Engaging Introverts in Social Media: Four Strategies that Skirt Extrovert Bias

Social media is over-the-top biased toward extroverts. So it’s not surprising that nearly every social media strategy and its popular metrics focus on capturing extroverted behaviors.  But that also means that by ignoring strategies that engage introverts, you are leaving a lot of value sitting on the digital table.

Few organizations design social programs to specifically engage the introverts among us.  Yet, in the U.S population, one third to one-half of us are introverts.  And of course there are entire introvert-leaning cultures around the globe.

Social platforms work hard at creating lively, noisy, endlessly active environments. Their algorithms need lots of explicit action in order to record, respond to, display, connect or measure something.  So, no surprise that commenting, sharing, creating, and word of mouth are hallmarks of every social space. These are wonderfully exciting activities for extroverts.  Plus, platforms can make these activities visible and measure these behaviors so easily because they are the very stuff that the platforms were built to encourage.

But this extrovert bias leaves a big hole in the actual picture of engagement and of your potential ROI.

For most introverts these noisy activities require a lot of mental and emotional work.  Yet, introverts are delighted to engage with you if you are paying attention to them, and are among the influential online because they tend to focus on quality content – and their followers know it.

Last Conversation PieceYour digital strategies have to make up the difference between the extrovert bias in social channels and the preferences of your more introverted customers.  That requires being smart about incorporating introvert-friendly strategies to get the full benefits of your social tribes.

Introvert Inclusive Social Media Strategies

Be Socially Visual

It is no wonder that visual posts often elicit more than twice the social signals as textual posts, or that visual platforms are getting so much attention.  They engage introverts as well as extroverts.

Your visual content gets Introverts busy forming stories, questions, ideas and emotions in their heads.  Visuals allow them to enjoy the internal dialog images trigger.  I call social media a “medium of singular experience” because so much of the experience is actually happening inside our heads rather than in the shared physical environment around us – and this applies in spades to introverts.

Use images deliberately as stand-alone content rather than simply a tactic to grab attention for textual content.  Expect introverts to find it taxing to externalize or verbalize at the speed or volume digital spaces often require to be considered “in” the conversation, making images the perfect fodder for sharing.   That doesn’t mean “simplistic.” Introverts love threading the tiniest mental needle and appreciate images that make them think.

Platforms like Google+, Houzz, Whisper, Visual.ly, Pinterest, Slideshare, Instagram, Tumblr, and Polyvore are all great examples of social spaces that support introvert social media behaviors.

Surface Content

Introverts avoid overstimulation, so they often choose to take their social activities in smaller doses than extroverts.  This means they may miss content that a stimulus-hungry extrovert is just lying in wait for.

Conventional guru advice to keep information in social coming at a rapid pace – and to provide lots of it – ensures your extroverts and the platform algorithms are happy, but it causes your introverts to lean away.  Buck the extrovert-biased advice and make a conscious effort to make your content more than momentarily visible. Include tactics or platforms that re-surface your content.

Most platform algorithms bury the old in favor of the new, so take control of that cycle and repost, link to, or highlight content during the week or even over the month. This will open up the time frame for introverts to participate or to discover content.  Even if they saw it the first time, coming upon it again at a little later time means they had time to think about what they want to say about it, and importantly, tells them the content is still relevant for re-sharing.

If you are managing an online community or building influencer social media relationships, remember that introverts are not particularly great self-promoters, but are often quite influential because followers know they focus on quality, if less frequent, content.  Take specific care to surface less “popular,” but perhaps “deeper” content by using tactics such as “editor’s picks,” email highlights, content collections or content browsing features.   Surface the sometimes “later,” but typically thoughtful comments as new content in some appropriate way.  Surfacing your introvert’s contributions is a way to build strong relationships with them and you will also be creating a more inclusive community all around.

Medium is built to natively surface content and does an impressive job at it. Take a look at it for inspiration.  Facebook and Twitter are more challenging in that regard, so you have to take more control to reach the social media hummingbirds among us with deliberate strategies that surface your content on those platforms.

Honor the Long Tail

We tend to focus our success factors on short-term, “real time” activity in social media.  That’s a perfect timeframe for extroverts.  Your introvert friends are more likely found along the long tail.  They tend to like to consider things from several angles and to dig into a topic.  They are our searchers and often the “curators” of their circles and of the Internet.  If you are in social media for the long haul, consider your long tail strategies for reaching your more introverted tribes.

While you are entertaining your extroverts on Twitter, think about strategies that incorporate some kind of “backstory” to support introverts’ love of searching out meaningful context.  Of course they will join in the fun too, but they’ll ask questions.  Why not give them the chance to follow their nose by digging deeper into your content or story?

Categories, tags and hashtags are introvert-friendly, because they feed an introvert’s desire to look further, research and consider additional angles.  Introverts are attention machines, if you are willing to give them the tools.  Likes are helpful for immediate visibility, but what about those valuable long-tail type clicks from the post into the tag or category?  Or the less than real-time use of your hashtags?  Think about a shared bookmarks strategy too, as retro as you might think that is.

Be sure your overarching narrative or storytelling address employing tagging or category strategies and define performance indicators that account for the use of these features.   And the emerging cross-device conversion features of some tools provide additional insight into the behaviors of those research-centric introverts.

Question and Answer features, tactics or sites are also wonderful for engaging introverts who love sharing their thoughts and knowledge, and blossom in environments where robust conversation can happen.

Measure Wisely

If you are in social media to build relationships, throwing all your measurement weight toward extrovert activity like comments, shares, “talking about this” “Klout” and “popularity” may skew your success measurement.   The “like” “+1” or “vote” is an essential way for introverts to react at social media speed.  It isn’t a lazy signal to an introvert – so don’t consider it to be a “cheaper” kind of metric.

It is a tad harder to attach algorithmic value to the observing, collecting, researching, or consuming kinds of activities introverts tend to love about social media, but the data is there if you look.

Look closer at your analytics, like referring links, landing pages, time spent, favorites, downloads, bookmarks or saves.  Create funnels that don’t “shout” too loud. Dive into the long tail of your content and watch your content performance over time.

Integrate visual campaign and measurement tools such as Piqora.  Visual platforms and content may more easily open up space for sustained or returned contact from your introverts.

Provide some visual choices in participating, responding or other engagement actions and the map appropriate measurement signals to these specifically.

Add a little qualitative balance to all those numbers, as well. Of course, you are listening to the conversation, but how much of your “listening” also includes “observing?”  Introverts not only consume visual content, but use it: images, avatars, pinning, etc. to communicate about their preferences or interests.

Many of the “best practice” approaches for social media induce overload for introverts and simply end up limiting their willingness to engage with you much beyond watching it all unfold, if not retreating all together.  So meet them halfway with smart strategies and you’ll likely be doubly engaged.

photo credit:  cometstarmoon, attribution license, Flickr.com: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/calistan/

Categories: Social Behavior, Visibility

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