13.03.2013 Facebook ‘Likes’ Can Predict Your Personality: Lessons for brands

Your perfect Saturday night is spent sprawled across the sofa, Mozart is playing on Classic FM and you’ve just finished reading Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’. You are liberal, artistic and intelligent; yet your Facebook friends already know that, right?

As our real life personalities translate directly into our online personas, it has become normal for us to share our hobbies and opinions with our friends and followers on social networking sites.

With its convenient ‘like’ tool, Facebook has become an ideal platform to store our interests and build an online character for ourselves.

Yet, as our ‘likes’ can be often viewed by anybody on the internet, a major new study has shown that our online behaviour may reveal more about us than we think.

As part of the investigation, a team of psychologists and computer scientists at The University of Cambridge analysed the online behavioural pattern of 58,000 Facebook users. The results exposed information about a user’s IQ, sexual orientation, political views and relationship status.

For instance, the research suggests that those who like ‘Huggies’ and ‘Weight Watchers’ are highly likely to be in a relationship, while users who like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Lord of The Rings’ are prone to having a high IQ.

Whether  a user’s favourite singer is Michael Jackson or Justin Bieber, the survey was 95% accurate in distinguishing black people from white, 85% accurate at determining a man’s sexuality and 60% accurate at working out whether the person’s parents were separated before the age of 21.

Interestingly, the study found a disparity between a person’s online and real-life personality, indicating that people make a conscious effort to create a different perception of themselves for online contacts.

An example of online/offline inconsistency can be shown in the number of friends a person has on their social networking site. For example, a study named the ‘Psychology of Social Networking’ shows that, on average, a person has 245 Facebook friends, compared with 150 in real life. The analysis also shows that 30% of people add certain friends due to the impression it may give to other users.

Most psychological examinations illustrate that people tweak and change their personalities to suit different situations.  Yet, now that Cambridge University has highlighted that a person’s likes can reveal deeper aspects of their character or life circumstances, it poses the question whether people will become more conscious when selecting friends and endorsing different brands.

And if so, how can brands become the ‘must likes’ for people trying to convey particular personas?

With 172 million users, Facebook is widely recognised as a digital ‘mirror’ to the real world and has become an important tool for brand marketing.

In the same way that employers often look at prospective employees on Facebook before offering them a position, consumers often judge a brand or company by the way they are represented online. And many companies have achieved great results by creating an effective digital presence.

For example, to depict itself as a fun and accessible brand, Converse developed an online tool to allow Facebook users to create a ‘horrifying’ profile picture under the name ‘Frankenpic’. As one of the most successful Facebook apps with over 6 million fans, it is clear that the brand’s digital strategy appeals to their young target audience.

Andrew Hickey, Social Media Manager, at G Adventures, an adventure travel firm, says that social media has transformed their company’s positioning.  By training their employees to use digital platforms, the company found that their relationship with customers rapidly improved through communication on Twitter, Instagram on Facebook.

He said:

“We love it when [travellers] tweet us a pic, we reply and they reply back, it’s like two friends having a conversation during a life changing trip.”

When discussing G Adventure’s online strategy, he highlighted the importance of maintaining a personality that reflects the values of the company. He said:

“We’re a lifestyle brand and for that reason, tweeting interesting, thought-provoking, moving, weird, nerdy and funny content makes sense.”

The Cambridge University study reviewed the digital activity of individual Facebook users, and what it tells us about them. This is interesting itself, but can be flipped into how companies and brands are perceived through the eyes of the consumer.

In a world where 1 in every 8th person has a Facebook profile, it is fundamental to ensure that your values, campaigns and messages are conveyed in the best possible way online.

Our tips for building an online reputation:

  1. Engage your fans: Competitions or games are a great way to ensure that users are interested in your brand. Skittles’ ‘Mob The Rainbow’ game is a great example, running across Facebook, Twitter and its website.

  2. Make your fans famous: Picking out fans is a great Facebook strategy. Oreo’s ‘Fan of the week’ is instigated through a photo competition and the chosen person is displayed in a major banner on the company’s Facebook page. If your fans feel connected to your brand, you deepen your engagement with them.
  3. Create videos: Creating humorous videos will drive people to your page and encourage users to share the film with their friends, resulting in more traffic and ‘likes’/followers.
  4. Have a clear ‘call to action’: Encouraging users to get involved in an interactive campaign is an effective tactic. Starbucks’s call for fans to ‘Join the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Celebration’ proved to be popular with users, giving them the opportunity to post pictures onto Facebook and feel part of the campaign.
  5. Give good image:  Images are often more powerful than words and will help attract consumer audiences. For example, many fashion brands including Zara upload pictures of their latest styles to inspire users and drive them to their online and high street stores. The growing use of Pinterest by a wide range of brands is also worthy of marketing managers’ attention.