How SIOP Members Are Using Social Media Professionally: Survey Results
Bo Armstrong, Tiffany Poeppelman, Jess Thornton, and Evan Sinar SIOP Content Initiative (SCi) Task Force
The reality today is that much of the world has moved online. Many individuals, teams, and companies now use various social media platforms to network with others, maintain existing relationships, stay abreast of current news and happenings in the field, share ideas, or to share real-time updates with similar people or groups. Additionally, we now see a significant impact on companies investing in their social media strategies for branding and hiring top talent, along with individuals who are growing their own brand online for their personal uses or professional image. SIOP members must recognize and keep up with these trends or else risk becoming irrelevant in an increasingly social and online workplace. SIOP members can tap into social media’s benefits to achieve our professional goals but must also recognize the drawbacks and limitations of social media platforms.
We often hear many different reasons why individuals use social media, including:
- Keeping in touch with family and friends
- Learning and growing in our field
- Sharing ideas and research
- Staying up to date with research and trends
We have also heard many reasons why individuals do not use social media, including:
- It crosses personal or professional boundaries
- It takes up too much time in an already busy schedule
- The value of social media use isn’t clear
Social media platforms mean many different things to different people. For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say that she or he only uses Facebook with friends and LinkedIn for work colleagues or work topics, whereas others will say that they use them for both. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Is there a “right” way for us to be using social media professionally? Some professionals stick to certain platforms and steer clear of others. Additionally, some people commit to an “always on” strategy for social media, posting frequently through various channels (e.g., once a day), whereas others do irregularly (e.g., once a quarter). There is no right or wrong way to use social media when it comes to which platform you use or how often you use it, but we propose that one should be self-aware regarding intended uses of the tools.
We inquired as to what SIOP members see as their preferred platforms and what their views are when it comes to social media. In April 2017, we asked our members to complete a social media survey and tell us about their engagement strategies and preferences. Overall, the goal and intent of the survey was to better understand member preferences on social media to inform the SIOP Administrative Office, SIOP committees, and our membership of the best uses of social media, as well as to identify and share trends across other members.
Below are the findings from the survey along with tactics and recommendations for those new to or well-experienced with social media.
In the SIOP social media survey, nearly 1,300 SIOP members responded to a 13-question survey on the following:
- Social media and related platforms most engaged with, either for professional or personal use
- How and why members engage on social media
- How often they engage on social media in a professional manner
- Open-ended comments about the most valuable and least rewarding outcomes of time spent on professional use of social media
Overall, respondents were distributed across affiliation (academic, 24%; practitioner, 45%; student, 31%) and number of years affiliated with SIOP (0 to 4 years, 43%; 5 to 9 years, 18%; 10 to 19 years, 19%; 20+ years, 20%).
SIOP Members and Social Media Platforms
- 94% of respondents use social media, either personally or professionally.
- Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat tended to be used more personally
- LinkedIn tended to be used more professionally
- Twitter and YouTube were often used for both personal and professional purposes
According to recent website traffic data (Alexa, 2017), Facebook is the third most visited website in the world and one of the most popular forms of social media (Greenwood, Perrin, & Duggan, 2016). It started off as a personal platform, and though some people do use it professionally, most people continue to use it personally to keep up with friends and family. Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are newer platforms. Their user bases are generally younger than that of Facebook on average (Greenwood et al., 2016), and younger people are less likely to have developed a career or specific career interests to discuss online.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, was intended to be a professional platform from its inception. It is almost entirely used for job seeking, networking, and professional development. It is no surprise that SIOP users are on LinkedIn for similar reasons.
Twitter and YouTube are not as popular as Facebook or Instagram for personal use, nor as popular as LinkedIn for professional use. They both land in the middle ground, with Twitter users likely following a variety of feeds like sports, news, entertainment, and friends and family in addition to profession-related accounts like SIOP. YouTube has been a popular site for casual video hosting and viewing for many years, though many professionals have taken to YouTube in the form of how-to videos, supplements to education (e.g., lecture videos, training content), or sharing opinions and expertise (e.g., video podcasts).
SIOP Members and Social Media Behaviors
- The most popular professional uses of social media were:
- Reading, watching, listening or otherwise consuming content (endorsed by 93% of respondents)
- “Liking” or “commenting” on others’ content (endorsed by 67%)
- Sharing others’ content within your own network (i.e., broadly; endorsed by 53%)
- Only 43% of respondents reported posting their own profession-related content to social media
· The least popular professional uses of social media were:
- Posting profession-related questions (endorsed by 16%)
- Engaging in profession-related discussion (endorsed by 30%)
- Forwarding content to others directly (e.g., via message; endorsed by 33%)
It is clear to see that the most popular social media behaviors are more passive. They require little to no effort, just reading and clicking on things that you like. This is the easiest way to use social media, though it is not very engaging. These passive engagement behaviors are a common phenomenon in online communities known as “lurking” (Muller, 2012). The less popular behaviors require more effort, and SIOP members may not be confident in the return on investment of spending time asking questions, waiting on answers, replying back and forth, and drafting messages to colleagues. It may seem tedious or difficult to SIOP members. For example, if you wanted to ask a complicated question to your social media network, but are limited to 140 characters – not words, characters – to either ask or answer the question, people are just less likely to respond. If SIOP members are going to engage in social media, they need to see the ROI. There has to be something that they are missing out on that is worth the effort.
