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Commuispace has released a study titled Meeting Business Needs by Meeting Social Needs, which examines the 6 social needs that people seek in social networks.

1. Expressing personal identity: online social networks provide people with the ultimate tool for defining and redefining themselves, as evidenced in profile pages on Facebook and MySpace.

2. Status and self-esteem: 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. Giving and getting help: people have a need to both seek and provide help to others. Mutual assistance between strangers is a phenomenon that has been uniquely enabled by the Internet.

4. Affiliation and belonging: 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. Sense of community: 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. Reassurance of value and self worth. 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.

These needs are very relevant for any company or brand that seeks to establish a community, and make an excellent benchmark to test the value of a social network. Meeting these needs helps to deliver trust and deeper insight into the community members, says the report.

Perspective: It’s very difficult for a brand to achieve these needs, as most offer limited expression for the community and fail to enlist the power of the social network to give and receive help. This reduces the feeling of affiliation and belonging, and the value of the community. That’s why most of the successful communities such as Shespeaks, Yelp, Minti are run by independant and passionate consumers rather than brands. Brands then try to engage interrupt the consumers with advertising clutter, treating the social network like any other content channel. Consumers want to be heard, and are ready to give help to be reassured of their worth and value. I wonder when brands will recognise this?