Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably not the first topic you think about as a content creator – but here’s why it should be. This simple theory is one that’ll help you better understand the motivation behind everything that you do. As you learn more about the five basic needs that guide human behavior, you’ll become better at creating awesome content, building an audience base, maintaining a strong online presence and growing your brand!
According to Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist behind the theory, every decision we ever make in life is guided by a set of five core needs – typically presented in the form of a pyramid. These needs are divided into physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. As each set of needs is satisfied, we begin to move upward in the pyramid until we’ve reached the highest level in the hierarchy of needs.
A successful content creator is able to fulfill the higher category of needs from Maslow’s pyramid – while still satisfying all the other needs. If you’re wondering how to make this pyramid work for you, here’s what you need to know:
These refer to basic human needs such as food, water, air, rest and sleep that we require for survival. But it’ll probably be more helpful to think of this need as a functional one.
As a content creator, it’s easy to overlook these basic needs while you’re working hard on building your brand – spending countless hours on research, filming and editing videos, and connecting with followers can eventually take a toll on both your content and health.
This is why it becomes necessary to pay attention to the little things, even if it’s as simple as establishing a proper sleep schedule. Sleep is essential for you to function at a high level of efficiency. In fact, the reason why most adults require seven or more hours of sleep every night is to improve various aspects of brain function. These would help you remain more focused and productive throughout the day. Once you’ve taken care of your basic needs, you’ll be in a much better position to create effective content.
It’s interesting to note that your physiological needs will eventually help satisfy your psychological needs too – because as you create better content, you’re likely to gain more likes, comments, follows, shares, etc. These positive affirmations will not only provide the validation you’re looking for, but will also help you thrive on any social media platform.
Think about it this way: if you’re not in good shape, you’re not likely to post much on your social media channels for weeks or months. This will result in your online presence ‘dying’ – similar to going without water or food in real life.
Consistency is key in gaining traction as a content creator among your targeted audience, and the only way to achieve that is by becoming an active participant. But to stay an active contributor to the creator economy, you have to take care of YOU first.
This need applies to the immediate environment of an individual, and includes protection from any violence, theft or disasters. Safety needs could also be extended to include health safety, emotional stability and financial security.
Ask any content creator about their worst nightmare and their answer will probably be this: getting cancelled, shut down, or even worse, completely disappearing from social media channels.
The harsh reality is that you don’t own YouTube, Facebook, Instagram nor any of the other social platforms. You also don’t own the social media algorithms that power these platforms. These can either be your best friends or your greatest enemies, depending on how you make them work for you.
As algorithms constantly evolve, content creators like you are always looking for ways to gain security from having their reach limited by these ‘invisible’ entities. One of the ways to solve this issue lies in understanding how social algorithms work and creating content that will be picked up by them.
You don’t even need to look too far; most social media platforms such as Facebook are transparent about what’ll make your organic content rank higher on their platform. Whether it’s choosing meaningful conversations over transactions, or native videos over regular videos, your choices will ultimately determine the likelihood of your success on social platforms.
Additionally, if you’re trying to boost your content and rank higher on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), there are two important factors to remember while creating content – keep it relevant and engaging.
As your content becomes more popular, you should seek to become less dependent on search engines and algorithms by connecting with your followers and building your own ‘tribe’ beyond social media through meetups and newsletters.
These refer to an individual’s social needs that makes them want to feel accepted as part of a community, group, or team. Social relationships such as family, friends, neighbors and partners help a person feel connected.
But more than that, these relationships shape our personal identities right from the moment we are born. That’s why, we find ourselves constantly reaching out to people through the phone, e-mail or social media. In fact, a study conducted by researchers in three Mexican towns found that social connectedness can influence the physical and mental health of an individual and a community at large.
Social connections, both online and offline, help provide the confidence you need to become better at what you do. Whether it’s spending time with people who believe in your potential as a content creator, or seeking out a community of creators online, it’s always important to set aside time for building relationships.
This will pay off in the long run, especially if you’re a content creator, as you’ll eventually find yourself in a better position to define your niche audience – or the people you want to create content for. You’ll also have a better idea of the type of content that will work for this audience – informational, educational or entertaining.
Once you’ve figured this out, you should go a step further and take out time to engage with your online audience (much like your real-life connections) either through question-based posts, polls, quizzes, tags, shares, etc. Remember, every social media post you come across is ultimately geared towards fulfilling this need – from the food pictures you scroll past on your newsfeed to the music being shared online – everything is designed to build and connect with a community of like-minded individuals.
In the second highest level of Maslow’s pyramid, an individual has the desire to feel good about themselves. This category of needs is related to feelings of self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem. According to Maslow, esteem is usually of two types – one is based on respect from others and the other is based on how you assess yourself.
Social media platforms seem to have leveraged this need skillfully with most creators proudly displaying their number of followers or likes from time to time. Besides adding a sense of accomplishment, these also serve as a direct indicator of your success as a creator.
But here’s where it gets tricky – increased use of social media is also linked to higher levels of loneliness, anxiety and stress. That means, pretty much like anything else in life, it can act like a double-edged sword especially as your content begins to reach billions of people worldwide.
Not everybody will be a fan; be prepared for it.
One way to counter this is to build a system around filtering out trolls that could potentially have an effect on your self-esteem and ultimately, your career. You should also be able to distinguish between a hater and a critic – and figure out how to respond to the two without getting too caught up in an online argument.
Maslow describes this as the feeling that we are living up to our potential and realizing exactly what we are capable of achieving.
As a content creator, you’ve already successfully reached this stage right from the moment you made the decision to create your own channel. This is perhaps what makes this career path different from any other – while most people start from the bottom of the pyramid, a content creator starts right from the top and works their way slowly through the other needs.
This is why this need forms the backbone of the creator economy, which was born out of an increasing societal shift toward finding greater fulfillment in employment. As a part of the passion economy, creators have discovered means of turning their interests or their ‘passion’ into steady sources of income.
This means, more people are now finding ways to live out their dreams, not necessarily in a 9-to-5 job, but by creating more of what they love doing – and making money from it too.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs left a lasting impact on other researchers and psychologists who have sought to build more on his theory. As a result, there have been various other models that have developed over time using Maslow’s pyramid of needs as the foundation.
An interesting aspect of this theory is that out of all the needs, Maslow only described self-actualization as a “growth need” – a need that can make an individual happy but does not cause any harm if it remains unfulfilled.
But in order for this need to become a priority, it first becomes important to achieve the other four “deficiency needs” so as to avoid any unpleasant conditions that could prevent an individual from fulfilling the growth need.
While not every content creator may strictly go through the same order of needs, the pyramid helps to serve as a rough guide. It can help you create more meaningful and relevant content, and allow you to develop your highest potential as you move up the hierarchy.
As a content creator, it provides a model for you to better understand how to take care of yourself, connect with your audience and ultimately achieve success.