to be seen engaging with and that VALIDATES their sense of social self.

What is social self? In today’s digital world, our social presence – our social being — has become enmeshed with our sense of self worth. By offering content that validates our followers’ personal sense of self, we give them things they want to be seen engaging with. And when they share this content, the action builds a stronger relationship with our organization and mission.

We can break how people want to be seen into four broad categories:

People want to be seen as entertaining.

They want to amuse their friends and make people laugh (this is why cats win the internet, BTW). So don’t be afraid to bring the funny to your social presence.

People want to be seen as being inspirational.

One of the highest compliments I’ve heard someone say about another was that they’d inspired them to do what they were doing. Leaders inspire us to take action, and who doesn’t want to be thought of as a leader? This explains why shareable graphics with the picture of a leader and a short quote do so well in garnering engagement.

People want to be seen as smart.

Not just numbers and lots of information, but numbers and information that help others to understand the world as we see it. In the digital space, helping people look smart is something we can really excel at, for instance, by giving them an easy-to-understand infographic with succinct and relevant information to share.

People want to be seen as making a difference in the world.

This is where our online actions as part of a “ladder of engagement” come into play. We often refer to this idea as actions embodying a “theory of change:” if people don’t believe that signing that petition or signing up to attend an event can make some kind of difference, they won’t do it.

In summary, create content that people want to be seen engaging with, content that helps them portray themselves as they see themselves Do so and you’ll find your relationships with your online audience grow stronger and stronger over time.

Written by
Beth Becker
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