PhotoIt seems like just about everyone these days has a Facebook account, but a new study suggests that not every consumer uses it in the same way.

After collecting and analyzing responses on the potential reasons why people use Facebook, a team of communications professors from Brigham Young University say that there are four distinct types of Facebook users. They conclude that all four types of people put themselves out in the digital space for different reasons.

“Why are people so willing to put their lives on display? Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?’” says lead author Tom Robinson. “Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now. And most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness,” adds co-author Kris Boyle.

The four types of Facebook users

Based on collected responses, the researchers say the four categories of Facebook users are: relationship builders, town criers, selfies, and window shoppers.

Relationship builders are the types of people who will respond to others’ posts and use other Facebook features to fortify the relationships they have with people in the real world. “They use it as an extension of their real life,” said Robinson, adding that most people in this category would agree with the statement: “Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.”

Town criers are Facebook users who use the platform to inform those around them about the local, national, and global events taking place at that time. This kind of user would be the most likely to repost a news story or announce an upcoming event, but they’re generally much more reserved when it comes to posting status updates or uploading pictures of themselves.

Selfies are Facebook users who use the site to self-promote with status updates, pictures, and videos. But unlike relationship builders, the researchers say that these users often post in an effort to grab attention through likes and comments. Boyle says that many of Facebook selfies use the platform to “present an image of themselves, whether it’s accurate or not,” and would identify with the statement: “The more ‘like’ notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.”

Window shoppers are Facebook users who feel some sort of social obligation to have an account on the site but rarely use the platform’s features to post updates or pictures. Co-author Clark Callahan explains that this doesn’t necessarily mean that these consumers don’t use the site, they just might be more likely to read others’ status updates and posts without feeling the need to contribute themselves.

Little of this, little of that

Robinson, Boyle, and Callahan say that their findings were interesting since it uncovered the presence of town criers and window shoppers, which were never really discussed before. Additionally, they said that most consumers don’t think of themselves as belonging to only one category.

“Everybody we’ve talked to will say, ‘I’m part of this and part of this, but I’m mostly this,’” explained Robinson.

The full study has been published in the International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking.


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