Incorporating the Theory of Social Identity into Web Design

Incorporating the Theory of Social Identity into Web Design

Every person gets influenced by the people and groups he/she encounters. As much as we would like to think that our every thought or opinion is original; in actuality, we always use others as a reference point for our attitude and behavior. This is a basic human nature and there is nothing wrong about it.

Knowing how groups influence people can help you enhance the design process and influence the target audience quite easily. By incorporating social influence in their work, designers can take the user experience to a whole new level.

Theory of Social Identity
Understanding concepts related to the social identity theory can really help the UX professionals to effectively incorporate social influence in their work.

According to the theory of social identity, when an individual identifies himself/herself with a group, he/she feels more associated to that particular group (in-group) and their behavior gets more uniformed. At the same time, they regard members of other groups (out-group) as being cut from the same cloth and associate negative attributes to them.

Example: PC vs. Mac

Let’s take an example of the Apple commercials. It’s not so long ago that Apple launched an advertisement that regarded Mac products as cool, edgy and hip. As such, the members of this group would identify themselves as having those traits and at the same time, regard the Windows-based PC users as uptight, stuffy and boring. Thus, individuals would like to purchase Mac products to associate to a cool group. Apple used social identity theory to develop an attitude towards its product so that the customer would purchase it.

Let’s see how social identity theory plays out for web.

Understanding Social Identity Theory through Facebook
Facebook is the king of social networking basically because it has successfully incorporated social influence and social identity theory in its network. Let’s go through a few points to understand this.

Self-Categorization through Facebook: Going In-Group

Creating your profile on Facebook is the first step to join this huge group —Facebook. People want to connect to Facebook as they want to be a part of social groups that reside on Facebook already (an eg. of self-categorization). Also, they want to see what others are doing and vice versa (an eg. of social comparison). They share photos, professional experience, their most liked books and sports and a lot more.

How Social Identity Play Out on Facebook?
Suppose Mr. A made a post saying, “Amazing performance by XX Rock Band in Louisiana.” One of his friends likes his post. This friend’s “like” pops up in the news feed of one of his friends, Alisha, who lives in Louisiana and is a deadly fan of XX Rock Band. Alisha sees the post too and clicks on the link to Mr. A’s profile. Checking his profile, which is set to be accessible to friends of friends (they’re in-group!!), Alisha sees that he lives in Louisiana and is a fan of his favorite music star, Justin Bieber.

Alisha then sends me a friend request over Facebook. In response to the request, Mr. A checks out her profile and observes that she has similar interests, lives in his city and is friends with similar people. Consequently, he accepts her friend request. This shows a clear example of strengthening a social tie and reaffirmation of the in-group identity of individuals.

What Facebook gets out of it?
You might be wondering, what benefit Facebook gets out of all this. After all, people don’t pay to be its users. The truth is: This social identity and influence have greatly benefited the entrepreneurs.

Facebook tracks data exchange within individuals in ways we can only imagine. Some of the effects can be seen through the advertising and promotions being carried out on Facebook. For example, it is possible that Mr. A and Alisha are now on Facebook’s list of Louisiana residents who are fans of XX Rock Band and they’ll start seeing paid advertisements in their feed from local venues that host such music events. A real win for Facebook and the advertisers!!

Final Say
Social influence provides key concepts to be addressed through UX design. Through incorporating these concepts of social identity into design, you can influence people in ways you cannot even imagine. Moreover, it will give a competitive edge over your rivals.