What can we learn from
Social Interaction Design?
NewComm Forum 2009
Adrian Chan, SNCR Sr Fellow
• Why social media are different
• How they work
• What they create and produce
• Who uses them
• Users care — so should we
• What is social interaction design?
• The topsy-turvy world of social media
• Competencies of users
• Personas 2.0? Or personalities?
• Practices and applications
• Theoretical influences: sociology, symbolic interactionism, transactional
analysis, pragmatics, media theory, and systems theory
• Social interaction design shifts the focus from social media, and products, and
interactions with products, to:
• forms of online talk
• dynamics of mediated social interactions
• ways of presenting and relating to the Self and to others
• mediation of interactions and communication
• the effects of media on time and temporality, organization and structure of
relationships and interactions, and
• scaling of social systems through individual user actions and emergent
social dynamics and social practices
Marshall McLuhan cemented the
importance of a theory of media. He
viewed media as an “extension” of the
self, and as amplifying certain sense
perceptions over others.
Media theory reminds us not to take social
media literally, but to bear in mind that
The medium is the message.
“The medium is the message. This is
merely to say that the personal and social
consequences of any medium—that is, of
any extension of ourselves—result from the
new scale that is introduced into our
affairs by each extension of ourselves, or
by any new technology.”
“This fact, characteristic of all media,
means that the ‘content’ of any medium is
always another medium. The content of
writing is speech, just as the written word
is the content of print, and print is the
content of the telegraph.”
Constitution of Society
Modern continental sociology views society
as being non-traditional. Knowledge
involves risk and trust, and science,
money, commerce and other modern
practices replace the traditional
organization of relationships.
Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration
argues that there is structure, but it is
reproduced through individual, daily, acts.
This insight, that we are each, every day,
involved in creating and reproducing
society allows us to view social media as a
sort of means of production: of ourselves,
our relationships, and of a form of (online)
Constitution of Society
“But the fundamental question of social
theory, as I see it—the ‘problem of order’
conceived of in a way quite alien to
Parsons’s formulation when he coined the
phrase—is to explicate how the limitations
of individual ‘presence’ are transcended
by the ‘stretching’ of social relations
across time and space.”
“By disembedding I mean the ‘lifting out’
of social relations from local contexts of
interaction and their restructuring across
indefinite spans of time-space.”
The Presentation of Self
Erving Goffman’s pioneering work in social
interactions is widely used to describe the
presentation of Self in social media. His
“frame analysis” of social encounters
makes an enormous contribution to the
ways in which we negotiate interactions.
We have to qualify his insights and account
for the fact that in social media we lose
the face to face meanings — and with
them, the ability to negotiate interactions
The resulting ambiguity of intent, loss of
context, and reduced ability to handle
interactions with more than words creates
opportunities, and perils, for online
The Presentation of Self
“Statements orient listeners to the
upcoming; responses, to what has come
“We look simply to see, see others looking,
see we are seen looking, and soon become
knowing and skilled in regard to the
evidential uses made of the appearance of
“What, then, is talk viewed
interactionally? It is an example of that
arrangement by which individuals come
together and sustain matters having a
ratified, joint, current, and running claim
upon attention, a claim which lodges them
together on some sort of intersubjectve,
mental world.” Erving Goffman
Jürgen Habermas’ theory of
communication distinguishes between
communicative action (authentic) and
strategic action (instrumental).
The former binds us to one another in a
process of reaching understanding. The
latter involves communication used to
achieve results — talk oriented to getting
The former is a model for friendship, the
latter a model for commercial media use.
His emphasis on intersubjectivity in
communication is a core insight for social
media: users talking to users.
“Thus, the illocutionary force of an
acceptable speech act consists in the fact
that it can move a hearer to rely on the
speech-act-typical obligations of the
“To understand an expression, however,
means to know how one can make use of it
in order to reach understanding with
someone about something.”
“Interaction mediated through acts of
reaching understanding exhibits both a
richer and a more restrictive structure
than does strategic action.”
Games People Play
Eric Berne’s transactional analysis, while
somewhat dated, provides key insights into
the emotional and attention economy of
talk. His theory that talk and interaction
are a way of giving and getting emotional
“strokes” is valuable for what motivates
some social media use.
