Internet users need symbols of identity

American Psychologists have discovered that we need to “get the T-shirt”. In an interesting group of different studies, the researchers from New York University found that in order for us to really feel we are part of a group we have to show that we are in that group. We need physical items to demonstrate to others the group to which we belong.

What this means for your web site or your online business is that you need physical items to help engender a feeling of community within your users. Some online groups, such as Ecademy or NRG have button badges, for instance. The research also shows there is considerable group value in having a physical “home” – people associate the property with the group as well.

For your business – and mine – it is therefore important that your clients and your web site readers have some physical attribute that helps them feel they “belong”. There is a symbolic value in physical items that help people show they are part of “your world”.

In the coming weeks you will be able to get a range of physical items to show you read my articles. I’m also going to be setting up a “home” for my readers – a building they can associate with me and the group of readers. Strange how these things work isn’t it? I remember years ago working for several newspapers whose buildings were part of their identity. A small graphic of the “HQ” was printed within the title of the publication. It clearly helped the community of readers identify themselves as being part of that group. The designers probably thought it just looked good; this new research shows it had a real purpose though.

So, what physical items can your Internet users associate with your business? You clearly need something to engender that feeling of belonging.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @SteveHeadSpeaks: Thanks to @GuidesForBrides for having @ChrisHeadMagic at #ukwedconf @MiltonHillhotel learning from the best @grahamjon - 22 hours ago
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