With the multitude of social media sites, it's hard for businesses to determine where they should be allocating their time and resources. And since many are reporting that they're not getting the return they expected from their social media efforts, it's important to know the psychology of social media and the various types of networking that fall under the social media umbrella. When you understand this, you can make smarter social media decisions for your business.
For example, when most people think of social media, they automatically think of Facebook. But Facebook doesn't encompass the whole scope of social media. There's so much more! For example, YouTube is about video sharing, Flicker is about photo sharing, SlideShare is about sharing presentation slides, and Twitter is about micro-blogging.
One of the reasons why Facebook is so large is their focus on social networking--and in their case personal networking. The ability to find old friends and make new ones, as well as share your life experiences with them, has proven to be a winning combination worldwide.
But Facebook is not the only large social networking site. Another powerful form of social networking is professional networking, and that's where LinkedIn comes into play.
There's a big difference between personal networking and professional networking. Let's look at five of the main psychological differences so you can understand the nuances of each and how they may or may not help you reach the social media goals you have for your company or organization.
When people visit a personal networking site, their focus is different than when they are on a professional networking site. In professional networking, people are focused on doing their job better, on achievement, on success, and on goal attainment. But those same people on a personal networking site are focused on having fun, nostalgia, keeping up with friends and family, and sharing personal information. In short, personal networking sites are good for memories and connecting, while professional networking sites are good for brand building and career building.
How a visitor spends their time on a social media site is also an important distinction. Since personal networking evokes a casual mindset in the user, people can get sucked in and lose track of time. Often, the social media outlet becomes a distraction or a place to kill time. On the other hand, professional networking is more like investing time. People go there with a purpose to improve themselves, their company, or their future. In fact, depending on the types of connections they make while on the professional networking site, they may even find resources that help them save time.
What people post on the various social media outlets is a big differentiator as well. The type of content on a personal networking site is usually about friends, family, or hobby activities, such as sailing, dogs, cars, etc. In contrast, most of the posts on professional networking sites are about careers, brand updates, business insights, and economic news.
What qualifies as newsworthy differs between the two venues. When on personal networking sites, people are more apt to focus on family updates, interesting vacations, entertainment, and sports news. But when on professional networking sites, the focus changes to current affairs, business, and economic updates. Additionally, on a personal networking site, what a company's brand is doing doesn't matter as much, but it's one of the top things covered and discussed while on professional networking sites.
From an emotional standpoint, personal networking sites encourage users to express their emotions freely and also to share in the moment. For example, your friend may post a photo of their new baby or their dog running at the beach or a wedding. In that moment you can reply and express an emotion back to them. So personal networking tends to be focused on things that are fun, entertaining, humorous, and sometimes sad. In professional networking, there are definitely emotions involved, but they aren't expressed freely and instead they are purposeful. Even if they are personal in nature, they have an aspiration component to them. People even carefully craft their status updates and replies before posting them because they are focused on brand building and professional development. People's emotions are a little more reserved because they're trying to establish and maintain their identity for the purpose of achieving their professional goals.
What the Differences Mean for Business
Since each social media outlet has a distinct purpose, it's important for all businesses to evaluate why they are on a particular social media site, what their goals are for it, who they are targeting for their messages, and how they can best use the medium to advance their company. Then, they have to decide which type of networking--personal or professional--will help them achieve their objectives so they can focus the majority of their time there. This does not mean to totally abandon one for the other; it's about knowing what works best in each venue and giving more attention to the one that produces better results.
In other words, for your business, is it better to socialize with customers? Get to know what products or services they like or don't like? Maintain a professional identity? Build rapport? Elicit emotion? Make contacts? Figure out what gives you the best return on your investment, and then craft your social media campaign around that information. When you know your company's purpose for engaging in social media, as well as what each outlet has to offer, you can make your social media initiative both productive and profitable.