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Connect To The Right People: Connect To Similar Others

Connecting and being validated are a huge part of our lives. Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist, will forever be remembered for his hierarchy of needs. The highest point of that pyramid (self-actualization) is where the online channels focus most.

Even if you have never taken a psychology class, as a business owner you must have an inkling of interests about why humans do things, and then why they are compelled to share their experience with others. It turns out that there is a serious connection between Maslow and the current rise and success of online social networking.

From the Center For Media Research and their "Research Brief" e-newsletter (December 27, 2007) comes this: "Emotional Business Bonding on Social Networks," by Jack Loechner, who notes that according to a recent report called "Meeting Business Needs by Meeting Social Needs" by Communispace, researchers have uncovered that human beings' needs are being met through online social networking. They have connected "Six Social Needs" in order to help entrepreneurs understand how to create better affinity with their consumers.

Here are six key points from the research:

  1. Online social networks provide people with the ultimate tool for defining and redefining themselves, as evidenced in profile pages on Facebook and Myspace.
  2. The need for autonomy, recognition, and achievement are essential to our sense of self-worth and are fulfilled in online communities, blogs, and social networks that provide a way to develop and manage a virtual reputation.
  3. People have a need to both seek [help from] and provide help to others. Mutual assistance between strangers is a phenomenon that has been uniquely enabled by the Internet.
  4. Online communities are becoming the way people find, create, and connect with others "just like me"--people who share similar tastes, sensibilities, orientations, or interests.
  5. A sense of belonging or affiliation alone is not equivalent to a true sense of community. Achieving a real sense of community requires long-lasting reciprocal relationships and a mutual commitment to the needs of the community as a whole...
  6. People want to be reassured of their worth and value, and seek confirmation that what they say and do matters to others and has an impact on the world around them. Meeting all 5 + 1 of these social needs generally requires the level of intimacy and facilitation that are the hallmarks of smaller, invitation only online communities.

These six points do illustrate that we are moving toward a world where online reputation and personal branding are taking hold. If people connect more to one another through their personal brand online, we are going to see the connection for emotional branding in these channels. Odds are you have looked at these many online channels and seen them as fads (whether we're talking about blogs, online social networks, or widgets), and have not paid enough attention to what the net result could mean: more and more people finding and making brand decisions based not on the corporate line, but on what a mass of individuals have said , done, and collected.

This can't be a trend, because it will transcend all technology and media channels. The technology (or the online social networks) will just be the platforms by which these consumers connect. Much like a search box where people now find information online, these emotional branding connections will happen in the same, easy way.

The big idea in the world of Six Pixels of Separation is to embrace community as the new currency. Understand and believe that your business and how it is perceived in the marketplace is going to get increasingly more complex in the coming months. How you are positioned, how people see you, and how you speak back to them is going to be the global validation for your growth. In a world where we're all connected, one opinion is quickly turned into everyone's opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be how your business is going to adapt and evolve.


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