Berne’s insights into crossed transactions,
and scripts we repeat in order to sustain
psychological dramas, may also help to
explain some of the habits and routines
that can make social media compelling to
Games People Play
“By an extension of meaning, ‘stroking’
may be employed colloquially to denote
any act implying recognition of another’s
presence. Hence a stroke may be used as
the fundamental unit of social action. An
exchange of strokes constitutes a
transaction, which is the unit of social
“To say that the bulk of social activity
consists of playing games does not
necessarily mean that it is mostly ‘fun’ or
that the parties are not seriously engaged
in the relationship…. The essential
characteristic of human play is not that
the emotions are spurious, but that they
are regulated.” Eric Berne
Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory, while
complex and idiosyncratic, offers valuable
insights into the value of communication
to social systems. In particular, his work on
media can be used to demonstrate the
ways in which mass and social media
“observe” each other, create and
reference realities, media events, and
For Luhmann, all “reality” is sustained by
the system’s own reproduction. He, and
other systems theorists, help to explain
the feedbacks and self-reference of
systems, both of which we can observe as
social media audiences grow over time.
“Therefore, to repeat this important point
once more in other words, communication
duplicates reality. It creates two versions,
a yes-version and a no-version, and
thereby compels selection.”
“In the system’s perception, the
distinction between the world as it is and
the world as it is observed becomes
“Advertising declares its motives. It
refines and very often conceals its
Re-framing social media
• The social interaction design approach to social media can help us frame our
thinking about social media. Instead of thinking about media, or products, or
brands, we can think instead about:
• People, relationships, and meaning
• Talk, communication, and interactions
• Needs and interests of individuals, and their aggregation into social
• The importance of this shift of frame should help us think less about brands,
images, messaging, and products, tools, and media
• We can make better use of conversational media (and design them better) if
we think from the user’s and the audience’s perspective.
• Social media are not just websites, but are dynamic social systems
• Their user interface is a Social Interface
• Their content is people
• Their people are contributors
• Their contributions communicate
• That communication is a form of talk
• That talk is informed by design
• Social media = paradigm shift in marketing and advertising
• consumers participate in production and messaging
• messages have the authenticity of everyday talk
• across trusted relationships and social networks
• on the basis of their own interests and personalities
• Social media structure and organize talk changes branding, marketing, and
• At stake is how markets produce and consume value
• and how consumers create that value
• Social media cultivate culture
• Social media socialize consumption
• Social media create production
• Social media proliferate communication
• Social media network audiences
• Social media relationize connections
• Brands shift:
• from how they see themselves to how they are seen
• from what they want to say to what is being said
• from image to talk
• from the value they have created to value created by consumers
• from what they own to what can be owned by users
How is SxD different?
• Social Interaction Design approaches social media as “talk systems”
• SxD shapes, informs, organizes, structures, and arranges this talk
• Web 2.0 designs social applications for a flourishing culture of new content,
new navigation, new audiences, new relationships, new purposes and uses
• A shift to transactions as ongoing communication
• A shift of focus from user practices to social practices
• Emphasis on social practices as byproduct of design and informed, not
controlled, by design
• Users have the ability to become self-involved online, and to relate through
social media to others (mediated presence)
• Users expect future interaction (commitment); talk media are “open states of
• Users have a sense of self and a (self) perception of how they look to others
• Users are motivated to share their professional and/or personal interests
• Users use social media to maintain relationships
• Users have invested confidence in the system (competence)
Interactions = Social
• Conventional user interaction and user interface approaches address the
user’s interaction with the device
• The designer designs the screen
• The interaction is User : Software
• The social interaction designer also designs around and through the screen
• The interaction of User : Software : User
The social interface
• Three modes of the screen
• Mirror mode: the screen reflects the user
• Surface mode: the screen contains content
• Window mode: the screen is a transparent to other users
The social paradigm
• User as a social Self
• User as self-interested and interested in others
• All activity is social (visible to some others)
• Interaction is Participation
• Participation is a form of talk
• Talk has new forms and languages
• New forms include posts, comments, reviews, ratings, gestures and tokens,
votes, links, badges, video
• New forms are distributable and communicable
User needs = interests
• Shift from task and goal-oriented transactions common to traditional
• Non-social software: users have needs
• Social media: users have interests
• Social media are relational media: users are interested social participants
• Users sustain interest in own participation
• The user’s psychological interests include acknowledgment, recognition,
membership, attention, respect, attraction, citation, compliments, pleasure,
self- satisfaction, popularity, etc, and the avoidance of risk, failure,
embarrassment, disappointment, etc.
