How to Use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Grow Your Blog

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Back in 1943 the psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed something called his ‘hierarchy of needs’. The idea was that our needs are like a ladder or a pyramid, with our most basic ones – like hunger – at the bottom, while our more complex needs – like self-actualization – were higher up. His theory was that only once we’d satisfied our lower down needs would we look to satisfy our more complex ones. His theory revolutionized not just psychology, but marketing and advertising as well.

And it can do the same for your blog. Now there is already a lot of great advice about what to do out there. What makes this difference? Sixty years of psychological research, that’s what! That’s nothing to be sneezed at.

Physiological and safety

At the bottom of his hierarchy were his most basic needs. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on them, because to a large extend your audience will already have satisfied these, as otherwise they wouldn’t be reading your blog.

That said, there is one situation in which you might be able to trigger your reader’s sense of safety (or rather danger) and that is if your blog specializes in articles that make them feel afraid or like they’re in danger. Fear is a powerful trigger. If you can come across as an authoritative source of stories about something dangerous, then you will hook your audience. To a large extent, this is why we spend a great deal of time watching the news. We pretend we want to be informed, but mainly it’s because it triggers our fear response.

Love and Belonging

Don’t want to use that strategy? Then try the next step on the ladder. This is where we want to be part of something, be it a relationship, a family or a friendship. The best way to utilize this step on the hierarchy is to make a reader feel like they’re included. For example, you can use a writing style that’s inclusive and makes them feel like you’re speaking to them directly (using question, as well as first person and second person language).

Alternatively, you can give them the opportunity to be part of your community, by letting them comment and question and then taking the time to respond, as well as actually altering what you’re writing about based on their suggestions. Love and belonging works best if it’s a two way street. The more your readers feel you’re listening to them the more engaged they will become.

Esteem

Actually, that’s not just because of love and belonging, but because of esteem as well. Feeding a person’s self-esteem and making them feel respected is the next step on the pyramid and it’s an important one. We all want to have the feeling our lives make a difference and when somebody we’re taking the time to reach out to takes the time to respond that makes us feel that little bit more special.

Alternatively, if this is the wedge you’re trying to fulfill, but you don’t have the time to address each and every commenter’s need personally then work on writing posts that make the readers feel special. Now one obvious way to do this is to tell them they’re special. It’s very direct, but it might just work.

Alternatively, if you don’t like that idea, consider giving them the idea that they’re part of a select group that has an insight that nobody else has. That’s how many political movements and blogs work. We know something that nobody else does and we are therefore obviously much smarter than other people.

Self-actualization

Self-improvement or realizing your full potential is the highest step. Here is where you look at helping people learn and become who they are supposed to be. Alternatively, you just skip the learning bit and tell them that that is who they are. Both strategies will help them fulfill this need.

An important thing to note, as people generally aren’t this high on the pyramid, seeing as they’ve got to fulfill their lower needs, don’t just aim for the self-actualization wedge of the pyramid. You’re far better of combining it with some of the steps lower down.

Putting it all together

That’s, in fact, important for the whole ladder. Concentrating on one part of it certainly works, but what works even better is if you combine several of them into a far more enticing whole. Fulfill their need for belonging and their self-esteem, for example. Or trigger their fear, then show them how to overcome it.

Whatever strategy you decide to use, what’s important to realize is that people come to you to fulfill these basic needs – quite often one particular need – and they will start to go away again if they’re no longer being satisfied. That means that if you suddenly drastically change the tone and direction of your writing, you might lose a chunk of your audience. You have been warned.

Jesse Fin