SIOP Members’ Frequency of Social Media Use
Note: Percentages do not include members indicating that they do not use social media professionally.
- Across all platforms, 12% of respondents use social media once a month or less
- 8% of respondents use social media 5-10 times per day
- 75% of respondents are weekly professional social media users
- 37% of respondents are daily professional social media users
It would appear that based on our sample of SIOP members, those who use social media for professional purposes do so on a regular basis. This may be a proxy for how SIOP members view the value of social media for professional purposes. Those who use social media on a weekly basis find some value in social media engagement, whereas those who use it less often probably don’t see the value of doing so. Daily users presumably see much value in the practice, although it is unclear whether an “always on” strategy (i.e., 5-10 times per day) provides true ROI or only a perception of ROI. It is unknown whether social media provides diminishing returns over time and use or if the relationship between use and value is linear (i.e., more is better). This may vary from person to person, depending on purpose and practice.
SIOP Members’ Motivations to Use Social Media
- The primary reason SIOP members are using social media professionally is for personal/social reasons (keeping up with networks, colleagues, etc.)
- The 2nd most popular reason is to keep up with news
- The 3rd most popular reason is for professional growth
Social networking sites are designed in such a way so as to facilitate communication among friends, family, and colleagues. It comes as no surprise that this is the primary reason SIOP members use social media professionally: maintaining existing relationships and networking to create new ones. As social media has evolved over time, social media home pages (i.e., “newsfeeds”) have shifted from informing users about what their contacts are saying and doing to spreading content like images, videos, and linking to articles and news. Much of the I-O content on both LinkedIn and Twitter seems to revolve around sharing links to articles, blog posts, or other media. Practitioners may be most prone to keeping up with industry news in this manner, as journal subscriptions and databases are not always easily available such as in academia. Blog posts and articles also tend to be much shorter, easily digestible, and more easily understood by non-I-O colleagues than scientific articles, which helps when I-Os want to share findings or practices within their own organizations.
Next, we present brief highlights of our analyses by SIOP member affiliation and tenure.
Overall Results by Affiliation (Academic, Practitioner, Student)
- Overall, affiliations did not differ in their use of social media for social reasons, keeping up-to-date with news, or interacting with collaborators.
- Affiliation groups did not significantly differ in their use of LinkedIn; it appeared to be used at similar levels across the membership and used primarily for professional reasons.
- Affiliation groups did not differ in sharing others’ content, liking/commenting on content, engaging in discussion, posting questions, or forwarding content to others when engaging with social media professionally.
- Academic members were:
- More likely to use YouTube professionally, perhaps for distributing their own lectures or watching those of others;
- Less likely to read, watch, listen to, or otherwise consume social media content, but more likely to post their own content compared to students;
- Less likely to use social media for professional growth.
● Practitioners were:
- More likely than academics to use social media for promoting their personal brand.
● Students were:
- More active on Google+ and Snapchat for both personal and professional use.
- More active for nearly all platforms among those who used them exclusively for personal purposes.
- Less likely to use Twitter for professional purposes.
- More likely to use social media for professional growth.
Overall Results by Tenure With SIOP
- Among those using platforms for both personal and professional purposes, more tenured members were less likely to use Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. However, they were more likely to use Pinterest and YouTube for professional-only purposes.
- Length of time involved with SIOP was not related to LinkedIn use nor to use of Twitter for professional purposes.
- More tenured members were less likely to read, watch, or listen to content; share others’ content; or to “like” or “comment” on social media content but were more likely to post their own content.
- More tenured members were also less likely to use social media for professional growth or to use social media for keeping up to date with news.
- We saw no differences by length of time involved with SIOP for using social media for promoting personal brand, social reasons, or interacting with collaborators.
The “Most Valuable” and “Least Rewarding” Outcomes of Social Media
We also asked SIOP members two open-ended questions regarding the “most valuable” and “least rewarding” outcomes from members’ social media use. We created several visualizations of the terms used using the open-source text analysis tools Voyant and Word Tree. First, for the “most valuable” responses, we present a “links” graph showing the most frequent words, represented by the size of the words in the figure, and the most-often connected words, represented by the width of the connecting line between two words:
In this figure, we can see that SIOP members found networking with colleagues, learning new things, and keeping up to date on information in the field as some of the most common rewarding outcomes of professional social media use.
Next, we present “word tree” diagrams showing the words most often following the terms “new” and “professional” when used to describe the most valuable outcomes of social media use:
We can see from the figure on the left that SIOP members most often found new connections, information, and jobs as a result of professional social media use. From the figure on the right, we can see that members were benefitting from social media through building their professional networks and professional development in general.
