- December
Posted By : Adrian Chan
Social Media Personality Types: Slideshow

This slideshow has been laying about for too many months now so I’ve decided to wrap it quickly and push it out there. It’s a distillation of a much larger project I’ve been pursuing and which I hope to write up and post as a white paper this winter.

Having covered the screen and functionality of social media from a social interaction design perspective, the next piece in the puzzle had to be the social media user experience. These personality types are an attempt to distill out just some of the different user experiences had on social media into personality types..

The idea behind this slideshow was to make the claim that we must all have very different experiences of social media: in our sense of connectedness, visibility, popularity, in what we think it is for and why we use it. These differences ought to matter not only to any user experience or interaction designer, but to any business interested in commercializing or profiting from social media.

It has always seemed to me that the conventional market segmentation of user types (influencers etc.), while perhaps identifying broad categories of users, fails to account for the user experience. Surely, influencers do not relate to social media as influencers; followers as followers; and so on… These definitions aren’t grounded in a framework of motive or intention, and therefore fall short of explaining behavior based on the user’s competency as a social media participant.

This slideshow attempts to sketch a view of users based on personality differences that takes mediated communication and interaction into account (I don’t know of any personality models that have been customized to non face to face interactions). This means adapting personality types for the unique ways in which social media represent us to ourselves, represent others, present and facilitated social activities, and so on. It means taking personality types and anticipating what, in social media, would engage them, motivate them, and compel them. As a sketch, it is incomplete and intended to kick off discussion.

Social Media Personality Types

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: social media)


  • Adrian, I enjoyed your slideshow and appreciate reading your thoughts on the relevance of personality to social media. I have one basic response to your post.

    The “personality types” you distinguish seem more personas than personalities. By persona I’m not referring to the concept currently in use for experience design by marketers and user experience teams. Rather, I mean it in the sense of social psychology. “Variability in the way a person presents himself to others is sometimes represented by distinguishing his ‘personas’ from his personality, where ‘persona’ is used for the way he appears to others on particular kinds of occasions, and ‘personality’ is reserved for the inner complex of cognitive resources a person needs to be able to be a skilled presenter of himself to others,” J. Morgan, C. O’Neill, and Rom Harre, Nicknames: Their Origins and Social Consequences (1979, p. 4).

    A lurker in one social media venue may present herself as a critic in another venue. These are personas at work, not personality, in my opinion. Of course, if the other does not know that the individual’s persona they engage in one venue is different in other venues, then the persona is treated as a personality in that venue, when in fact it is simply one presentation of self among others.

  • Thanks for the slideshow. I like the idea that we have different roles online. I think sometimes my roles vary depending on what network I’m using, and in what capacity (work/play/experience level).

    My narcissism kicked in and I have to admit I read through the personality types wondering which I was (an officiator by the way).

    Woud love to see a whitepaper in the future.

  • I also enjoyed your slideshow; it’s striking how you characterize the different personalities relating to and interacting with the online environment. It sheds some light on why, for example, some people might identify with the concept of social media bankruptcy whereas others would not – the types of people have different fundamental expectations of the online environment. For example, I perceive myself as a “viewer” of online transactions and don’t feel like I have to read or respond to everything. Others might really want the online environment to mimic the personal interactions typically associated with “strong” or “local” friendships, and if that’s the case, social networking can become overwhelming. Will you be working on some diagnostics to determine group membership?

  • Larry,

    My bad for missing these comments. I definitely mean personality, and not persona. For the reason that I dont’ see this as being constructed ad hoc, or performance-based. I see the behavior as corresponding to a core set of perspectives any one user may have, based on and extending how s/he sees the world, people, relationships, and self.

    I’m with you against personas as conventionally used in design (here we dont need personas, we have actual users).

    But i definitely want to state clearly that I dont mean the dramatic version of persona, either.

    Now, it’s still necessary to address a person who presents as one personality in A and another in B. That’s a matter of behavior, not personality. Theoretically, it should be possible to account for a difference between personalities and behaviors.

    There’s a similar problem with context — we’re all smart enough to modify our behavior to social context, regardless of personality.

    What do you think?

  • mullygrub — thanks — I’ll need to think about narcissistic officiators, though. bit of a contradiction in that one. 😉

    nicole — glad you like the approach. there are other “types” out there, but in general it’s only common sense that people will have different uses, and see different kinds of reasons and utility, in social media. For what it’s worth, most hard core users are probably in a small minority to begin with!


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