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I get this question a lot from my peers. This is a behavioural question that biz/orgs all over the world are trying to understand. In my Social Business formula I mention intrinsic motivation or internal motivation. In this post I will explore the behaviour and what drives people to take action.

If Multi-Directional Expressive Capability, MDEC, is to be maximised you need a motivated online community. What makes one community better than the next? Why does one biz/org get lots of shares on Facebook and RT’s on Twitter, while another, trying equally hard gets very few?

There are a number of reasons,

  • Dynamic content plays a large part. The better the content the more MDEC activity.
  • Trust is a huge influencer, your online community has to trust what they are sharing and talking about is not going to come back and bite them on the ass by embarrassing them in front of their online peers.
  • Values and Principles  the biz/orgs values and principles are demonstrated in the manner in which the biz/org conducts itself in public and the online community are happy to align themselves with that.
  • Transparency that the biz/org conducts itself in a manner congruent with its values and is not just paying them lip service. Get caught lying on this one and the online community will drop your biz/org instantly, after giving you a good going over on the social platforms. A very public humiliation.

Having these attributes in place allows the biz/org to build an online community but as I asked in the heading, what intrinsically, internally motivates people to participate, why bother. MDEC conversation is the goal of any online community, for the Social Business Model(SBM) to succeed. With-out the online communities participation in the, customer to customer discussion about business (C2CaB), then the biz/org can not maximise its online marketing results.

What motivates people to participate in online communities?

There has being a huge amount of research undertaken, trying to identify the triggers that inspire, drive, motivate people to participate. Reviewing results of this research shows the most consistent result proves to be intrinsic or internal motivation.As a result of reading some of this research here is what I understand intrinsic motivation to be. The Collins dictionary definition is as follows,  intrinsic means; “essential to the basic nature of something” or “of ones self”. Daniel Pinks research showed the following three terms help to understand intrinsic/internal motivation better.

  1. Autonomy; the urge to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery; the desire to get better at something that matters
  3. Purpose; in the service of something greater than ourselves

In themselves not startling information but placed together a powerful force which bring dramatic results for people.

Autonomy; not everybody is comfortable having to make decisions, in fact the majority of people are very happy to let others make decisions for them and complain about those decisions later. People feel that to many issues are stacked against them, money, education, ability or where they were born. All boundaries over which they feel they have no control.

The research shows that people that are intrinsically/internally motivated do not see these obstacles and see success as  matter of long hours of dedication. Matt Sayed in his brilliant book Bounce examines the back ground of some of the most brilliant sports stars and musicians to see what was the “autobiographical” circumstance of people like Beckham, Woods, Agassi and Beethoven were. He discovered that despite growing up in different circumstances the real difference was they were motivated early in life to love their chosen discipline. They understood nothing could stop them if they worked hard and put in long hours.

Mastery; The people mentioned above along with countless others are intrinsically/internally motivated by the desire to master their chosen sport or instrument. It is of course not exclusively sports or music, it can be maths, management, teaching any walk of life, but the basic desire to be the best spurs them on. In Bounce, Sayed uses a calculation that you need 10,000 hours to gain mastery over your chosen discipline, he is not alone in this belief as Malcolm Gladwell wrote his book Outliers: The Story of Success on that principle and proved the point with his research.

Purpose; People generally want to belong, we are pack animals and because of this we form communities and relationships. Some take this a step further by volunteering with organisations like the Coder-Dojo, Sports, training kids, working with charities and so on. Online the greatest example of this is Wikipedia everybody that edits Wiki does so free of charge and receives only the satisfaction of knowing they are helping their fellow man to better understand things.


The biggest contributors online are motivated people of that there is little doubt, the research in this area overwhelmingly points to this in all walks of life, online behaviour is no different. The job of the online marketers is to increase the number of intrinsically motivated people in their clients online communities to maximise the MDEC conversation around the company, organisation or brand.

It must be the company, organisation or brands objective to build TRUST with their community through TRANSPARENCY. Conducting themselves in a values driven principled manner. This is the new marketing model which will allow biz/orgs to tap into the undoubted potential of the online space. The Social Business Model does work, it is working, just look around at how some biz/orgs are reaping the rewards online word-of-mouth that community brings.