- Is all this social media stuff just more internet noise?
- Is there anything of value in social media?
In February, I conducted a survey on attitudes and utilization of social media in relation to its use in finding jobs, its use by HR departments, and perhaps most interestingly, whether social media information reflects people’s identity.
This is some of the first quantitative research available that examines social media and identity.
As a quantitative researcher, I study identity and occupations. As a business person, I have a company that focuses on career pathing, development, organizational fit and persistence, so this survey was of great interest to me personally. I am finding it is also of interest to many of my colleagues in business–whether in marketing or HR. So, I asked the questions in the survey which was a random sample of 100 respondents from a panel. The entirety of the survey results are interesting–but only the results for the area of identity in social media–or “virtual authenticity” as I call it– will be covered in this blogpost.
Does your online identity truthfully reflect your physical identity?
An important area of interest is whether social media gathers useful information about people: does the social media information reflect the actual person using the social media tools? How do people represent themselves online, specifically in the social media spaces of interest?
If the information people use on social media sites is fictitious, then it cannot serve corporate purposes in either sales and marketing or HR.
However, if people engage in social media’s virtual spaces in an authentic way that reflects who they are and their personal values and preferences, access to personal social media information becomes valuable. To validate whether people’s interaction in social media spaces contains what I will term “virtual authenticity”, respondents were asked to rate how accurately the social media information available about them actually reflects a) who they are, b) what they value, c) their communication style and d) the types of people with whom they normally associate.
Identity: Who I Am
One of the key issues with using social media information within an organization, and specifically in an area such as HR is knowing whether the information in the social media arena accurately represents the persons who may be of HR interest. If the information in that space does not accurately reflect actual people, then there is little reason for HR to delve into the social media arena. And in fact, the issue of true identity is a common reason offered for why social media information is not more readily utilized within organizations.
A person’s identity is complex, and depending on which discipline is defining it (psychology, sociology, etc.) is a culmination of multiple variables, some of which may include written representations of self, conversation or dialogue, photos, actions, values preferences, family, economic and educational history and the like.
Rather than define identity for the respondents in the survey, the respondents were asked simply whether the social media information found on the websites they use is an accurate portrayal of who they think they are. If so, then the social media information one could gather would provide HR with either initial or validating information on persons of HR interest.
We have authentic info!
73% of respondents agree that social media info accurately reflects who they are.
Almost one-third of respondents strongly agreed that the information they provide online is an accurate portrayal of self.
Taken together with the percentage of those that agreed (41%) the total of people who agreed that social media information accurately reflects their identity is a significant 73%.
Out of the 27% remaining, only 9% of respondents disagreed that their information is a reflection of their identity. The remaining 18% neither agreed nor disagreed, which could be attributed to, among other things, not providing a definition of “who I am” for the respondent to agree or disagree with.
Given this information, companies can begin using social media with the knowledge that the people interacting within the social media spaces are doing so as themselves.
Additional, more detailed information on the extent to which social media information reflects specific areas of identity such as communication style, networks and associations and values, please visit the following site for the full report: http://xeeurl.com/A01825
Download a complimentary copy of the survey report’s executive summary here: http://xeeurl.com/A01826