Clique-happy Social Media

Cliques have always had a negative connotation, beginning with what we remember from our high school days. The “power elite” popular kids excluded us from the underage drinking parties on weekends, and even worse, caused us to be the brunt of many bad jokes as we attempted to be initiated into the in-crowd.

If you compare this type of group and the cliques or niche groups one can find in social networks, it’s a night and day difference. You might have thought this post was going to turn into a rant revealing striking similarities between being a popular kid in high school and a similar position on Twitter, but it’s not. Instead, I’d like to point out how cliques are a natural progression in social media in order to weed out the noise rather than those unwanted based on their looks.

Think about it: how many times on Twitter do we see individuals connecting with like-minded individuals? We then see these relationships progress into something even more personal – a real life meeting, such as a tweet-up or happy hour with your T-Mobile “5”.  In these meetings, you exchange your ideas, you build off one another, and pretty soon the group grows. No one is excluded. The only requirement: participation.

The Golden Rule of Twitter has and always will be (though I don’t think anyone’s actually tweeted it) to participate in communities outside the Twitter community shared within the Twitter community – meaning, participate in blog discussions, then share the posts, and then perhaps engage directly with the author of those posts on Twitter to secure a meet-and-greet the next time they’re in town. The last step takes a bit of time, so remember that.

Also remember that social channels such as Twitter aren’t only for the geeks or “gleeks” wanting to converse and connect.  This list of Twitter chats offers up a variety of contextual categories.  Even more niche than that, Twitter lists also enable you to find like-minded types of people. You can mimic a similar arrangement with Facebook groups, although it’s not micro-friendly and certainly not as participatory… not yet anyway. Nevertheless, we’ve never felt second or third best in these lists or groups. We’re right where we belong.

But in social networks people do pretend to be someone they are not, which is easily sniffed out thanks to those follow-up real-life meetings, or shared social objects that are not quite adding up.  Hmm… that person talks about their love for beer when I’ve only ever seen them drink wine.  And why did they say they were obsessed with Mumford and Sons when they’ve only added and subscribed to Lady Gaga channels on Pandora? We had a name for these people in high school – “posers” –and man were they the brunt of many bad jokes.  That leads me to another point: in forming cliques, we also have to be honest if we truly fit into those cliques.  I can think of many online communities where I simply don’t belong. How about you?

So whether you’re a Star Wars fan or the loudest voice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, remember that in social media, you’re not just clicking on links.  You’re “cliquing” on a world that welcomes you in. But as the big blue genie in Aladdin reminds us, “Beeee yourself.”  (Yes, Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie. The guy gets the girl).

Tim Otis is Supervisor of Social Media and PR for brand marketing agency Gabriel deGrood Bendt (GdB) in downtown Minneapolis. A four-year integrated and big idea marketer, Otis enjoys pitching media and teaching clients how to use social media effectively and responsibly. Apart from his work at GdB, Otis enjoys blogging, speaking, and writing songs for he and his wife to sing. You can follow him on Twitter @timotis.

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