Campus Community Building for Introverts
In my closing keynote at this year’s ContentEd conference, I made a plea that – in our social media efforts and content design in general – we design for inclusivity.
The obvious places to look (though we don’t always serve them well) are matters relating to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and accessibility. But one of the less obvious places relates to personality types and preference. Specifically, designing for introverts.
Over the last 10-15 years, as we’ve embraced social media as important communication channels, the opportunity to use those channels to develop and celebrate community has added a new dimension to our activities. Not just as a means of building community, but also advocacy.
In turn, we have begun to place ever greater value, and expectation, on metrics that reflect our audiences speaking positively about us or engaging with us online. Or even better, sharing our content, or getting involved with content campaigns that we run through such channels.
By placing such a great value on engagement that involves our audiences speaking out, we have selected our KPIs and reporting in a way that steers success towards the actions of online extroverts. And encouraging this, we design more and more campaigns that play to and reward the extrovert.
Selfie requests. User generated content competitions. Community is increasingly built around a sense of an outward display of digital participation.
It’s a world in which the digital extrovert excels and feels comfortable and energised. But what about the introverts?
A common misconception about introverts is that they’re just “shy”. The illusion of shyness is more an effect of a whole world of other factors going on in the beautiful minds of introverts, rather than an actual trait.
Introverts might enjoy being around people as much as extroverts do, but they draw their energy and inspiration from more inward interactions and contemplation than extroverts might. These illustrations on Susan Cain’s blog offer a glimpse into the introvert world.
“Asking an introvert to open up is as rude as asking an extrovert to shut up”
In essence though, introverts are going to be less likely to want to get involved in competitions, challenges, or outward displays of what may feel like depthless brand support or community celebrations.
It’s nothing to do with them not wanting to be and feel like they’re part of your community. They just want to experience community in different ways.
So what can we do to design for introverts in our community engagement initiatives?
Manage our expectations and those of others
We need to have intelligent dialogues within our institutions about social metrics. This includes drawing a clear distinction between meaningful engagement and vanity metrics.
For some of our audiences, reading or listening to us will be the limit of their comfort zone. Others will go further, talking about us or sharing our content or engaging in our competitions.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that one is more engaged than the others. It might just mean that their personality and personal preference means that they engage in different ways.
While not specifically about introverts or extroverts, I’ve always found the social technographics profile to be a useful planning tool for thinking through how to consider meaningful approaches and KPIs for those who are spectators versus those who are, say, conversationalists. This little table works through that thought process:
|Original content created, use of #, responses|
|Conversationalist||Start & reply to discussions|
|Conversations started, comments, use of #|
|Critic||Like, favourites, comment on blog, reply to discussions||In-tool insights (likes, comments, etc.)|
Curate your content (pin)
|Social visibility score, number of shares|
|Joiner||Join your page or group, follow you||Fans/followers, views, CTR, reach/visibility|
|Spectator||Read your blog, watch video, listen to podcast||Page views, time on site, CTR, scrolling|
|Inactive||N/A - or influencer model||Offline engagement metrics|
Balance the bold with the meaningful
Introverts sometimes prefer other forms of stimulation from being around people. Equally, seemingly bold statements or interactions that don’t have a great deal of depth or meaning can feel underwhelming to the introvert, who often is stimulated by processing their thoughts instead of quick interactions.
So, while that selfie competition or quote of the day might feel superficial to the introvert, setting up book clubs or deeper discussion topics through your social media activity might play well to this audience and make them recognise that there is very much a place – albeit a quiet one – for them in your world. I love universities that give incoming students a common book to read to build community, as the University of Nottingham has done for the past few years now.
Create spaces for introverts
A much-loved feature of the Confab conference this year was the introduction of introvert and extrovert lounges, each suitably decked out and equipped to appeal to our differing sources of energy. This got me thinking, though, what would digital lounges look like for introverts and extroverts?
Perhaps this is more about creating smaller and more interest-focused digital spaces and groups, instead of placing such emphasis on our core, giant “corporate” accounts in which the sheer scale of those communities could be terrifying to one who prefers a smaller crowd.
Foster introductions and connections, not just declarations
Any illusion that we might have that says introverts don’t like social media is just that: an illusion. While they may prefer more introspective spaces, social media can offer that space too. As others have observed before, social media also offers a space for introverts to quietly – in their own time and at their own pace – develop relationships and connections with others.
So, we should think about how we can use our social media campaigns and activities in a more subtle and direct way to foster meaningful and direct connections between individuals, instead of just asking them to push themselves into a vast sea of mixed personalities.
Create content for them instead of asking them to create it for you
In many social campaigns, the call for content and engagement comes from a single voice or point of origin/message from the institution. It is the response to that call that is expected to be personal. In other words, the audience or the user is expected to reply with personalised content, from that selfie that they took, to their competition response, and so on.
If there’s anything that we can learn from the #helloBrookes campaign at Oxford Brookes University, is that the university can instead create that personal content for the audience, instead of expecting them to do it. The visibility is still with the university; the voice is the university’s, and yet the content is very much about making everyone – including introverts – very much feel part of that community.
— Oxford Brookes (@oxford_brookes) August 17, 2017
How have your campaigns encouraged introverts to feel connected to your social media activity? Have you had any successes, or learned any lessons? How have you moved beyond the big figures that impress senior leadership teams? We’d love to hear your stories and to evolve this blog over time.
I’m off now to hide in a hammock and read a book… because some of us swing back and forth between extrovert and introvert.
Not sure how to include introverts in your next campaign? Speak to us – we can help!