What do social media mean for people?

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Almost one week and numerous phone calls later (and still no luggage, it got lost once more in Belgium), I went online and wrote on Twitter:

“One week and 20 phone calls later, no luggage. Thank you #lufthansa and #brusselsairlines”

A couple of hours later I logged in again on twitter and I was actually confronted with my own tweet. Although I still felt the same way about my lost luggage, I realized that this was probably the very first time that I tweeted about a brand with a negative sentiment. I have been involved in reviews before, but in a more anonymous way since I did not know anybody on the platform. On twitter, I am connected to people I actually know…

The whole tweet made me think of what social media really mean for people. We know a lot about what people do on social media by observing their contributions. There have been numerous studies investigating the profile of social media users. However, few studies have researched the drivers of social media usage. What needs do social media fulfill? What latent motives do people have when they are active on social media? What role do they take in people’s life even if they are just passively using them?

From previous research, we know that informational and social benefits are important drivers of content creation. However, I believe they are still too general. If I take the example of my own tweet, I was not looking for social contact. I am also pretty sure that nobody in my, mainly research related, network was interested in my lost luggage adventures. I could definitely not claim expertise or status with my tweet. When thinking about it, my motivation was despair. I was not only running out off clothes but moreover, the automated answering machine at the helpdesk was repeating that my luggage had been delivered already. I had no other contact number and at that time it seemed that my luggage would never return. I was hoping that somebody from Brussels airlines or Lufthansa would respond.

Luckily, my luggage was found. However it really made me aware of the importance of knowing more about what people drives to share things on social media. I do believe that one can detect a couple of general rules, however I am convinced that the drivers differ from moment to moment. It is time to find out what social media really mean for people!