1. For Homo Zappiens:
The Psychology of Social Media
Mario Lehenbauer @ LavaCon, San Diego
#MarioLehenbauer @ The 1st, 2010 Conference on Digital
Media and Content Strategies
This is a shorter version, for more questions about
the contents or sources, feel free to
2. This is the short version of my presentation
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3. About Me
• Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist
• New Media Consulting
• Industrial and Organizational Psychologist
• Researcher and Lecturer at the Faculty of
Psychology, University of Vienna
• Research interests
– Psychology and New Media
• Psychological Aspects of Social Media Networking
• E-health: Delivering psychological interventions via New Media;
Serious Games and virtual realities
4. „Getting information off the Internet is like taking a
drink from the fire hydrant.“ (Mitchell Kapor, without date)
5. Psychology and Digital Media: WHY?
• As of December 2009, 74% of American adults (> 18)
use the Internet
• Six in ten Americans go online wirelessly using a
laptop or cell phone (Pew Internet study, July 2010)
• 75% of U.S. adults have cell phones with apps
• Watch and download videos: 69% of online adults
– Comedy has supplanted news as the most viewed type of video online
• … as marketers it is your responsibility to observe and
interact new trends and interact with the people
6. The Digital Divide
• Most definitions of web 2.0 employ a user-centric
approach: „Web 2.0 is about making computing
and media social“ (Cooke, & Buckley, 2008)
• Social networking sites (SNS) among the most
popular sites worldwide
• But: WHO is online? What„s about the digital
divide from a psychological perspective?
7. World Internet Users (1)
8. The Digital Divide (1)
• People with effective access to digital and
information technology vs. those with very
limited or no access at all
– includes the imbalance both in physical access to technology
and the resources and skills needed
– Age divide
– Education divide
9. The Digital Divide (2)
• Users ages 18-29 continue to be the heaviest
users with 86%
• Older adults are the fastest growing users in the
U.S. (Pew Internet study, August 27, 2010)
– Social networking use among those ages 50 and older nearly
doubled over the past year (22% in 2009 to 42% in 2010)
– Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and 26% ages 65 and
older now use social networking sites
– Between April 2009 and May 2010, internet users ages 50-64
grew 88%; compared with a growth rate of 13% for ages 18-29
10. What are SNS?
• Web-based services that allow individuals to
– Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded
– Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a
– View and traverse their list of connections and those made by
others within the system (Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
11. Brief history of SNS (1)
• Social networking
applications started in
1997 with sixdegrees.com
• Since then, features have
• Followed by more
successful sites like
– Friendster (115 mio registered
users; 90% traffic from Asia)
– Myspace (66 mio users)
– LinkedIn (75 mio users)
– Facebook (500 mio users)
(Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
12. Brief History of SNS (2)
• Top Social Networking Sites
among US Internet Users
(thousands of unique visitors):
– Facebook 70,278
– MySpace sites 70,255
– Twitter 17,592
– Classmates.com 15,136
– MyLife.com sites 9,862
– Windows Live Profile 9,666
– Buzznet 9,273
– LinkedIn 7,470
– Hi5 3,848
(Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
13. Psychological Perspective on SNS
• Why is the Internet more successful than any
other media in the human history?
• Short summary of several studies„ outcome you
can use for your Internet strategy
• There are several significant psychological
characteristics (Lehenbauer, 2007):
14. Availability and Interactivity
• The Internet is available 24/7
• Many people feel mighty, powerful and
successful, to log in any time, and to seed
• You are part of the game (vs. TV and
• Ease of use
15. Intensity and Fostered Intimacy
• Feeling of intimacy grows faster online than
offline, because all senses are reduced to text
and pictures = more space for own fantasies
– People talk more about their thoughts and feelings
– (sexual) disinhibition
– Online interactions generate more self-disclosures and fostered
deeper personal questions than f2f conversations
16. Flow experience
• Flow: a person in an activity is fully immersed in
a feeling of energized focus, full involvement,
and success in the process of the activity
• Many people report a feeling of flow when they
engage in online activities
• Feelings of timelessness (Csikszentmihalyi, M.)
• Everyone can engage anonyme in the Internet
• Low-threshold possibility to reach specified sub-
groups online (for research: recreational drug
users, user suffer from social phobia)
• Connected to a whole world fully stuffed with
• Many people feel stimulated by the huge amount
of information to nearly any topic
• A book is finished with the last page.
• The internet? Endless!
• Stimulate your users!
19. Seeding Behavior (1)
• Why is someone contributing content? Difference
between high-seeding and low-seeding behavior (Courtois,
Mechant, De Marez, & Verleye, 2009)
• Uses-and-gratifications approach in Psychology
• Patterns of gratifications, why people are seeding
– Personal function (self-improvement, fame, representation of one self)
– Informational function (economic gain, information-learning surveillance,
finding the adequate information)
– Entertaining function (entertainment, excitement, relaxation)
– Escapist function (escape from reality)
– Social function (social companionship, social relationships, social
20. Seeding Behavior (2)
• How do users divide into high- and low-
• In general, seeder/lurker ratio 1/5 high-f
seeders, 4/5 low-f seeders
– Some studies about the net-behavior of digital natives state a
ratio of 10% seeders and 90% leechers
• No gender differences in seeding behavior
• High-f seeders are „gatekeepers“
21. Seeding Behavior (3)
• WHY and WHEN is someone seeding and sharing
• Make your content AWESOME
• Look for the gatekeepers, your “sharers” on
digg, facebook, twitter…
– Connect with them
22. Focus on: Twitter (1)
• Twitter went online 2006, microblogging site
• One of the fastest growing sites on the Web in
terms of usage (year-over-year growth at over
• Fostering new relationships in the commercial
– Gauging marketplace reactions
– External communication
– Gathering marketplace information
23. Focus on: Twitter (2)
• Studies state that Twitter is a potentially rich
and reliable source for informations
– Connect directly, near real time with your customers
• Twitter (and other SNS) increases the production
of the cuddle hormone Oxytocine!