Next, we present a parallel set of analyses for SIOP members’ least rewarding outcomes of social media. First, we present a links graph showing a much smaller and more consistent set of responses for this question compared to the most valued outcomes identified previously:
Many SIOP members are not pleased with the amount of time social media use requires. Many are also displeased with the caliber of professional content available on social media platforms, which may provide a reason for why the amount of time social media requires does not provide a good ROI for some.
Next, we present word tree diagrams showing the words most often preceding “time” and “content” when cited as the least rewarding outcomes:
On the left, we see phrases like “waste of time,” “takes too much time,” and “lost time.” On the right, we see phrases emerge like “lack of content,” “poor content,” and “irrelevant content.”
Overall, it seems that SIOP members find the potential for professional networking to be a valuable benefit to professional social media use, whereas the general opinion on I-O content online receives mixed reviews. Some find value in the online content, noting that it aids in learning and professional growth, whereas others find it lacking or irrelevant. This dichotomization is interesting to say the least, prompting new questions to investigate. For example, are SIOP members consuming the same content across Internet? Perhaps one group is consuming valuable content, whereas others are not finding it or are using another platform. Personal preferences are likely to play a large role here as well. What one person finds novel and interesting, another may find as last year’s news. It is also possible that academics, practitioners, and students may all value different content and activities online. Thus, we analyzed the text responses further, looking for differences by social media platforms, tenure with SIOP, and other characteristics.
Key findings from this analysis:
- More tenured SIOP members were more likely to cite “networking” and “colleagues” as high-value social media outcomes, but less likely to use the word “new” than newer SIOP members; that is, long-term SIOP members get value from the connections made or maintained through social media aspects, but truly new information is rare.
- Members extensively using social media for professional purposes more often cited “content” as the LEAST rewarding part, showing their struggles to distill quality from the massive range of content available.
- Members using social media for professional growth were less likely to cite “colleagues” as a high-value outcome, yet those using social media to promote their personal brand were more likely to cite “network” as a valuable outcome.
- In terms of individual social media platforms, Google+ users more often cited “new” when describing high-value outcomes, but also “content” as least rewarding. Pinterest users more often used “professional” to describe high-value outcomes, but also found social media “content” less rewarding. Twitter was more often linked to the high-value outcomes “network” and “new,” but these users rarely cited “colleagues” when describing high-value outcomes. YouTube users also rarely cited “colleagues.” Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn were more balanced, neither more nor less likely to be associated with the descriptors above.
- Members who actively posted their own content or engaged in discussion on social media were more likely to list “network” as a high-value outcome; however, “professional” was rarely a high-value outcome for those who use social media more passively, who limit their involvement largely to reading/watching others’ content.
- Members who do share others’ content were more likely to cite “professional” as a high-value outcome yet appear to sort through extensive poor content to find good material to share: “Content” is commonly a least rewarding outcome for this group.
- Those actively liking and commenting on others’ social media content more often cited “network” as a high-value outcome but also “content” as least rewarding; these users are seeing the connectivity benefits from social media engagement; however, they’re also exposed to (and likely commenting on) plenty of poor quality content.
- Notably, the use of responses such as “none,” “nil,” or “N/A” also differed by respondent group: Both practitioners and longer-term SIOP members were less likely to give these responses for the least rewarding question; that is, both groups were more likely to see no rewards from social media use. Students, however, were more likely to give these responses; they are less likely to see no rewards from social media use.
The Next Social Media Platforms for SIOP to Adopt
We asked SIOP members in an open-ended question to provide social media channels they recommend SIOP adopting for its communications. Most users did not respond to the question, but a few social media platforms were recurring in the data:
- Many respondents requested that SIOP use outlets it already uses (sometimes requesting for more effective leveraging of those channels): LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and even Facebook.
- The most popular suggestion was for SIOP to use Instagram, followed by Snapchat. Recommendations were specifically to post pictures and “stories” during the annual conference. However, only 1% of all respondents suggested Instagram and .5% of respondents suggested Snapchat.
- Other popular social media platforms mentioned were ResearchGate, Reddit, creating podcasts, and just using email.
- Only 1% of respondents made it a point to specifically say that SIOP needs no additional social media channels and should better leverage what already exists.
Follow Along, Join the Discussion, and Share Your Research!
No matter what channel or social site you use, you can find SIOP presence everywhere! If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s the value of sharing and connecting across I-O psychology members outside of our annual event. Not comfortable posting your own content? We know sharing content and opinions on social media can often seem daunting, stressful, and time consuming, but you don’t have to start posting immediately to reap the benefits. Below are a few articles and examples of fellow I-Os who are keeping the buzz going online:
- I-O research curators to follow:
I-O at Work - http://www.ioatwork.com
- One group that appears regularly in searches:
- Academics and professors use it for classes.
- Consider following labs/blogs that cross-post to Facebook.
- Elevate your brand and that of the field: Read these articles on I-O branding through social media:
- Join the discussion at our annual event by completing your social media details when submitting to #SIOP18 - leave your handles/profile details so we can follow you!
We hope to see you on the SIOP social channels!
Questions about the survey or interested in understanding more about the social media survey through further analyses? Please contact Stephany Below (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
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