Imagine two organisations.
Both realise that their customers, employees and other stakeholders are using social media. Both place an emphasis on being open, and on listening and learning. Both are ready to increase their use of social media. Both decide that starting a corporate blog would be an excellent way of beginning this journey.
In one of these organisations, someone volunteers for the role of corporate blogger. Why? Because it excites them. Blogging made sense to them when they started their popular personal journal about alpacas. After a year of personal blogging, it feels even more right to them today. The organisation appreciates their enthusiasm, values their track record, trusts their judgment, and invites them onto the corporate blog.
In the other organisation, management picks the blogger. The person they pick for this role is smart and senior, but not genuinely excited by blogging. Intellectually they can see that it makes sense, but when they sit down to read and write, it just doesn't feel right.
The first organisation wins, every time. Why? Because success is dependent on what this person actually does when they become a blogger, and personality type is one of the main determinants of how we use social media.
For example, in the Myers-Briggs system, I'm an ISTP. Quoting Wikipedia, folk of my type are:
"...masters at using tools of every type — artistic, technological, martial. Although they are introverts, they are authoritarian in their interactions with others and can be forceful at influencing people. They focus on accomplishing tasks efficiently and skillfully."
(Ignore the bit about being "authoritarian". That hurts!)
With this analysis in mind, it's easy to see why I'm attracted to blogging. I'm the kind of person who thinks that blogging software is a doddle to use (not everyone does) and who takes great pleasure in the soapbox that it provides. I also enjoy analysing the world around me, which is helped by absorbing a continual stream of challenging, insightful blog posts from my peers.
My personality type also goes a long way towards explaining why I prefer the efficiency of Facebook to the expressiveness of MySpace, why I watch and share many more YouTube videos than I create, and why I'd much rather read about the recent Twitterstorm that participate in it.
You may be different. In fact you almost certainly are. That's part of the beauty of being human and the power of personality typing. And these differences will affect your use of social media.
So what does this mean for our work as professional communicators? For a start, it highlights the importance of supporting individuals in their search for tools that make sense for them. Rather than encouraging them to all use the same tools in the same way, try supporting them to be their best in the social environments that make sense to them. You'll be floored by the contributions they often make to conversations that are relevant to your organisation.