Matt Kucharski, Executive Vice President, Padilla Speer Beardsley

I’m not really the kind of guy to recommend brands on social media, which is a bit ironic because that’s the ultimate goal of every marketer – to turn your customers into advocates.

But that all changed the day I discovered Dollar Shave Club, an e-commerce business that sends a month’s worth of really good shaving cartridges for a fraction of the price of what you’d pay at the store.  I was all-in and didn’t hesitate to tell my Facebook friends about it.

Soon after my smoother-than-LeBron-in-the-paint shaving AND buying experience, we had a SMERF team meeting here at Padilla.  That’s our Social Media Elite Response Force for those of you uninitiated.  We got into a great discussion about why people choose to advocate for brands, and the smart folks on the team were able to boil it down to three motivators:

1. Helping Others: There may not be an “i” in team, but there’s a “self” in selflessness.  In other words, helping someone out also makes the helper feel good.  While the DSC folks said they’d reward me with points for referrals, it’s not really motivating me.  As a relatively recent head shaver, I was really and truly annoyed at the prospect of paying $3 for a handle and $20 for a pack of 3 cartridges. Self actualization was achieved when several of my felly baldy social media friends acknowledged my post with their Likes and comments.

2. Validation: Some people do it simply because they want everyone to know that they did it.  It could be because they need validation after making a high-involvement purchase (like the more than 400,000 people who Like and post on the Toyota Prius Facebook page) or it could be simply because they want people to know what they’re doing online – like the people who let friends know that they took the Grey Poupon Society of Good Taste test and passed (yeah, I did that too).

3. Perks: Some people just want the free crap.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’d argue it’s the most straightforward reward that brands can offer.  My colleague and social media role model Michelle Wright is a daily deals site addict who is more than happy to tell her closest social acquaintances about her latest Groupon score if it means getting a kick-back on her next purchase with the site (so long as it’s something she thinks her friends would Like).

Don’t get me wrong – you can have more than one motivator.  The marketers for the Broadway musical Book of Mormon are using Big Door to create a program where you earn rewards for sharing information (the free crap component), and their “street team” members also are the first to receive news about this very popular, hard-to-get-into show and can share it with friends (part validation, part helping others).  We digital marketers call it “gamification.”  My mom would call it “too much time on your hands.”

So what’s this all mean?  If one of the goals for a communications campaign is to drive referrals (or in a non-marketing sense, advocacy), you need to understand which of these three motivators comes into play, and develop your content marketing strategy accordingly.

Oh, one last thing. Sharing this post via Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook page will not only help me out, it’ll also make you feel really, really good.  Sorry, no free crap, though.