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Are you a Ranter, a Peacock or a Lurker? New research finds there are 12 social media personalities


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

April 14, 2013 | 4 min read

New research into social media behaviour has been unveiled, finding that Twitter and Facebook users fall into one, or more, of 12 distinct social media personality types.

The personality types are based on the results of a month-long, fly-on-the-wall experiment – where people’s online behaviour was monitored constantly for four weeks – and on an associated nationwide survey examining people’s social media attitudes and behaviours.

First direct analysis conducted the research and created the personality types with the help of Dr David Giles, an expert in social media behaviour and a Reader in Media Psychology at Winchester University.

The first category is The Ultras, who are fanatically obsessed with Facebook or Twitter. They have smartphone apps and check their feeds dozens of times a day. The survey revealed 14 per cent of Facebook users spend at least two hours a day on the network – rising to one in five (21 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds.

The Deniers, meanwhile, claim social media doesn’t control their lives, but the reality is very different. In the survey, 20 per cent of Facebook users said they would feel “anxious” or “isolated” if they had to deactivate their accounts, compared to 17 per cent of Twitter users.

Meanwhile, the Dippers access their pages infrequently, often going days – or even weeks – without tweeting or posting an update with 30 per cent of Facebook and Twitter users saying they access the sites for less than 30 minutes a day.

The Virgins are new people who sign up to social networks and may struggle initially to get to grips with the workings of Facebook and Twitter, while the Lurkers “hide in the shadows of cyberspace,” and rarely participate in social media conversations. In the survey, 45 per cent of Facebook users described themselves as ‘observers’, compared to 39 per cent of Twitter users.

If you are a Peacock you will compete with friends for followers or fans, or how many ‘likes’ or re-tweets you can get, with 11 per cent of Twitter users said it was important for them to have more ‘followers’ on their feed than their friends.

The Ranters are highly opinionated online, as 11 per cent of Facebook users and 17 per cent of Twitter users said the networks allow them to be more opinionated than they are in reality.

The Ghosts create usernames to stay anonymous or have noticeably sparse profiles and timelines. ‘Security’ is cited as a reason for not using their real names by 15 per cent of Twitter users and six per cent of Facebook users. However, Changelings adopt different personalities entirely online, confident in the knowledge that no-one knows their real identity. Around five per cent of Facebook and Twitter users say hiding their identities in social media allows them more freedom to express their opinions.

The Quizzers like to ask questions on Facebook and Twitter in order to start conversations and avoid the risk of being left out. According to the first direct survey, around one in ten Facebook and Twitter users said they enjoyed using their pages to ask questions, rather than just posting messages or updates.

The Informers like to be the first to spot something interesting and share it. 20 per cent of Twitter users and 22 per cent of Facebook users say they like to share information and links with their friends and followers.

The Approval-seekers worry about how many likes/comments/re-tweets they get, constantly checking their feeds and timelines, because they link endorsement to popularity. 14 per cent of Facebook users said it is important others ‘like’ or reply to their updates, versus nine per cent of Twitter users who say replies and re-tweets are important.

Speaking on the finding Dr Giles said: “Most people using social media will display a combination of those personality types, and they may even behave differently on Facebook, for example, to how they behave on Twitter.

“Smartphones have made accessing social media platforms much easier, with the result that many people spend a lot more time chatting with friends in cyberspace than they do face to face or over the phone. That can change their relationships with people and, as we are now seeing, it can also change their personalities.”

Rebecca Dye, social media manager at first direct, also said: “A lot of people admit to behaving very differently in social media to how they behave in the ‘real world’, and it’s important we’re aware of that when we’re dealing with customers through a variety of channels.”

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