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Building Social to Mean More: Using personality as a branding tool

Erin Jordan

As I (finally) finish up my last semester of college, I have been closely studying the association between social media use and its relationship to the, “Big Five” personality traits, as categorized by Coasta and McCrae (1992). The (too massive) pile of research I’ve read, in coordination with my findings on the relationship between individuals’ personality traits and their sharing on social networks, has led me to consider the benefits of using personality research and social media in another aspect. There is a huge opportunity to use social media to relate to an organization’s target audience.

All too often organizations want to be “social” or use media as a branding tool to showcase their capabilities without getting to know their audience. Although some brands try to discern the kind of content that would best relate to an audience, they still often fail to understand the ways in which consumers would prefer to interact; they post too often, not enough, or don’t choose a particular type of person to whom they tailor their content.  Brands are still missing out on a chance to take initiative in showcasing interactions that relate more to the audience and directly to the actions and behaviors of those individuals on social networks.

While Coasta and McCrae’s personality traits are directly coded across five categories; openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, there is an enormous opportunity to build upon this template with more in-depth research to help discover traits of specific niche audiences.

By paying closer attention to the ways individuals in a particular audience communicate with one another, as well as how often and what types of information these individuals are posting, organizations should not only use social media as a tool to teach about brands, but also to learn about the business or consumer they’re trying to reach. I look forward to psychology being used more in-depth to create a real “social” atmosphere in which social media truly becomes a two-way street.

When I first decided to major in both psychology and advertising/public relations I was warned that I might not find a place for both skills. I am happy to say that I believe that has changed and will continue to change as the trend of audience behavior dominating all platforms of marketing moves its way into digital- a tangible element that can be efficiently utilized for observational studies. I’m betting we can learn a lot from what is right in front of us.