Lavacon 2010: The Psychology of Social Media


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Presentation held at Lavacon 2010 in San Diego, Oct 1st, 2010

The Psychology of Social Media

Mario Lehenbauer
Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist

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Lavacon 2010: The Psychology of Social Media

  1. 1. For Homo Zappiens: The Psychology of Social Media Mario Lehenbauer @ LavaCon, San Diego #MarioLehenbauer @ The 1st, 2010 Conference on Digital Oct. Lavacon Media and Content Strategies Please note This is a shorter version, for more questions about the contents or sources, feel free to ask/twitter/facebook me!
  2. 2. This is the short version of my presentation For more information, comments, or if you have questions about the contents or sources, feel free to ask/twitter/facebook me! Twitter: #MarioLehenbauer Facebook: Mario Lehenbauer Web: Email:
  3. 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. 4. „Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from the fire hydrant.“ (Mitchell Kapor, without date)
  5. 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. 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. 7. World Internet Users (1)
  8. 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. 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. 10. What are SNS? • Web-based services that allow individuals to – Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system – Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and – View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
  11. 11. Brief history of SNS (1) • Social networking applications started in 1997 with (1997-2001) • Since then, features have expanded • Followed by more successful sites like – Friendster (115 mio registered users; 90% traffic from Asia) – Myspace (66 mio users) – LinkedIn (75 mio users) – Xing – Facebook (500 mio users) (Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
  12. 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 – 15,136 – sites 9,862 – Windows Live Profile 9,666 – Buzznet 9,273 – … – LinkedIn 7,470 – Hi5 3,848 (Boyd, & Ellison, 2007)
  13. 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. 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 content • You are part of the game (vs. TV and newspaper) • Ease of use
  15. 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. 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.)
  17. 17. Anonymity • 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)
  18. 18. Stimulation • Connected to a whole world fully stuffed with information • 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. 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 bonding)
  20. 20. Seeding Behavior (2) • How do users divide into high- and low- frequency seeders? • 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. 21. Seeding Behavior (3) • WHY and WHEN is someone seeding and sharing content? • Make your content AWESOME • Look for the gatekeepers, your “sharers” on digg, facebook, twitter… – Connect with them
  22. 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 1300%) • Fostering new relationships in the commercial sector – Gauging marketplace reactions – External communication – Gathering marketplace information
  23. 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. 24. Focus on: Facebook (1) • THE SNS today (Alexa ranking: second most visited website; – 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. 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, 2009) – Facilitate social relationships – Communicate with friends and relatives – About 10% use it to make new friends
  26. 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, BUT – Ethical?! – 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. 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. 28. SNS for Managers (1) • Main question: To be (online) or not to be (online)? • Do certain types of online social networking structures predict an entrepreneur„s success?
  29. 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. 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. 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 marketing strategies • 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. 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. 33. Impression Management on SNS (2) • Brunswick lens model: the behavior of individuals and the artifacts produced by them reflect their personality
  34. 34. Impression Management on SNS (3) • Environmental cues can be used as a lens by observers • Personality impressions based on facebook profiles showed accuracy! • Therefore: • YOU are what you post, blog, twitter, facebook!
  35. 35. Studies concerning SNS • Onlinesample: 20% suffer from social phobia (Lehenbauer, 2007) • 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. 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. 37. Be real! • Authenticity is – The truthfulness of origins, own opinions, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions • Be real, and acknowledge your followers for following – 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. 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. 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!
  40. 40. Contact me! • Facebook: Mario Lehenbauer • Twitter: #MarioLehenbauer • Email: • Homepage: • Blog:
  41. 41. References Boyd, D.M., & Ellison, N.B. (2007). Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. Boyle, K., & Johnson, T.J. (2010). MySpace is your Space? Examining self-presentation of MySpace users. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1392-1399. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi „The flow experience“. Available via Courtois, C., Mechant, P., De Marez, L. and Verleye, G. (2009), Gratifications and Seeding Behavior of Online Adolescents. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15: 109–13 Davis, F. D., Bagozzi, R. P., & Warshaw, P. R. (1989). User acceptance of computer technology: A comparison of two theoretical models. Management Science, 35(8), 982-1003. Diga, M., & Kelleher, T. (2009). Social Media Use, Perceptions of decision-making power, and public relations role. Public Relations Review, 35, 440-442. Ellison, N.N., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook „friends“: Social capital. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), article 1. Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 415-441. Fastcompany (July, 2010). Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love. Available online,,0 Hargittai, E. (2007). Whose space? Differences among users and non-users of social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 14. Krämer, N.C., Raz, O., & Gloor, P. (2007). „Size really matters – New Insights for Startups‘ Survival“. Management Science, February 2007. Lehenbauer, M. (2007). Internetspezifische maladaptive Kognitionen: Sozialphobie und Problematischer Internetgebrauch (Maladaptive Cognitions Concerning the Internet: Social Phobia and Problematic Internet Use). Unpublished Master Thesis, University of Vienna Nann, S., Krauss., J., Schober, M., Gloor, P.A., Fischbach, K., & Führes, H. (2010). Comparing the structure of virtual entrepreneur networks with business effectiveness. Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2, 6483-6496. Pempek, T.A., Yermolayeva, Y.A., & Calvert, S.L. (2009). College students‘ social networking experiences on Facebook. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 227-238. Pew Internet study (July, 2010). Mobile Access 2010. Available online, Pew Internet study (August, 2010). Older adults and Social Media. Available online, %20Older%20Adults%20and%20Social%20Media%20-%20FINAL.pdf Pew Internet study (July, 9th, 2010). Millenials will make online sharing a lifelong habit. Available online, Valkenburg, P.M., & Peter, J. (2007). Online communication and adolescent well-being: Testing the stimulation versus the displacement hypothesis. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), article 2. Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003). User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425-478. Vergeer, M., & Pelzer, B. (2009). Consequences of media and Itnernet use for offline and online network capital and well-being. A causal model approach. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 189-210. Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin J. (2008). Identity construction on facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1816-1836.