February 25, 2018

In social media, no one knows you’re an introvert

Peter Steiner's cartoon
Image via Wikipedia

Two interesting posts this week on how our personalities affect our online behavior. First, Paul Dunay (did I mention that Paul is my favorite B2B blogger yet today?) expresses shock that he turned out to be an extrovert on the Myers-Briggs personality test and wonders if you need to be an extrovert to be in social media. Then David Weinberger, big thinker, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto (and nice guy) proposed an interesting framework for determining our internet personalities.

Reading these got me thinking that we probably need to rethink the concepts of introversion and extroversion in social media marketing.

Since I’m a completely unqualified to comment on matters of psychology, I immediately came to certainty on Paul’s query (no!) and, of course, came up with a theory.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog
And the fact that I’m writing about it here proves that you don’t need to be an extrovert to be in social media. I am an “I” with a capital I. (Though I can sometimes fake extroversion when I speak in front of a group that doesn’t know me.)

Could I have revealed all that in a casual conversation with someone I don’t know very well? Doubtful. But can I do it on my blog? Hell yeah! (I never say Hell, yeah in real life—well, hardly ever.)

I think social media turns most things we think about innate personality on its ear. Think of how people contract avatars in games that represent the person that they want to be (or are but can’t show).

But as Paul points out, that self is often lazy and fearful. Research has shown that even in lively online communities, only 10% actively contribute, and about 1-2% actively become leaders of topics and post new threads.

How can we help customers be extroverts?
Those numbers look bad, but we have to think of them from our customers’ perspectives. What if you post a thread on a topic that your company doesn’t want you talking about? What if you wind up looking like an idiot in front of your peers and embarrassing yourself and your company?

Now juxtapose that against the wild sharing that we do on personal devices and networks. Many, many people are revealing themselves in ways that they would never do in real life and on Myers-Briggs tests. Twitter is like a virtual table in the bar that everyone is dancing on.

I think for marketers, the issue is less about whether our customers will be more extroverted online—they already are. But how can we create more ways to share safely?

What do you think?

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  • johnbottom

    “Twitter is a virtual table in a bar that everyone is dancing on”. Love it. Truth is we can hide behind different personalities because we can pick and choose WHEN we use those personalities.

    There is a real Jekyll & Hyde thing going on with online personalities – we don't have to be a certain person. We can be who we want, when we want to. And then we can close down the laptop and return to our real life where, because we don't have the shield of the web to hide behind, we have to be a little more consistent.

    Of course, it all depends how honest we want to be, and how difficult we want to make life for ourselves. Maintaining radically different personalities is [I guess] pretty hard. But if our online personalities are just slightly racier versions of our offline selves, we can handle that.

    Anyway, thanks for a thought-provoking post Chris. I'm just off to chase some sticks and bark at cats.


  • Love that last line, John!
    You bring up an interesting point about the radically different personalities. I agree that it is hard unless the environment is structured to make it easier for you to do it–maybe we as marketers can learn something from the massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft? But without that kind of structure, racier is as far as most of us are willing to go. A journalist once asked an assistant to TV personality David Letterman if he was the same person on air and off air. The person said something to the effect of, “He's always Dave, he's just more Dave when he's on the show.”

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