Friday, May 28, 2010

Watch Your Temper(ament)

Social Media and IntrovertsImage by FunnyBiz via Flickr

I don't write a post about social media and small nonprofits every day and sometimes I'm not consistent about the day of the week. This goes against every bit of advice I've read about blog posting. Too bad. I'm an INTP, and we don't do frequent interaction.

Introverts like to think about ideas before we talk about them and I detest writing something just to be able to post - I'd rather post about something that's caught my attention and made me think. And think some more.

Lately, I'm thinking about the role your temperament plays in how you respond and what tools you choose to use in social media. My BFF Ann is an extrovert. We can hardly go anywhere in this town without running into someone she knows. Yet, as friendly and personable as she is, she uses social media in a very limited way although her job as an event manager requires a lot of outreach on her part, which she accomplishes through email and telephone. She chooses to limit social media use to friends and family. I find this interesting and odd because you'd think extroverts would "take" to social media like ducks to water, but (at least in my experience) it's the introverts who really use it.

So Are Introverts The Masters of Social Media?

Not necessarily. My other BFF is Vicki, an introvert, and trying to get her to communicate on a regular basis in more than one or two lines of sentences would be like banging your head against the wall for fun - pointless and painful.

Still, I think social media in general is skewed toward introverts. We were probably the first ones to embrace it because we could use it to exchange ideas while being allowed to take our time considering how we would frame them for discussion. Social media is candy for geeks, many of whom are introverts. Twitter for me is like the water cooler or break room used to be at the office or like a cocktail party. Drive by conversations, drop in or out, nobody gives you hell for leaving "too early" or staying "too late." But this doesn't mean that introverts "pwn" social media. Because extroverts make up the majority of the population, social media couldn't help but be influenced by their outgoing temperament.

So WTH Is Your Point?

Introverts probably assume that social media is dominated by extroverts. Most introverts I've talked with about it are hesitant about using it, even for a good cause like a nonprofit. They worry they won't have the energy for talking to all those people, yet they also know that social media could be a valuable tool for building community support for their mission. It's easier for extroverts, they say, because they get energy from being with other people. But using social media isn't like being stuck in a crowded room with people all screaming at you.

Many blogs and articles on social media emphasize the need for listening, which is something introverts do well. And filters exist in almost any social media platform to help you listen strategically.

Another thing emphasized in building social media relationships is taking the time to get to know who you're talking with - something else introverts prefer. Both listening and responding thoughtfully are how you build trust, which must be present before your mission can have any real meaning for your network.

This means that being an introvert isn't necessarily the drawback you might think to building community support using social media. It may, in fact, be an advantage.

Am I an Introvert or Extrovert?

By the way, I don't mean to use my introversion as an excuse for not posting more often, it's just a factor in why I don't. If you don't know whether or not you're an introvert, ask yourself this question: if you spend two hours at a party, are you then buzzed and eager for more, or are you feeling tired and wanting to go home to a quiet room? If the former, you're likely an extrovert who gets energized by being around people. If the latter, you're likely an introvert who needs to recharge their battery with some alone time.

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