Your personality type plays a role in how you interact with social networks, and can factor into how much time you spend on sites like Facebook and Twitter, what kind of information you post and how much you regret posting material that others may consider questionable. While research in the area is preliminary, future studies could be crucial for companies looking to target users who are most likely to comment on a brand page or recommend products to friends through social networks.

The findings of the most recent study in the field were recently published in the academic journal Computers in Human Behavior. While limited in scope - the study included 143 college students who completed both phases - researchers Kelly Moore and James C. McElroy said theirs was the first to make use of actual usage data.

The personality study disputed some findings of earlier studies, where researchers had relied on self-reported data from Facebook users. That allowed Moore and McElroy to analyze the actual content that users were posting and see which types of personalities did what when they went online.

Previous research had suggested that the Five Factor Model used to assess personality was the best predictor of Internet activity. The model covers five personality factors, including extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to new experiences. Moore and McElroy also factored in gender considerations (women tend to spend more time on social networks, post more photos and have more Facebook friends, while men tend to check them more often).

What they found is that personality played a much bigger factor in how people use social networks than previously thought. While personality only accounted for a 6% difference in self-reported time spent on Facebook, it accounted for a 14% variance in regret over Facebook posts and interactions, a 16% variance in postings about one’s self and a 41% variance in postings about others.

Emotional Stability, Personality and Facebook Use

The study confirmed previous research that showed people with less social stability reported spending more time on Facebook, while more emotionally stable and more introverted users primarily used Facebook to keep up with friends. The study also lent some credibility to the theory that introverts often use Facebook to make up for a lack of interpersonal communication.

Previous, self-reported studies had suggested that extroverts spent more time on Facebook and tended to post more personal posts - think of the dreaded “this is what I had for breakfast” status update. But Moore and McElroy turned that notion on its head. In fact, people who scored high in the agreeableness of the personality test tended to be the ones most likely to offer status updates about themselves.

Based on previous studies, the researchers also predicted that conscientious people would likely spend less time and have fewer friends on Facebook. The reasoning was that people with those personality characteristics believe Facebook will not drive efficiency or production.

The study, however, upended that notion, showing that scoring highly for conscientiousness in personality tests was not a reliable predictor of Facebook activity.

What It Means

Moore and McElroy warned that further research is needed and said future studies should work on developing a theoretical framework explaining why some people spend more time and energy on Facebook and social networks than others.

Advertisers are getting wise to the idea that, unlike traditional mediums, social media requires them to find influencers who can effectively make word-of-mouth recommendations for their products and brand. Future research in personality type may not only make it easier to find the people most likely to do this, but firms could develop ways to identify those people based on their social network posts.