Topsy-turvy world of social media
• The Self is always reflected
• Self is a projected Self
• Social is anti-social
• Friends, for real?
• Communication misunderstood
• Connections are disconnected
• Neither here nor there
• Discontinuous continuity
• What’s dysfunctional functions
The Self is always reflected
• Social media start with a representation of the Self, a representation through
which we see ourselves reflected.
• We take an interest in our own reflection, and form beliefs around how we
appear to ourselves and the impressions we make.
• In this reflected Self, the presence of others is constant, as is a sense of what
we think others may think of us.
• Through this reflected Self we become involved in ourselves as much as we
become involved in simply being ourselves.
• The self-reflected Self establishes the first relationship, and a psychological
one, on which other social relationships form.
• All social relationships on social media are thus constructed out of a
mediation of the Self: a splitting of the Self, one self-reflected and one
reflected in others’ apparent impression of us.
Self is a projected Self
• We are not literally online, we re-present ourselves online. We use online
profiles, pages, posts, and videos to craft how we look to others, and more
importantly, how we look to ourselves.
• Our online self is our second self: it’s how we appear to constructed from a
two-sided face: a self-image and a public face.
• We relate to our self-image online “self-reflexively.” Reflection occurs in how
we think about ourselves, the impressions we make, what interests others in
us, and of course how we look.
• Social media are in many ways a personal ME-dium, a mini “me”-dia to the
mass media. They are powerful because they allow each of us to project
ourselves into the medium.
• Social media engage us because we see ourselves in them. They are
especially compelling if we like how we appear to ourselves. Online self is an
Social is anti-social
• When communication is not face to face we have to interpret other users’
activity, and suggest and signal our own, using recordings and documents
(pictures, text, video, etc.) in place of facework.
• Online relationships lack much of the texture and presence, affectivity, and
dynamics that sustain them in the ordinary world.
• Online social interactions are not a substitute for being together, and struggle
to create a sense of “shared time.” Users are “next to each other” but not
“with one another.”
• The social of social media is more accurately anti-social, and in some ways
social media are failed and failing social systems.
• The shortcomings of social media interaction, including, ambiguities, failures,
misconnections, and misunderstandings are nonetheless precisely what
engages and motivates much of our activity.
Friends, for real?
• Relationships on social media are ambiguous and sometimes cheap.
• In the “real world,” we have relationships with particular people, and these
are unique and non-transferable. Online, relationships can appear to be
• Social media thrive on relational ambivalence and ambiguity, because as social
beings we respond to both with interest.
• Relational ambiguity wants to be resolved, but as social beings we prefer to
leave openings than close off possibilities.
• The ambiguity of a relationship (who likes whom, why, for what, in the past or
in anticipation of a future, etc.) gets us psychologically invested.
• What online relationships mean to us is not how they appear to others — the
blurring between personal and social, private and public, informs how we
choose and engage with online connections.
• Online communication is often a matter of interpretation and guesswork: we
do our best to get a sense of others, and to provide a sense of ourselves, and
this may constitute a great deal of the “personal” investment we make in
• When our intentions appear ambiguous, and our claims unclear, online
communication social media becomes less a matter of reaching understanding
with a person with what is said, but of simply understanding what is said.
• Social media disable the facework we use in real world interaction to handle
our emotional care for other people. This only amplifies the ambiguity that
already underlies many interactions.
• A great deal of online communication solicits the acknowledgment and
response that is readily available in face to face interaction.
• Online communication contains both its intended expression or claim (when
created) and a residual implication (residue that the author understands as
how it will likely be interpreted).
Connections are disconnected
• Connectivity doesn’t mean connection, at least not on a personal level.
Connectivity today promises a technical solution to a social problem: the
disconnectedness of everyday relationships.
• Disconnectedness, isolation, and anomie have long been themes of modern
society. Social media promise to restore connectedness to connections,
presence to absence, and communication to silence. The idea, opportunity,
and promise of social compel many of us to participate.
• Online connections are thin but durable. The medium gives us the sense of
being connected, being there, and of being available and accessible — this is
sufficient to sustain participation.
• The discontinuity of connectedness online can create ambiguities in the ties
that bind and bond through “normal” social relations.
Neither here nor there
• There is power in absence, a power completed by our own activity, through
which we fill in what’s missing online.
