What is the number one reason why people join social networks?
Go ahead and think about that for a second. Now say your answer out loud.
What was your answer? Networking, sharing, for a sense of belonging, to learn? Guess what, those are all good reasons but they are not the number one reason.
If you said community or relationships, you are partially right.
Top Three Reasons We Join social Networking Sites
The number one reason why people join a social network is identity says Shama Hyder Kabani, author of The Zen Of Social Media Marketing. It’s to showcase who they are. We join a social network because it says something about us.
And Kabani should know, she did research and her graduate thesis on why people join social networking sites.
The number two reason why people join social networking sites is to connect with others. We want to build relationships.
The number three reason why people join social networking sites is community.
For nonprofits and organizations, it’s important to remember that people join social networking sites to showcase their identity first, build relationships second and then belong to the community. They don’t join a social networking site because of community. We often get that backwards.
When people like a page on Facebook, answer something on Quora, recommend someone on LinkedIn or tweet something on Twitter, they do those things not because of community but because of their identity.
“I love ____________ (insert brand name here),” says something about us. It establishes our identity. We say we love something because it ultimately says something about our self. We don’t do it just to say something about the company. It is about us.
In other words, social networking really is all about me, me, me!
If business and organizations really understood this progression, they would approach their use of social media differently. They would ask, “How can our brand, our organization, fit into people’s view of themselves.” They would build their marketing messages around personal identity.
That means asking, “How can our brand or organization be seen as cool? What incentive can we give people to make our brand or organization part of their identity?”
This is critical for organizations to understand. Traditional marketing strategies do not fit into social media platforms with success. Remember people join a social network because it is about establishing their identity, not to consume your marketing messages.
“Traditional marketing rules cannot be applied to social media because social media is not a marketer’s platform,” says Kabani.
The Paradox About Our True Identity
Here’s the troubling paradox about our identity. Most organizations and institutions usually banish employees from showcasing their personal identity. The organization wants employees to showcase the institutional identity. Our bosses often want us to keep our real, true identity under a psychosomatic lock-and-key.
At work, we put our institutional self forward. Inside organizations, we repress our social self as a matter of bureaucratic survival. The spontaneous expression of our true identity is considered inappropriate in formal situations.
This creates an ongoing tension between social networks and institutional organizations. And it highlights why social networks have been so popular. They are dynamic, heterarchical, horizontal, informal and spontaneous. Social networks challenge core assumptions about corporate management, democratic governance and organizational behavior. Basically, they showcase our humanness.
For organizations to be successful, they have to shift from institutional identity to allowing employees to showcase their personal identity. People are attracted to and want to build relationships with other people.
The Power Shift To Networks
The power has shifted. It has shifted from institutions to networks. And the power is given back to people who showcase their humanness, their identity.
What are some ways organizations can align their brand or services with a person’s identity in social networks? Why is it so difficult for organizational leadership to allow employees to show their true selves?