Some people don’t like social activity. Strange as it may seem – we are social creatures at heart – some individuals shun all forms of social activity. It’s not because they are hermits or strange, but because their personality makes them avoid any kind of intimacy. They don’t mind taking part in social activities – as long as they are not too social…!
If you run an online business you cannot have escaped the trend for the increasing use of social media, social networking and a host of other social tools, including Twitter, for instance. But such things could well be shunned by a proportion of your customers and potential customers because they are, as psychologists call them “anxious avoidant” types. New research shows that such people who have avoidant personality types tend to avoid social situations where they have choice.
If you put such people into a social situation, by dictating who they should socialise with, they tend to get on with it, the study reveals. But the avoidant personality doesn’t like to choose a social situation for themselves – especially if that social situation includes some kind of feedback to that individual.
For online businesses who focus their attention on social networking as a way of engaging with customers, this research has important implications. It means, for instance, that by giving people the choice to network with your company via Twitter or Facebook you are losing out on connecting with those individuals who don’t want to “dive in” and socialise with others who are also interested in your business. These individuals will avoid such connections – and that means if your business is focused on social networking or social media you will miss out on those socially avoidant types of people.
Importantly, this new research showed that it is the feedback that people receive that’s central to the issue. The avoidant personalities do not want feedback; they are happy to take part in groups if they have to, as long as nobody gives them any feedback. That, of course, is simply not possible with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and so on. Feedback – interaction of all kinds – is central to these social networks.
So, what does this all mean for your business? It suggests that you should not focus all your efforts on social networking, in spite of what the gurus tell us. Yes, it is important. And yes, social networking should be a central part of your business strategy these days. But you should not do this to the detriment of those people who avoid social engagement. You still need what might be called “traditional” ways of engaging with those people – flat, static, non social web pages for instance. Old ways of communicating still have a part to play in your business. They are things you should not avoid yourself.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+