• The medium, by bracketing out the face and body, engages us in ways of
supplying personal meanings to the activity and communication of others.
• By engaging us in what we believe is happening online, what is in fact absent
becomes compelling for what matters to us, interests us, and resonates
• The presence of online media is constructed around the individual
psychological act of building anticipations and expectations.
• These expectations take the shape of personal habits and practices:
“objective” online realities emerge around internalized and “subjective”
• By with-holding reality, online media give us reason to want more.
• Time we spend online is stitched together from discontinuous fragments, and
each of us is on our own time.
• These separate timelines may intersect online but cannot produce a real
sense of spending or sharing time together.
• The discontinuous temporality of online time prevents us from using the
rhythms and pacing of the time we have when together with others.
• The episodic nature of time periods and stretches of time are likewise
unavailable in social media.
• Social media “time” is an open time, missing a clear frame or beginning,
middle, and end. It’s open-ness is one of its strengths, and becomes a reason
that we return to it.
• Being “out of time,” social media can more easily accompany our activities
where we are, but also distract us from what are doing.
What’s dysfunctional functions
• Dysfunctional design, architecture, and features may increase participation.
Design ambiguity can produce talk and social activity among users:
• when our systems fail, we talk, and this talk is the stuff of online
• in talking, we create activity
• when site navigation, design, or features are unclear, we can invest time
in figuring them out
• which creates traffic, and again, communication and activity
• The design goals of functional functionality and efficiency common to
conventional software matter less in social media design than the use of
dysfunctionality for the purpose of compelling user engagement.
• Social media need only be socially functional — and this is possible even if
they violate software design best practices.
• One example of the ways in which social media can be socially functional
while being “dysfunctional” from a software design perspective is twitter.
• Twitter displays the user’s tweet in what appears to be a conversation
stream. This creates the sense, or illusion, of a conversation. (Would we
tweet if we did not see our own post on the page?)
• However, our own posts appear in a stream with those we are following, not
those who follow us.
• In truth, they appear to those who follow us. The design is a “false”
representation of what’s actually going on.
• This is only one example of the different design practices and needs of social
Competencies of users
• Users have social skills and competencies: ways of participating, engaging,
communicating, and interacting.
• These competencies are met by social media, sometimes matching a user’s
interests and styles of use, sometimes not.
• Tools may appeal to users with different competencies, just as user
populations and social practices might also.
• Some users may tweet, others “don’t get it.” Some wiki, some digg, some
maintain LinkedIn profiles, some ask and answer questions, some Yelp, some
do video — and so on.
• By appreciating that users have varying competencies, we can focus less on
needs and more on interests — meeting those interests shapes the success
and “utility” of social tools.
Competencies of users
• Users have interests, social skills, and competencies with social interaction
• Three core user types
• Self-oriented users
• Other-oriented users
• Relationally-oriented users
• Some users relate first to the medium
Motives and motivation
• Users of social media are self-motivated, and self-interested:
• in themselves and their self-image
• in others and their impressions of others
• in how they appear to others, and what others seem to think of them
• in relationships, interaction, and communication for acknowledgment and
• Users seek recognition and validation, often on the basis of their like-ability
and desirability, and are sensitive to pride and shame
• User motivation is necessary for user engagement, sustained attention and
interest, active participation, or even interested social discovery and
• “Self-Interests” involve how we see ourselves, what we think of ourselves,
and what we think others think of us. These are represented or indicated on
the page, and suggested in messages.
• Self-Image, “who I am”
• is who (I think) I am, and how I see myself
• Self Reflection
• Self reflection, or “what am I doing?”
• is what I think of myself, how I think of myself
• Self Perception
• Self perception, or “how do I look, how do I seem?”
• is an internalized impression of how I appear to others
Interests in others
• “Interests in others” are what we think of others, their interests and who they
are, but also what we think they think of us, and whether and how they might
be interested in us
• “Others” include
• others in general (sense of an audience);
• other individuals (specific users);
• and the community identity (sense of membership)
• Others are represented, as is the user, by a “face” that expresses the user’s
• Like the user, others have interests and are interested
• Any interest in an other user includes the possibility of the other user’s
The possibility of relationship
• What passes quickly between people in face-to-face situations is deferred and
• But where we have a clear impression of our own face (our self-image), we
can only form an impression of others (applies even to those we know):
• appearing to be appealing, interesting, smart, popular, funny, cool, etc.
