Using Social Media To Engage The Introverts In Your Audience

The following is the narrative from the first half of my presentation on “Utilizing Social Media for Learner Engagement” which I gave at the 2012 Annual MAACME regional meeting on November 14, 2012. You can view my slides here or find them at the bottom of this post.

Have you ever been to a conference or symposium where part of the agenda was “Small Group Breakout Sessions” or the presenter uttered the words, “OK, I want you to find a partner, preferably someone you don’t already know…”?

How did you feel about those sessions? Were you excited to have a chance to interact with other people and maybe meet someone new? Or did they make you cringe?

I have to confess that I am not a big fan of audience engagement tactics like small group sessions, 1-on-1 interaction, etc. And saying I’m not a “big fan” is being kind. To be perfectly honest, when the time for small group breakouts rolls around or the speaker starts with the “Find a partner…” spiel, that’s usually my cue to exit stage left and find something else to do or pop into a different session. What I’ve come to realize is that I’m not alone in feeling this way. In fact, it’s possible that as much as 50% of the audience – 50% of YOUR audience – feels the same way I do.

What am I basing that on? Researchers have shown that between 33-50% of the general population falls under the definition of an introvert (an excellent resource on this subject is Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“)

So, lets take a look at some of the differences between introverts and extroverts. Introverts are people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and introspection and dwindle during interaction. Don’t make the mistake of equating shyness with introversion, though. Introverts generally do not have the fear of people generally associated with shyness. I am a classic “I” on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but anyone who knows me will agree that I certainly am not shy.  However, being in large social settings with lots of interaction – particularly with people I don’t know – is not easy for me and I do need to have periods of “alone time” to recharge.

Introverts:

  • Tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups
  • Often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing
  • Like to observe situations before they participate
  • More analytical before speaking
  • Easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement

On the other hand, extroverts are people who are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet (I’m speaking in generalities here, of course).

Extroverts:

  • Enjoy human interactions
  • Enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious
  • Take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings
  • Tend to be energized when around other people, more prone to boredom when they are by themselves

It seems to me that many of our traditional methods for increasing learner engagement – small group breakouts, 1-on-1 interaction, etc – are better suited for the extroverts in our audience and hold little appeal to introverts. The question then is how do we engage with this quieter portion of our audience?

My suggestion (which is obvious from the title of this post) is that we use social media to engage them. There are a number of reasons why social media and introverts are a good fit:

  1. Social media give introverts a way to avoid the uncomfortable awkwardness of face-to-face interactions with those they’re meeting for the first time.
  2. With social media, introverts are able to have time to process information before responding to questions or making comments. They can respond when they want to respond, not when someone else wants them to respond.
  3. Social media enable introverts to have the opportunity to have their voice heard without needing to fight over the talking of others. Learner engagement tactics such as small group breakouts tend to be dominated by the voices of the extroverts in the group. With social media, everyone’s voice is on the same level.

There have been a number of articles and blog posts written on the cozy relationship many introverts have with social media. Here are a few you may find of interest.

Why Introverts Love Social Media by MACK COLLIER

12 Tips to Play to Your Strengths on Social Media by HEIDI COHEN

Why Gadgets Are Great for Introverts by SUSAN CAIN

The Intovert / Extrovert Hoax in Social Media by CHRIS WESTFALL

Please don’t misunderstand the point I’m trying to make. While I personally am not a fan of small group breakouts or 1-on-1 discussions at conferences, I certainly understand their benefits and believe that many of us learn much from these types of interactions. I’m merely suggesting that there is probably a decent portion of your audience that would be more comfortable with an alternative form of learner interaction and that social media might be a nice complementary tool to consider.

The remainder of this presentation is a discussion of ways Twitter can be used for learner engagement in CME. I’m not going to write out that portion of the narrative here, but it begins on slide 15 below.

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