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Image courtesy of Flowtown

The strange dichotomy of social media is that it is as much about collective identity as it is about personal branding.  It may seem that these two ideas are antithetical to each other but in reality they go together rather seamlessly. Each person creates a distinctive profile whether on Facebook or Twitter and then connects with friends who share interests and experiences. Voila, we have the group identity!

Flowtown had a great post on the need of Internet users to belong and this post is what made me think about this interesting dual reality of social media. That post was about how a large percentage of Internet users tend to belong to groups. It seems that those who like to connect with other human beings and be part of collective efforts are drawn to the Internet and to social media – that is not surprising. But there is also evidence that those who like to voice their opinions and share their unique perspectives are drawn to platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress. There is something in active social media users that helps them balance these apparently contradictory impulses!

The Flowtown article talks about Internet users and catalogs everything from accessing websites to joining social groups on the web. But the core idea holds true for social media users. They are people who want to connect with others whether for professional or personal reasons. Some of the top groups that are active on the Internet are religious groups, sports leagues, consumer advocacy groups, charitable organizations, professional networks and neighborhood associations.

While sometimes YouTube loads and blogs seem more for personal consumption than anybody else, the truth is that these are done with awareness of a larger community out there. Facebook status updates are intended to share unique personal experiences. The hope is that the group in question will understand and appreciate that personal narrative.

Social media marketing campaigns need to understand that these are equally important impulses in social media users. While relying on word-of-mouth marketing and hoping to generate hype through Likes, companies need to value the voice of the individual consumer. Who Likes and how they Like it can both help the cause of a campaign!