• Until communication begins, others are thus always in possible relation:
• interested in us, are like us, might like us
• not interested, not like us, might not like us
Why personality types?
• The diversity of social media applications available attracts different kinds of
users, engaging them in different kinds of activities and practices.
• Personality types help us to know who the user is, how to reach him/her, and
how he or she influences others.
• With personality types we can better understand how social media scale and
evolve over time.
• These personality types are not based on research data but suggest ways to
view social media through the user experience. They are a kind of social
media-specific “personas 2.0”
• In contrast to market segmentation, or tool-specific user types (early adopter,
casual user, etc), personality types describe ways in which different kinds of
users become engaged: based on and using their view of self, other, and
relationships, and extending their social and communication skills and
Users are people
• Social media users have personalities that come out in how they relate to and
use social media. Users are people. People have:
• perceptions and inclinations.
• understanding and interests.
• habits and expectations.
• motivations and intentions.
• anticipation of the behavior and interests of others.
• self-motivated actions and a private or social interest in their outcomes.
• communication that varies in its honesty, sincerity, seriousness,
presentation, and objective.
• relationships varying in their meaning, purpose, organization, and nature.
• a sense of being in time, of being together and with others.
Grouping the types
• The following is an over-simplified view of personality types suggested for use
in the design and application of social media.
• Types are organized around the poles of the Self, the Other, and
Relationships — which can be used as a simple way of grouping the social
variations of personality:
• those types centered on the Self: self-presentation, self-centered talk,
self-image, and extensions of the self such as possessions, signs, etc.
• those types centered on the Other: other-oriented sense of self, other-
oriented talk, the other’s apparent interests in the self, and projections of
the self onto others such as attention, recognition, desire, etc.
• those types centered on Relationships: relational-oriented sense of self,
relational (especially triangles) talk, the relationship’s state,
maintenance, obligations and other implications for the self.
• Considers him or herself an industry leader or pundit, and routinely offers the
latest news, opinions, and observations.
• Is personally interested in playing the part of news anchor and industry
commentator even if not deeply interested in making news him or herself.
• May believe that he or she has a reputation, an audience or following, and
may regularly talk to his or her audience in order to maintain it.
• Can be a regular and consistent participant in online news and publishing,
driving subscriptions as well as capturing the attention of audiences.
• Is valuable for his or her role in distributing content and in creating and
defining topics, as well as by serving as a channel for news.
• May evaluate experts and their contributions for their insight or expertise.
Pundit: interests & behavior
• Is critical to making the web the fastest source of news and commentary.
• Is self-motivated and makes the effort to sustain the web’s role as publishing
• Keeps news fresh and dynamic by making announcements.
• Helps to validate the claims of net journalists and blogosphere to legitimacy,
authenticity in media and reporting.
• Likely has a focus — the Net, industry, social, product, news, cause, etc —
and helps to advance it.
• Helps to build thematic and topical spaces online.
• Pushes and gets behind news — and sees his or her role as a newsmaker.
• Is more likely to be sensitive to reputations, credibility, and position than less
• Sense of self is built on what he or she has, owns, and has attached to him or
herself — both material and symbolic.
• Identifies through status and status signs and values — and is sensitive to their
social significance and to their effect in attracting interest.
• May enjoy accumulating symbolic tokens (including online merit badges,
smilies, gifts, etc) as status symbols and signs of success and popularity.
• May or may not compete with others (friends, strangers, or general audience)
for social rank, but is motivated by status he or she does.
• Believes that visible accomplishments make a good impression and are
socially recognized and validated.
• Relationships can be understood in terms of exchange, trade, collecting, and
taking possession of things and signs.
• Helps to invest online signs that can be counted and measured with social
value; is important to rivalries, economies, and exchange cultures online.
Status-seeker: interests & behavior
• Rank is relative; Status is social; Position can be counted.
• Pursues ways of supplementing his or her online stats.
• Checks own stats as well as leaderboards.
• Compares own stats to those of others.
• Accumulates friends, symbolic tokens, and other social status symbols.
• Is important to making the social count online.
• May tend to avoid the deep and involved chats and conversations that matter
more to relational types.
• Yelp elite
• “Celebrities members on Twitter, any online community, etc
• Like the pundit, plays a role in providing news and attracting audiences, but
is often more socially inclined, and often uses his/her personality and
performance to get attention.
