Using MBTI® to Build Effective Social Media Teams
Using MBTI® to Build Effective Social Media Teams
Using MBTI® to Build Effective Social Media Teams

As social media starts to weave itself into the fiber of corporate culture, companies are beginning to recognize the need to make organizational changes in order to evolve as social businesses. One area where this is gaining importance is Human Resources. The emergence of new social media roles and how they are integrated into the structure of an organization can have a huge impact on the success of social business initiatives.

As businesses begin to experiment with assembling social media teams some will leverage existing employees, using a corner of the desk approach to gradually embed learning and build capacity, while others will look to hire new staff. Either way, how do you know which employees are best suited for these new roles?

It would seem logical to attach social media responsibilities to existing departments i.e. Marketing, Communication, Web Team, etc. But is this silo approach the most effective? It might make more sense to organize social media teams based on employee personality and the nature of the role vs. physical location or departmental boundaries.

One tool that could be helpful in maximizing human resources potential around social media is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). The MBTI categorizes personality preferences across four primary activities, providing an effective method for understanding people and the way they behave. Here are the basic characteristics of the four areas (and the letter used to define each behaviour preference):

Energizing – How a person gets energized or re-energized.

  • Extraversion (E) – Prefer to get their energy from spending time with people and doing things.
  • Introversion (I) – Prefer to get their energy from spending time alone and reflecting on ideas.

Perceiving – How a person processes information.

  • Sensing (S) – Trust tangible, fact based information that can be processed using the 5 senses. They like to work within actual here and now scenarios.
  • Intuition (N) – Comfortable with intangible, theoretical information that is more abstract and processed through thought and tend to trust insight/intuition. They like to think of the future possibilities.

Deciding – How a person makes decisions.

  • Thinking (T) – Tend to make decisions in an objective manner based on reason, logic and rules.
  • Feeling (F) – Tend to make decisions in a more subjective way based on empathy and consensus.

Living – The lifestyle a person adopts.

  • Judging (J) – Prefer a lifestyle that is planned.
  • Perceiving (P) – Prefer a lifestyle that is spontaneous.

By combining one preference from each of the above you arrive at an individual “type” (for example, my type is ENFP) – there are a total of 16 MBTI types. For the purpose of this post let’s take a high level look at how this could be implemented using the main MBTI quadrants. Introduction to Type® in Organizations by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jean M. Kummerow explains the four quadrants as follows:

“One combination often used to describe personality type relates to the quadrants of the type table. These quadrants combine the energizing preferences (E-I) and the perceiving preferences (S-N) and result in IS, ES, IN and EN quadrants. The quadrants are often used to describe leadership, learning, and work styles as well as corporate culture and ways of handling change.”

By connecting employee MBTI personality preferences to responsibilities you get a better understanding of which employees across the organization might be best suited for specific social media tasks. Here is an example that maps characteristics from the four quadrants mentioned above to emerging social media roles (as highlighted by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund in the Now Revolution):

MBTI Benefits

Using MBTI during the social media team building process allows organizations to:

  1. Identify different employee strengths
  2. Help employees develop their careers within the organization
  3. Build more effective teams by matching roles to the most suitable employees
  4. Increase employee retention and reduce costs related to turnover

What are your experiences with MBTI in an organizational setting? Do you think it would be useful in helping build more effective social media teams? The comments are yours.

About the Author

Mark Smiciklas
Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.
  • Anonymous

    A couple of thoughts: MBTI practitioners are required to follow ethical guidelines and using the MBTI for hiring purposes is not an accepted practice. The MBTI indicates preferences but it does not provide any indication of ability. So, for career planning purposes it often identifies for an individual why they may be attracted to certain types of work but not whether they will be successful in such roles.

    MBTI preferences are very good for developing working relationships among team members in teams that are in place already.

    The MBTI -Step II is a vastly superior product to use as it covers an extensive list of ‘facets’ that do a much better job of denoting preferences. An individual may well report “out-of-preference” facets and these are important.

    Using the MBTI by asking people to self identify from a few lines that generically describe a preference is a slippery slope that can create problems rather than solve them. Teams wanting to use the reports are well advised to do so using a qualified, ethical practitioner.

    Whether a person is and introvert or extrovert, as defined by the MBTI instrument (not to be confused with a social introvert or extrovert) is not indicative of ability in the Social Media space-it will likely be informative as to *how* the individuals chooses to use social technologies but that is all it tells us.

    As a qualified practitioner who has seen the benefits of using the MBTI the trend to using it in ways it is not proven to be accurate (for hiring or having people “guess” their type) is a concern.

    • Thanks for the insight and for clarifying some of the boundaries. I’ve taken Step II and agree that it offers a much more robust profile. Your point about attraction to a role vs. ability to deliver makes perfect sense and it seems logical that MBTI type needs to be used more as a guide than decision making tool when it comes to hiring. I still believe there are opportunities for organizations to use these types of tools to better understand employees and explore how different types of team members might excel at these new digital roles.

