We prefer to behave in approval with our social groups”

Belongingness is our innate need to form and maintain strong, stable interpersonal relationships. More than we are often consciously aware, we want to be part of a peer group, community and society.

Once we feel we belong to a group, we will conform to, and internalize, the groups values and norms. In general, we conform to both injunctive norms of our groups (implied approved behavior by the group), and to descriptive norms (common behavior among group members). We may even behave adversely to groups that we do not want to be associated with.

Your brand, products or services are social objects that inherently form and play a role within social groups… Therefore, belongingness and conformity have multiple strong persuasive effects. Does your prospect want to belong and conform to your group?

Scientific research example

Imagine that a friendly lady comes up to your door and asks for a donation for charity. She hands over the list to write down your name and donation… A recent study by influence guru Cialdini (2011) revealed that you are more probable to donate when the previous donators are people you know, such as friends and neighbors.

Ryan, Stiller and Lynch (1994) found that children will increasingly internalize school’s extrinsic regulations and conform to them, when they have a higher feeling of belonging to the school (the more secure and cared for by parents and teachers).

Paul Rose and JongHan Kim (2011) found that the higher someone’s need to belong, the more he seeks the opinions of others before acting (and the more someone is self-monitoring, the more likely he will be an opinion leader).

Belongingness & Conformity

Online Persuasion tips:


  • Support the forming of groups, connections & dialogues among your customers & prospects (be it on your own platforms, and/or on existing ones).
  • Find and nourish the influencers within the more important social groups (e.g. on Facebook or niche platforms).
  • Aggregate as much information about a specific customer or prospect and show you are approved by his or her social peer group (from the device he uses, to more advanced log-in or Facebook profiling data).
  • Show your customer that members of his social peer group are buyers, users and advocates too (e.g. with ratings, reviews or Facebook piles).



A large (unfortunately not-to-be-named) Dutch corporate tested a different image on one of their product pages. The new image did nothing for their overall conversion. However, a deeper analysis revealed that Mac users showed a huge boost in conversion. Guess what… the new image showed someone with a MacBook Pro…

Further reading on belongingness and conformity:

  • Belongingness Hypothesis
  • Hogg, M. A.; Vaughan, G. M. (2005). Social psychology. Harlow: Pearson/Prentice Hall
  • Belongingness on Wikipedia
  • Frodi, A., Bridges, L., & Grolnick, W. S. (1985). Correlates of mastery-related behaviour: A short term longitudinal study of infant in their second year. Child Development, 56, 1291–1298x).
  • Ryan, R. M., Stiller, J., & Lynch, J. H. (1994). Representations of relationships to teachers, parents, and friends as predictors of academic motivation and self-esteem. Journal of Early Adolescence, 14, 226–249.
  • Rose, Paul; Kim, JongHan (July 2011). Self-monitoring, opinion leadership and opinion seeking: a sociomotivational approach. Current Psychology 30 (3): 203–214.
  • Cialdini, Robert. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 105–109