• Is a performer at heart, and makes an impression as well as engages the
audience by means of wit, personality, and character.
• Can be more interested in capturing an audience than in content itself — and
may tactically attract interest in ways considered as strategic or disingenuous
• Is attentive and responsive to the audience’s feedback and reception.
• Is less interested in being genuine and authentic than in social validation.
• Can keep an audience interested through anecdotes and asides not often used
by the serious newsmaker.
• Is sensitive to what interests the audience because keeping and holding an
audience is of personal importance.
Em-cee: interests & behavior
• Participates in platforms that gather audiences.
• Is significant for his or her role in moderating online communities, groups,
• Often makes others feel recognized and appreciated, and acknowledges
• Attracts audiences and helps to create a social center of activity on
applications or sites that facilitate them.
• Pays attention to attention.
• Likely to have an interest in tools that retool broadcasting online for their
appeal as media: podcasting, RSS, blogs, video, twitter, etc.
• A writer and author, interested in the substance and meaning of content
online and not as socially or performance-oriented as the pundit, for whom
an audience is a necessary feature of delivering content.
• May feel that audience approval is a measure of his/her understanding,
intelligence, accuracy, and insight — not popularity, attractiveness,
performance, or even originality.
• Can have a valuable grasp of the multiple perspectives on a topic, the
relevant arguments, opinions, and positions of others, and may be interested
in making genre, category, and taxonomic distinctions.
• Believes in the information value of online media — may prefer rational and
good argument over time-wasting social media opportunities.
• May frequently edit and update content as much to eliminate inaccuracies as
to keep it current — believes in the factual version of truth.
• Contributes to the connections and associations of things online, and has
value for long tail commerce.
Critic: interests & behavior
• Sees value in correcting mistakes, factual errors, mis-statements, etc.
• Sticks to the topic and is interested in topical conversations (eg blogs).
• Is important to the belief that social media can produce better knowledge.
• Is an important contributor, blogger, poster, commenter.
• Sustains the idea that social media use the right process.
• Tends to avoid online socializing for its own sake — and may have fewer
personal relations than professional friendships online.
• Takes a committed interest in permanent topical online discussions or
• Wikipedia.com, Imdb.com, Yelp.com
• Some social bookmarking and list-making
• Has a strong sense of friendship and values companionship.
• In addition to spending time with friends online, and in online activities, may
have ideas of loyalty, best friends, inner trust circles and the expectations
that accompany them.
• Is usually aware of what friends think of him/her, takes notice of the
presence or absence of friends online, and will do what friends do.
• Is familiar with the language and rituals of his or her friends, including ways
of talking, insider jokes, and so on.
• Events seen through the lens of friendship and may derive recognition and
reassurance of good friends, or suffer from betrayals real or misperceived.
• Motivated more by relationships with those he or she knows; is genuine and
tends not to do things for strategic reasons.
• Relationships are the content of communication, and online activities are a
vehicle for sustaining relationships.
Buddy: interests & behavior
• Validates the social utility promised by large social networking sites: that real
friends use them.
• Tends to use social media for real event and activity coordination and
• Is a reason that many new users join social media — his or her friends are
• Is valuable to the uses of friend networks in promotional, commercial, and
• Styles of friendship differ, but those who flirt, play, tease, and joke with
friends online create important, if gestural, communication and content.
• Networking among friends draws intense interest from industries marginal to
social media — but which see its potential as a threat to their own ability to
make and market messages.
• Views situations and interactions by means of rules, conventions, characters,
positions, or roles, and knows how a situation should go.
• Can wear a public face and use the behavioral codes and rules of a social
activity in order to exercise authority without having to do it personally.
• Believes in the social value of convention, normative rules, obligations, and
expectations and may pro-actively embody and play the role for the sake of
the system, game, or situation.
• Often believes in collaboration and cooperation, and may presume that
cooperation is a universally shared belief for the reason that his or her notion
of society requires that it applies equally and to all.
• Can be sensitive to, suspicious and distrustful of people s/he believes are
insincere, inaccessible, and private.
• Understands relationships on the basis of their abstract organization and
meaning and may develop relationships according to their description rather
than by personal and gut feel.
Officiator: interests & behavior
• Is important to social games and gaming applications, particularly those that
involve roles and game rules.
• Is often the online game organizer and moderator.