• Again: Build your community, look for groups,
follow people, most people follow you back
24. Focus on: Facebook (1)
• THE SNS today (Alexa ranking: second most
visited website; www.alexa.com)
– Offline to online trend: meet offline and add online
• Nonymous setting (vs. anonymous)
• „Visibility rule“, a hard place for fakers
• Identity construction (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin)
– Not the TRUE self commonly seen in MUDs or Chat rooms
– Not the REAL self presented in f2f interactions
– The REAL self, combined with the highly socially desirable
identity individuals aspire to have offline
25. Focus on: Facebook (2)
• Again: Seeder/lurker ratio from 1/10 to 9/10
– Depends on studies, from 1/4 to 1/10 seeders
• Main reasons to use facebook: (Pempek, Yermolayeva, & Calvert,
– Facilitate social relationships
– Communicate with friends and relatives
– About 10% use it to make new friends
26. Focus on: Facebook (3)
• As an employer, checking out an applicant„s
facebook page (Smith, W.P., & Kidder, D.L., 2010) :
– A wealth of information about persons, a potentially useful tool,
– Biased if some applicants have pages, some not
– Legal challenges, if facebook is part of the selection process
• Companies recruit job applicants via facebook
– Policies and guidelines for the use of SNS
27. Post facebook trends?
• Location based services (e.g., foursquare)
– Users become trackable
• More pervasive and imminent
– Connected to the TV, mobile phone, Navigation system
• Digital natives will keep their social networking
behavior (Pew Internet study, July 9th, 2010)
28. SNS for Managers (1)
• Main question: To be (online) or not to be
• Do certain types of online social networking
structures predict an entrepreneur„s success?
29. SNS for Managers (2)
• Several (offline) studies about the network
behaviors of entrepreneurs
– Previous studies indicate: startups are more successful, when
CEO‘s communicate more with their peers
– 100 software startups 1997 before the e-Business bubble burst;
check back 2004; the communication intensity of the CEO‘s was
significantly correlated with probability of survival (Raz, & Gloor, 2007)
– Canadian biotech industries: chances of success of a startup
increases with the size of its alliance network at the time of
founding (Cummings, & Cross, 2003)
30. SNS for Managers (3)
• The intensity of communication in these groups
is correlated with the success of the group
members (Nann et al., 2009)
• Conclusion: It does not matter if you network
online or offline. Use your network for success!
• It„s all about network, network, network!
31. SNS for Managers (4)
• Managers who frequently used SNS were more
likely to report feeling empowered
– The information they gain from SNS may be used as tool for
• Gain of expert power: Use and understand SNS!
• You as a manager have to know what
information is relevant for your clients
– SNS offer news, information and story ideas, you can use them
as information source (Diga, & Kelleher, 2009)
32. Impression Management on SNS (1)
• .. is a central process in interpersonal interactions
• Users try to present themselves in a positive manner
– Online easier than face-to-face
• Careful construction of an ideal self-presentation
mostly on dating sites (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006)
• SNS can avoid fakers, friends provide a social context
that can confirm the self-presentation
33. Impression Management on SNS (2)
• Brunswick lens model: the behavior of
individuals and the artifacts produced by them
reflect their personality
34. Impression Management on SNS (3)
• Environmental cues can be used as a lens by
• Personality impressions based on facebook
profiles showed accuracy!
• YOU are what you post, blog, twitter,
35. Studies concerning SNS
• Onlinesample: 20% suffer from social phobia
• Shy people were more likely to report using
chat- and instant messaging services with the
motive of decreasing loneliness
• Twitter increases the production of the cuddle
hormone oxytocine (Fastcompany, July 2010)
36. Tips from a Psychological Perspective
Tips from a psychological perspective:
• Be real!
• Attention and Appreciation
• Create NEW exciting contents
• Put people in the spotlight!
37. Be real!
• Authenticity is
– The truthfulness of origins, own opinions, attributions,
commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions
• Be real, and acknowledge your followers for
– Be authentic, and acknowledge people that they are now in the
social media scene, that they are your followers
• Take the time to acknowledge
• Be REAL (don„t hide behind a company logo)
38. Put people in the spotlight
• People love acclaim
• Find good stuff and share it!
– Good posts
– Good notes on facebook
– Good tweets on twitter
– Good articles in newspapers
• Be part of it and let others be part of it!
39. Create NEW Contents
• Be awesome!
• Be creative!
• Be funny!
– (People share more comedies on youtube than news)
• Create excitement!
• Be positive!
• Participate, share and let share!
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