Some Introverts take to social media like a duck to water. Others feel uneasy even thinking about participating on popular platforms like Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram or Twitter. Family members might be pressuring them to share public updates, employers might expect them to promote the company enthusiastically, and marketing gurus might be warning of imminent business failure unless they promote it with cute videos, newsy posts or upbeat blogging that just doesn’t feel comfortable.
If you’re in the “I’d-rather-not” category – or maybe the “I-truly-don’t-want-to” camp – here are some tips to help you find a place on social media that fits your personality preferences. So you know where these tips are coming from, I’m an Introvert myself, around an eight or nine on a one-to-ten scale. I’ve conducted surveys of Introverts, read lots of research on the topic, and coached dozens of Introverts on selecting marketing methods that feel doable for them.
1. Be selective
Because each social media platform has its own dynamics, start by thinking about which forms of communication you most enjoy. If you’re visually oriented and like collecting images or taking photographs, Instagram or Pinterest might be a good match. If you’re more into writing, consider blogging or online forums focusing on topics you’re passionate about. Learn about the options, ask others like you what works for them, and try one program at a time. Ditch what you don’t like and keep what you do.
For instance, video live-streaming suits those who easily talk spontaneously and fluently, not quiet folks who naturally pause a lot, prefer to edit and revise when they speak. And certainly not those who feel nervously on the spot when facing any kind of camera. But that doesn’t mean Introverts need to reject video making altogether. I’ve enjoyed making scripted videos where I’m talking off screen, accompanied by slowly changing slides. This plays to my strengths and side steps communication methods that aren’t my forte.
2. Maintain a zone of privacy
Remember that self-expression doesn't need to involve spilling intimate details about your life. Introverted clients and friends have told me they don’t want to discuss or even refer to their closest relationships when posting online. If that’s the case, let other people follow the trend of confessing their foibles and exposing all of their business and personal connections to public view. You don’t have to. Your guiding rule instead might be “post only what I wouldn’t mind being printed in a national newspaper.”
Introverts might feel most comfortable sharing ideas within password-protected communities where they can go by a nickname and where whatever they say or ask can’t be connected to their real identity. For instance, I’m active in a language learning forum where everyone knows me by a pseudonym. A friend who belongs to a sketching forum in which people critique each other’s work says she can participate fully because she goes by a handle that can’t be tied to her career as a graphic artist.
3. Pace yourself
Avoid committing yourself to a schedule of postings that you can’t fulfill. If someone else updates their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed multiple times a day, that has nothing to do with you. As an Introvert, you’ll start to hate social media with a passion if you let yourself be pressured to post when you have nothing to show or say. Upload stuff or reply only when you feel like it.
If friends, family or work colleagues give you grief for sparse social media postings, quote Introvert Albert Einstein to them: “You ask me if I keep a notebook to record my great ideas,” he once said. “I've only ever had one.”
4. Keep your own definition of “friend”
Several introverted marketing experts with high-visibility professional profiles told me that they couldn’t stand how social media uses the word “friend.” While Extraverts might use the word loosely, referring to someone they’d just met in a bar as “my friend here,” Introverts tend to reserve that title for people they trust and have affection for. These experts said they translated social media “friend” in their mind to “customer” or “potential acquaintance” and then felt better. Or, if you prefer, admit people to your social media sphere as carefully as you would in face-to-face life.
For me, this issue came up especially with LinkedIn, a platform that was supposed to be superb for generating opportunities from business connections. Day after day, I would receive cookie-cutter LinkedIn “friend” requests, worded exactly the same way. The requests lacked any indication of how they heard of me, what they had to offer of interest, or why they wanted to be publicly linked to me. To me this felt so crass, false and opportunistic that I quit the platform and never looked back.
5. Ignore popular ideas of what makes someone “likeable”
Dating back to Dale Carnegie’s 1936 blockbuster bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People, experts have given us the impression that we have to be light-hearted, positive and friendly to win people over both in business and in personal life. Similar advice for social media is rampant today. We are supposed to be positive, smiley and fairly superficial online in order to be liked. For Introverts, however, that might require pretending to be someone we’re not.
In truth, everyone does not choose the same sort of personality when picking people to be friends with or to follow. If you’re contemplative, serious, sarcastic or emotionally intense in real life, be authentically that way on social media as well. As a result, people who gravitate toward you are then more likely to be the kind of folks you like to hang with.
6. Look for kindred spirits
The more you participate on social media where and how you most feel welcome, the more you should keep an eye out for people you like and appreciate. Let your curiosity about such people bloom. Take advantage of a typical Introvert personality strength: one-to-one relationships. Whether you keep a budding friendship on social media or move it onto private email, text or even real life, this can be the best part for you of online participation.
I couldn’t begin to count the colleagues and individuals I met when I first joined online forums in the 1990s, whom I continued to communicate with one way or another for decades. You may even find that people you respond to on Twitter or Tiktok who you might normally consider out of your league respond back. Approach social media as the grand life adventure that it truly can be.