• Is less concerned with the personal repercussions (e.g. on their friendships) of
playing a moderating or officiating role.
• Likely to take an interest in the ritual, ceremony, and “trappings” of social
games: tokens, points, leaderboards, ranking, game events, etc.
• Can help to keep players in line, on task, and involved.
• Sustains the reality of online games, and helps to make them relevant to
those for whom participation may seem a distraction or poor use of their
• Appreciates group membership and a sense of belonging, but unlike the em-
cee — this personality is motivated by the group’s relationships and not its
value as an audience.
• Generally has a sense of where others stand in relation to him or herself.
• Gives good attention to others, is socially sensitive and responsive, and may
triangulate or mediate group interactions.
• Pays attention the debts and obligations among members of a group (who is
affected by whom) and is mindful of how group members are doing.
• Senses acknowledgment by others, or lack thereof, and may tend to project
or read into situations; is likely to be motivated to rescue relationships.
• Is less interested in anonymous publicity or attention from strangers than
reception by familiar friends and colleagues.
• May do things to make others happy, including tasks and organizing efforts
that serve a group’s integrity and activity.
Harmonizer: interests & behavior
• Is important for their sensitivity to group participation and engagement, and
for his or her efforts to keep activity going.
• Is likely to know what’s going on with friends and colleagues, and contributes
content that is both personal and social.
• Helps to make groups tangible, often giving them identities.
• Uses group communication tools and applications, including private social
networks and group-oriented social applications.
• Has a sense of belonging, and of membership, in social media use.
• Checks in with friends and colleagues when they fade or drift away from
group online activity.
• Will circulate tokens, gifts, files, and so on.
• Goes online for information about friends, events, and social news.
• Derives a sense of well-being from online interactions, and believes in online
• Keeps track of what his/her friends are up to, and goes online to “stay in the
• Tends to participate in online social pastimes rather than pursuing personal
• A member of the audience likely to pay attention when invited and notified,
and not likely to miss being online when busy.
• Knows what people are up to, and how to find out if not.
• May participate “as if” she or he feels like an integrated and key member of
an online community, but is sometimes playing along.
Socializer: interests & behavior
• Makes new friend contacts.
• Creates friendly contributions and content -- testimonials, notes, comments,
• Participates in social games and interactions.
• Is important to sustaining the “pleasure” of social networking, and is an
engine of social interaction.
• Is important to emerging social conventions, rituals, ceremonies, and
pastimes — as well as their codes of conduct, etiquette, and subversions.
• Inclined to the social implications of ratings, votes, and signs — and to
investing them with a surplus of meaning.
• Is self-effacing in his/her presence online, may seem shy and be sensitive to
what and how people talk online.
• Is drawn to spending time online in part by the lure of the medium and the
private or personal possibilities presented by others, abstractly or in reality.
• Emotional sensibilities may govern his/her presentation style and sense of
• Doesn’t draw too much attention to self but may participate and log in
consistently, creating site visits, traffic, and page views by browsing.
• Is often an observant participant, and may serve as a resource to those who
spend time online.
• May subscribe to others and follow them online.
Lurker: interests & behavior
• Generates a large number of page views.
• Characterizes some of the user experience of the passive or non-participating
• May subscribe to people and content — and is thus a user of the non-social
social media tools.
• Is more likely a user of low-impact and low-participation tools.
• Is possibly more likely to have initial social media experiences on marginal
sites — where community is not managed by early adopters.
• Is more likely to be naive about social media interactions — and represents an
important market and growth opportunity.
• His or her concerns about privacy, security, safety, authenticity, and so on
represent issues to be addressed by social media systems, and which may
describe the mainstream potential for social media.
• Creates, builds, makes, publishes.
• Relates to the online world as a place in which she or he has a strong
presence, using it to distribute his or her (personal) creative works and
• Getting attention and receiving recognition may or may not be required for
this user’s ongoing participation.
• Probably sees his/her online self as a real and valid extension of his/her real
self: the medium is neither gimmick nor waste of time.
• Provides the content that others share, pass around, rate, vote, and comment
• Has talent with the stuff of culture and can create or mash up meanings to
produce something new.
Creator: interests & behavior
• Joins collaborative creative efforts that require belief and commitment from
• Is important for their content contributions to social media.
• Might prefer to pursue creative pastimes in public, or socially, rather than
• Is behind the success of user-generated content sites and services.
