2.7 Social media performance potential Motivation

Learning Objective: To recognize the strategic importance of motivation in a social media strategy and be able to use it for strategy development.

Content: This section provides a brief overview of motivation as it relates to social media performance potential. Due to the importance of motivation for the success of a strategy, we work with a separate strategy component for motivation in the potential-based strategy model. In the strategy component Motivation, the basics and the practical application are discussed in more detail.

Reading time: approx. 7 minutes

Exercises: Exercises are in the PDF of all exercises of this course. Download it from here.


Motivation activates social media users. Successful motivation to be active increases activity and active social media offers are more attractive to users than less active ones. Motivation could be resolved in different ways. . What it has in common is that it should always be relevant to the recipient in order to have an impact. In the practical application we distinguish once about the classical

Motivation methods

and especially in social media about the sources of motivation

  • automated: motivation is realized through automated processes.
  • individual: motivation is realized by individuals.
  • system-based: the motivation is generated by software, the award is decided by an operator, a system.
  • user generated: motivation is created by other social media users.

Examples from practise

  • When a social media user likes another user’s post, it is an individual, user-generated form of motivation.
  • If a social media user automatically receives a certain status after a certain number of own posts on a topic / area, this is an automated, system-based form of motivation.
  • If the user receives his award only after a certain number of other users have awarded his contributions with a defined recognition (rating), this is an automated, system-based and user-generated motivation.


The fundamental prerequisite for the successful use of motivation and motivation systems is the social media affinity of the topics and markets in which these methods are applied. If the social media affinity is low, the effect of motivation will also be lower. If we as social media users are not particularly interested in a topic area or do not consider this topic area to be interesting in social media, we pay little attention to it. Even sophisticated motivation won’t change that much. Fortunately, these requirements are more often present than absent. In practice, users are also interested in their topics in social media. For powerful forms of motivation is

  • knowledge of the target groups and their needs and wishes is an important prerequisite. The effect of our motivation depends essentially on the fact that it corresponds to the wishes and characteristics of our target groups.
  • the design of processes in the platform is a prerequisite. This means that we can either operate in our own platform or integrate corresponding elements into a third-party platform.

Only when both conditions are met can we develop an effective method of motivation that is suitable for our purposes.

So for practical implementation, we first start with the interests and preferences of our target groups and look there for motivation that we can use for our social media offering. For this purpose, we develop a list of suitable motivational approaches on an intrinsic as well as on an extrinsic level and examine to what extent these motivational approaches are

  • correspond to the interests of our target group.
  • can be used for the interests of our company.

When asking about the company’s interests, we not only consider direct interests from marketing and sales but also interests from social media such as building and activating reach in social media, but also disseminating content or promoting participation.

Goal-oriented motivation

Motivation – but for what? Goal-oriented motivation presupposes a – realizable – goal. For this, we need to know the goals that we can achieve with the help of motivation and motivational systems.

  • If our goal is to build reach for an audience, sharing content on users’ personal social networks is an important task for motivation.
  • If outreach activation is an important goal, our motivation must also contribute to this.
  • If attracting users is relevant to a community, our motivation must be focused on that goal.
  • If user participation – in the form of user generated content or otherwise – is important, we need motivational systems that contribute to it.

In addition, there is the question of how this motivation is implemented. By recognition of a status by the operator of the social media offer or by other social media users.

Design of motivational systems

If, after these two steps, we have found suitable motivational approaches for our social media offering, we examine how to design these motivational approaches – as a

  • systembased motivation
  • individual motivation
  • user generated motivation
  • Combination of several motivation methods

If we have also taken this step, we now have a suitable motivation method, consisting of the content and topics we use for motivation and clear guidelines for the type of motivation.

Next, there is the question of the technical implementation of motivation. Here, many good approaches fail because the chosen platforms do not offer the appropriate design options for motivation and motivation is therefore dispensed with. Before we also give up motivation and thus a success factor in a comparable situation, we should check whether we cannot solve the form of motivation via complementary channels. If our chosen social media channel offers neither good opportunities for motivation nor participation, but we can build up greater success in the market and a competitive advantage via social media with both, it makes great sense in my opinion to examine the possibility of dividing tasks between the channels used in order to, for example

  • an intensively used external social media offering (such as Facebook)
  • with its own social media offering with high user benefit, sophisticated motivation methodology and meaningful participation opportunities

to combine. However, this requires more design expertise in social media than simply using predetermined external social media channels.

Conditions for success

In order for us to be successful with our motivational approaches, two levels are of particular importance.

  • Suitability of the topic area: If the interest of social media users in a topic area is low, the topic will attract little more attention, even with the help of motivational methods and systems.
  • Suitability of social media channels: If the selected social media channels are not suitable for the desired motivation methods and systems and if we cannot compensate for this deficit with other constellations, we will not be able to support the success of our social media strategy by motivating the users.

Motivation as a competitive position

We refer to the structures and content of our social media strategy that are crucial for competitive success as competitive positions.

Motivation is one of the competitive positions because we can activate users via motivation and thus scale the impact of our social media strategy and increase the resources with which we work on social media.

Anyone who has experienced the difference between a post that goes “viral” and a post that has gone viral in its usual context knows the impact of motivation. Now let’s imagine that our motivational effect is not only based on a funny content that has just hit the nerve of many, but also on a system that permanently activates users.

If a provider succeeds in using motivation methods in social media that cannot be copied by the competition at all or only with difficulty, this provider has a competitive advantage that lasts as long as this unique position is maintained.


In this section, we focus on the use of motivation / motivational systems in the context of strategy development – that is, on the strategic aspects.

Priority of performance potentials and strategy components

Motivation is one of the most important factors for the success of a social media strategy, along with the usage formats, user benefits and participation. At the same time, these success factors suffer from the fact that their priority is usually lower than the priority of the choice of social media channels.

In other words – if we have already definitely decided on a certain use of social media channels before the contents of these success factors, this decision defines the framework we still have for these success factors. In the case of external social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc., this framework is so narrow that, measured against the possibilities of social media, only a moderately powerful strategy is possible. As long as all competitors behave in the same way, they all operate at this level. Which means that the competitor with the most corporate resources will prevail.

If we give the aforementioned success factors – and thus the content of our strategy – a higher priority than the transport channels of our social media strategy, we are faced with the conceptual and technical challenge of compensating for the deficits of individual social media channels to such an extent that our success factors come into play.

For the motivation success factor, we are faced with decisions about

  • the methods we use (intrinsic / extrinsic)
  • the structures we use (individual, automated, system-based, user-based) or the combination of the respective options.

Competitive position motivation

Part of the competition is contested at the level of motivation. In the potential-based strategy model, we analyze and shape the competition and our social media strategies accordingly.

  • We analyze the competitive situation on the motivation level. This makes it easier to design powerful and competitive strategies.
  • We define our options for action in social media for motivation. It facilitates the development of strategy drafts if the options for action are defined for all strategy components relevant to success.
  • we design our strategies with a corresponding strategy component. A separate strategy component contributes to the competitiveness of the respective strategy because it allows us to define and prove the competitiveness of our motivational elements.


Define the motivational methods and structures your company has used in social media so far.
Analyze the social media communication in the social media channels that are most important for your company in terms of

  • which motivation was used in a way that was recognizable to the user.
  • Which motivation would have been possible as an alternative.

Define which methods and structures of motivation could be additionally useful for your company.
Analyze the motivation methods and structures as well as the social media communication of your most important competitors in the same way.

Compare the motivation methods and structures as well as the amount of social media communication for the motivation of your own company with the corresponding performance of the most important competitors (attention and performance competitors).