Friday, September 10

Pressing Introverts: What Modern Engagement Misses

Extraverts In Communication
With social networks becoming a dominant form of communication, at least in terms of the attention they receive, one might wonder where that leaves introverts. People who respond quickly, comment frequently, and network more efficiently seem to have an upper hand at a glance, especially in communication-related fields.

I was reminded of this while reviewing the very odd Facebook game called poweRBrands developed by Reckitt Benckiser. The game is designed to mirror the real-life experience of being a marketing executive in a cutting-edge company such as RB. No, it's not much fun for people who are marketing executives (the demographics are ages 18-30), but this isn't a review.

What struck me about the game is how much emphasis is placed on creating the illusion of networking. If you receive a call to attend a party (even if there is a research project due), you go. If you're invited to lunch, you go. If something needs to be brainstormed, you call the team together.

The Elevation Of Extroverts In Communication.

The point is that the game, much like the field, is surprisingly extrovert driven (even at the expense of results). So much so it almost seems counter intuitive, doubly so after reading a Psychology Today article by Laurie Helgoe, author and psychologist.

In the article, Helgoe discusses the personality-culture clash that introverts experience in a society that rewards extroversion, and corrects misunderstandings about the 50 percent of the population who prefer an active inner life to a busy social calendar. But this idea also made me wonder. While Helgoe considers the extroverts and introverts in the workplace, I wondered about them in social networks and whether some social media experts consider this as part of their communication equation.

For example, there seems to be a great emphasis placed on verbalized engagement — comment counts, open dialogue, and everything that can be seen (and counted). But what if particular content attracts fewer introverts? And why do social media experts discount their quiet influence?

The Role Of The Introvert In Social Networks.

Last year, Anthony Vultaggio made an interesting observation that connecting online is less social and more solitary than we might think. Publishing content on social networks, he said, gives introverts an advantage because they don't have a need to receive feedback from others.

Like journalists, he said, they reach inward and let others connect to their messages. However, I'm not so sure this is the way it stacks up in terms of capturing greater numbers of followers (if that is the intent for whatever reason). On Twitter, for example, extroverts tend to ask many more questions and have many more conversations because they have generally skip reflection.

Ergo, interaction attracts more interest. And, as I've mentioned before, there is ample evidence that social bloggers — people who speak and attend gatherings — leverage their offline connections to drive traffic to their online content. But more importantly, this still doesn't consider whether the quieter portion of the population is somehow being missed.

They share less, but tend to have more to say about what they share. They come up with great ideas, but don't measure outputs. They tend to be uncounted by social media measures, but are counted when it comes to actual outcomes. They bookmark more, anticipating to revisit ports and articles when they have more time to process the information.

Meanwhile, a social media project manager might be missing the introvert's presence all together, or worse, chase them away by trying to draw them out. (I actually witnessed this on a few occasions on Facebook; introverts fled after a page manager tried to engage them on something they quietly liked.)

The Crazy Thing About Measurements And Labels.

Personally, I don't believe there are such a things as introverts and extroverts as much as I believe there are behavior styles. Then again, I'm about as anti-label as they come with the exception of temporarily adopting labels to keep conversations fluid.

But this conversation starter might also lend itself to different insights for social media managers or whatever they might call themselves. Social media monitoring isn't nearly enough in terms of listening. And, as far as the workplace, I might add that drawing introverts "out of their shells" might be less effective than aligning them to areas where they can be a benefit.

Maybe the truth about what customers think about your product or service cannot be ferreted out by the data that is so readily available. And, depending on the type of people you attract, loud data might even be driving you in the wrong direction.
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