• Is of significant value in re-contextualizing and interpreting culture.
• To some degree, benefits from users who enjoy finding and sharing online
content gems — they bring this user recognition.
• Often an early adopter of authoring and editing tools and applications.
• Might pay attention to his or her own popularity — but if so, take it as signs of
genuine interest (not as social byproducts).
• A frequent heckler given to subverting the social situation at hand.
• May tend to disrupt online chats and discussions for the sake of attention.
• Uses social games and applications to undermine those who take it seriously,
to disrupt the activity, to push an agenda, or game the system.
• Might focus on content, a group, or its individual members.
• May only become a heckler when faced with authority (when provoked or
challenged), or may simply want attention from an audience, regardless of
what it’s about.
• May just heckle occasionally and when annoyed, or might identify him/herself
with being in the opposition.
• Might feel superior to others and enjoy showing off or winning, even when
doing so requires playing along cynically or disingenuously.
Rebel: interests & behavior
• Often shows leadership in new technology developments.
• Important to the development of non-commercial social media applications.
• As a fixture of the “hacker” culture, contributes to mashups.
• His or her independence is an indirect source of transactions that drive online
• Heckler subversives — interested in spoiling the fun of others — damage the
• A heckler subversive is often drawn to popular sites and applications.
• May contribute positively to the open web, while undermining organizations
seeking commercial benefit.
Practices and applications
• Conversational branding and marketing
• Participatory branding
• Personality-based engagement
• Currently working on conversation models
• Are there best practices?
• Do practices transfer?
• Do they last?
• Can they be taken out of context?
• Is there a one-size-fits-all approach for all brands?
• Audiences matter, and best practices that work in one audience may not
transfer to another. Porting the tool or technology, the design, features, or
techniques, doesn’t guarantee the same social results in a different
• Personalities matter, and users use social media according to their interests,
competencies, and personalities. Best practices may overlook the user’s
• Context matters, and our ways of interacting in one context (Facebook) may
not translate to our ways of interacting in another (LinkedIn).
Open vs Closed social
• Advantages and disadvantages:
• open creates opportunity for public visibility
• closed preserves and protects trust and relationships
• page and community-based provide for lasting contributions
• flow and conversation-based capture speed and interaction
• There is bias in interaction models introduced by different kinds of personal,
social, and public audience engagement. This bias may cause users to talk
differently, and strategically, if public visibility and celebrity are at stake.
• Social distortion in the content results from bias introduced by interaction
models, resulting in content that carries social bias. Users who talk to say
something but to be seen saying it also, may be less objective, and more
subjective — and this colors the content discovered by users later.
• Shift away from brand image to audience reception: the audience owns its
perception of the brand
• Embrace existing conversations
• Where they are, in social media tools, and amongst their audiences
• Using personalities
• social skills and competencies
• preferred social tools
• authentic interests
• existing relationships
• to leverage what users care about
• Re-frame brand view of the world to start with the customer
• User-centric, customer-engaged branding, for ongoing engagement with the
many facets of a brand that appeal to and interest users, according to the
interests those users already have.
• Multi-modal messaging for different types of users, and for different types
• Serial and episodic over time
• Game-like, activities, embedded rewards, etc
• A personality-based marketing model would target users not by tool, by
interest, or by market segment, but by styles of social media use.
• Personality-based marketing would recognize that users get something out of
their social media involvement. And that a user is interested in participating
in ways that enhance self image, give them something to say, repeat, cite, or
pass along. That the goal is not to move the user, but for the brand to be
moved by the user.
• Personalities for individual benefit
• Personalities for desired content
• Personalities for interactions and activity
• Personalities for social dynamics
• Scaling social media by personalities
• I am currently looking at conversation models that may help the design of
social media for high engagement, and which might be usable for commercial
ends while not violating the primacy of the user experience.
• types of transactions
• types of statements
• types of social actions
• kinds of language: words, gestures, acts
• routines and repetitions, habits
• relevant and usable social practices
• feed-based commerce
• Flow applications (twitter) represent the next stage in social conversational
media, and should be understood as flow, not as page-based traffic.
• Twitter, status, feeds, and flow
• talk as a symbolic form
• social capital vs currency
• expenditure and influence
• social distortions
• personal, social, and public dimensions
• measurement and analytics
• visualization and twitter extensions
• twitter and search