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  • Anonymous

    Another affirmation that MBTI is an amazing assessment tool with multiple uses. I use MBTI with Gen Y-ers in the media industry and I find the earlier you know your preference type in your career, the better.

  • Kt Perry

    I am designing a social media proposal, and this is a great extra emphasis on team work.

  • Great article! I will definitely be applying this tool in my businesses.

  • We’ve actually developed a product that merges similar approaches to MBTI and the Forrester Technographics Ladder. While the MBTI types can certainly help understand behaviors that are likely to have success participating in social media, there is also a deeper level that needs to be considered. Matching core behaviors to social tendancies can help an organization map activities and programs to employee trends and achieve greater results.

    At Digital Influence Group, we’ve deployed the methodology into two Fortune 50 organizations and have had overwhelmingly positive results. Over 95% of people who participated felt that the Social Indicator Type we created not only matched their current behavior but also accurtately matched their long term desired behaviors in social media activity.

    We’re just wrapping up the two pilot programs and anticipate an official release of the product in the next two weeks. We’ll be sure to share with you, Mark, to get your thoughts. You can read more about it on my personal blog

    • Thanks Kevin. I would love to read more about that pilot project and will definitely check out the blog.

  • Carlos

    interesting , you are well advanced in this areas compare to Europe , we are still stragling to convince the other key people in the organization to understand the next step in internal and external communication , social networking , some of this key people fell that it is to late to jumpt into that train and many other are interested but they dont understand the way to do it and its benefits.
    what are the firsts steps to take ? what it would be the right approach?


  • Interesting. About a year and a half ago, we used MBTI’s in combination with multi-tasking assessments and situational interviews with my clients at Incept to identify who would be invited to join the BETA group for their conversational marketing team. What was surprising was the high influx of introverts that made the cut. The three individuals chosen who have since been moved into management roles were all INFP’s or INTJ’s.

    After thinking about it and watching them grow into their roles, we came to this conclusion. If natural introverted personalities experience higher levels of anxiety in face to face meetings, then it makes placing technology as a barrier in between social interactions would reduce anxiety and ultimately position introverts to become extroverts online.

    There’s a ton more research that needs to be done in this area to make it actionable on a larger scale, but there’s definitely some meat behind using personality tests to asses candidates for online communication programs at the staffing level.

    • Thanks for sharing your example Nate. Fascinating result and conclusion. It would be really interesting to map MBTI types to existing roles within social businesses to see if any other patterns exist.

      • I have a friend named Brandon Croke (@bcroke) who is interested in the same type of project, and I would be as well. We should all Skype in the near future… :)

        • I would definitely be interested in exploring this – I will reach out via LinkedIn. Thanks again.

  • That’s a great idea – looking into people’s personality types to see where they best fit not only in a company, but in the company’s social media efforts!

    • Thanks Kristi. I thought it would be cool to connect MBTI and/or other personality assessment tools to social media. As roles become defined so might the personality types that excel in them.

  • Thanks for the thought provoking post Mark. I dumb it down (perhaps too much) for my clients. Identify who has passion for SM and is already using it. If the players don’t have real passion and excitement to do SM they will suck at it. We provide a team of brand ambassadors who work in concert with the client’s SM manager and track the results.

    • Thanks for dropping by with a comment. I agree that seeking out passionate users across your organization is a great first step. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with explaining that concept to clients in simple language – too often consultants tend to over-complicate things :)

  • Mlavoie9

    The only thing that nudges at me re: MTBI is that it is self-reported. Other such instruments use ‘other reported’ comments on your behavior, and that added dimension gives us a view to how others see us versus how we see ourselves (and those views are often very different).

    • Interesting you mention that, Mlavoie9 about MBTI.

      I’ve gone through several similar evaluations for team building efforts with a handful of groups.

      HBDI was quite helpful, to me personally, and I’ve had some productive conversations with others when we compared results. That might also be considered.

    • Thanks for the comment and your insight. I agree that a tool presenting a 360 degree approach would definitely add value to the process. I think the MBTI piece is interchangeable – the key is to consider how individual personality/type connects to a social media role and work towards getting people in “the right seats on the bus”.

    • The problem with “other reported”, especially for introverts, is that others see what we show them, which isn’t necessarily at all what we really are.

      I took a “Managing Interpersonal Relationships” class (it used this Personality model: years ago and HATED it solely because it only used “survey results” from co-workers. Those results put me into a category (Driver) I didn’t believe and which made me very uncomfortable, so much so that I decided the entire day was a bunch of hooey. (The real “Analyst” in me was especially annoyed that I was never shown the data; I wrote up a scathing report of the “value” of the “class”.)


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