Corporate Eye

Social Networking: Make Room for the Introverts

Bokeh

I see the terms “social media” and “social networking” used a lot.  Really, a lot.

Susan Burns makes an important distinction between “social media” (a collection of tools) and “social networking” (the application of social media):

Social networking is pursued with the underlying intention of dialogue, engagement, and interest . . . If you are simply pushing jobs out to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you are socializing job postings by using social media, but not necessarily engaging in social networking. If you’re engaging prospective talent in discussions and building active communities, you are pursuing a social networking strategy.

A very valuable point.  But let’s say a company and its recruiters understand the nature of social networking and want to engage, build, and generally communicate on a community level.  There is an “easy” side to that strategy, in the sense that there’s an eager audience of social media users out there who will welcome the opportunities they are presented with.  They will naturally communicate and communitize.

Of course there is also a set of people who don’t have the connectivity and/or the technical capability to respond to social networking opportunities.  They will have to be reached by some other means—and that’s the challenge of the “digital divide.”  Although it’s less and less of an issue, it does still exist.

But there is also a third group, and these folks may be the most ignored.  Social networking is by its very nature geared toward outgoing, expressive personalities.  As well as ambitious, even aggressive personalities.  And these “extroverts” often have a natural knack for connecting via social media tools.

Yet not all potentially valuable employees will fall into this “extrovert” profile.  In fact, many highly successful executives are “introverts” according to a fascinating article in USA Today, which offers insights into the relationship of creativity, charisma, leadership, and personality type.

So.  Where do introverts fit into today’s world of social recruiting?

A thoughtful post by “Cincy Recruiter” Jennifer McClure explains that the difference between extroverts and introverts is not what most people think.  Extroverts are not necessarily non-stop socializers, and introverts are not necessarily shy and retiring.  According to McClure, one big difference is that introverts recharge by spending time alone,” while “extroverts recharge by being around people.”

That rings very true in my experience—and it also accounts in part for why the two types are not always clearly differentiated by Myer-Briggs and other personality tests.  McClure goes on to offer some connecting/networking tips for self-defined introverts, aided by a delightful slideshow for the “shy connector,” created by Sacha Chua.

Although McClure herself is a recruiter and an introvert, the great majority of people in sales/recruiting/HR are extroverts themselves, and so may take that state of mind as the norm.  Therefore!  Anyone attempting to develop and implement a social networking strategy would do well to read McClure’s post and give some thought to creating an integrated approach that will appeal to quieter types as well as go-getters.

PS:  Attitudes toward extroversion and introversion have a definite cultural aspect.  In the U.S., for example, extroversion is generally considered “normal” and introversion is viewed by many as falling short of the personality ideal.  That’s not true everywhere, and may actually be reversed in some cultures.  But there may still be lurking bias—especially in interview situations—toward more outgoing candidates or prospects.


(Thanks to kevindooley for the illustration of bokeh–a photographer’s term for the diffused light that appears in an image when the light source is unfocused.)

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at www.cynthiagiles.com, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.
 
Comments

Thanks for including a link to my post Cynthia and adding your commentary! I agree with your points about extroverts being considered “normal” and introverts – not so much. As a card carrying introvert (self anointed), I’m usually amused at the responses I get from people when after interacting with them in some way, that fact is exposed. You’d think I just told them I had a disease or something – “No! That can’t be true!”, etc. :)

As for how being an introvert impacts my networking and recruiting – I prefer to look at it as a process. When I follow the process and just do what I know needs to be done, it’s much more comfortable for me. You make solid points that we should consider how our social recruiting efforts are received by both personality types in the future.

i’m also an introvert and get the same reaction as you, jennifer. i think it’s because i can turn on the energy full-force. it allows people to assume that it’s ongoing, when it’s really only for a (limited) time.

i’ve been thinking of this same concept and wondering whether social networking is actually a way for introverts to equalize things a bit since it’s not face-to-face and it allows for exchanges on your personal timeframe.

f

I’ve been turned down for positions I was well suited for based on the hiring manager’s perception of introverts. I might be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I can’t “handle” and sales team full of ‘alpha-male’ types.

I think social networking is great for introverts. It allows me time to consider my responses and showcase my talents and skills, without getting perceived as quiet and un-engaged.

Thanks for the great comments! Plus extra thanks to Jennifer for her informative and thought-provoking post. Erik–it’s interesting that “quiet” is so often perceived these days as “un-engaged” rather than “thoughtful.” A kind of stereotyping that hasn’t really been recognized yet, I think. Fran–I hadn’t thought about the potential for distributing “energy load” via social networking, but it certainly does sound like a useful tactic!

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