How Different Personality Types Play to Social Media

 -  10/9/12

Introverts and extroverts treat social media differently, according to a recent study. These differences are worth considering when designing HR programs through the medium.

As social media continues to break ground, HR functions have been keen to find ways to use it as a tool for enhanced learning, collaboration, recruiting and, in some instances, performance management. But much like social media’s users in the consumer market take to the medium differently, the same can be said for users in business.

Consider personality. A recent study by CPP Inc., a talent development firm, revealed that users with different personality types based on the Myers-Briggs model interacted with social media differently. The differences weren’t monumental — but enough for talent managers to want to take notice.

The primary differences were between those with introverted and extroverted personality types. In general, more extroverted types — those classified with more people-oriented and outwardly social personalities — reported in most measures included in the study to have a greater interest in interacting on social media. Those with the tendency to be more introverted were slightly less enthused, though not by much.

For instance, nearly 60 percent of extroverted types reported in the study that they consider social media — specifically, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — useful for professional purposes, while 47 percent of introverted types shared that sentiment. Roughly the same stood for social media and personal use.

Conversely, a slightly larger number of introverted types — 17 percent, compared with 12 percent of extroverts — agreed somewhat in the CPP study that social media was a waste of time.

Such small margins came as something of a surprise to Rich Thompson, CPP’s director of research, who expected extroverts to by and large have far greater enthusiasm for social media. The fact that enthusiasm is only slightly higher for extroverts than introverts, he said, speaks to the popularity of social media.

Still, talent managers should be cautious when using social media as a tool in the workplace. Know the personality types of employees, and use social media and other tools to play to those tendencies.

Extroverts, for instance, are more willing to do or share anything on social media. When it comes to learning, for example, extroverts will “learn something for the sake of learning” on social media, said Michael Segovia, CPP’s lead certification trainer.

More introverted personalities, however, need to be presented with practical reasoning to persuade them to actively participate in social media as a business or HR tool. “If they see someone post what they had for dinner on Facebook, [introverts] don’t see the use in that,” Segovia said. “They need something more practical.”

Thompson added that talent managers would be wise not to pigeonhole social media as the solution to all their talent development needs. Social media should play a role, he said, but other mediums for collaboration, recruiting and training should be used as well.

“Don’t assume that social media is going to be the solution to all your problems around communication, training and development,” Thompson said. “Be sure to do some follow-up to really make sure that it’s meeting [employee] needs.”

Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@talentmgt.com.

Article Keywords:   HR   social media  


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