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Professional vs. Personal: The Social Media Mindset Divide

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Personal social networks and professional ones satisfy different needs and interests, and have different sets of emotional drivers that fuel them: People not only make different types of connections but also experience different sets of emotions, depending on network type, according to a study conducted by TNS for LinkedIn.

When visiting personal networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) people experience emotions around memories and entertainment, whereas when visiting professional networks (e.g., LinkedIn, BranchOut, and BeKnown) people are motivated by the sense of purpose to achieve the goals they've set, the study found.

According to the top five drivers identified by the study, when using personal networks, people spend time being entertained, whereas when using professional networks, people invest their time to connect with people and brands that align with their drive for achievement and success:

Below, additional findings from the study titled "Market to Mindset," which explores what motivates people when they visit social networking sites, and what type of content they prefer when they visit those sites.


Types of Content

The casual and purposeful mindsets create differences in the content people expect to see on each type of network.

Among professional social networkers, career information tops the list for preferred content, followed by updates on brands, and current affairs:

Types of Brand Content

The types of brand content that users want to see further reflect the mindset divide between spending time and investing time.

Among professional social networkers, content related to improving oneself professionally is most preferred (15%), followed by content that helps people make business decisions (10%).

By contrast, among personal social networkers, content that entertains is most favorable (10%).

Types of Influence

The casual and purposeful mindsets are also reflected in users' motivations to connect and their ability to influence.

When using personal, social networks, 61% of people view influence in terms of sharing information with others, whereas 39% view influence as being the first to know. 

On professional social networks, 65% view influence in terms of sharing information (7% more than for personal networks), whereas 45% view influence as being the first to know (15% higher than for personal networks).

About the data: This research was conducted by TNS on behalf of LinkedIn among more than 6,000 social media users (age 18+) across 12 countries, February to April 2012. The study was conducted in two stages consisting of quantitative and qualitative phases. Professional and personal networks were grouped by how users identified the majority of their connections. For the study, professional networks consisted of LinkedIn, BranchOut, BeKnown, Viadeo, and Xing; personal networks were Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Orkut.


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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Scott Olson Wed Sep 26, 2012 via web

    This is interesting research and the breakdown of 'personal' versus 'professional' got me thinking. With the blending of personal and professional lives and all the research and marketing being done around using the 'personal' social networking sites for 'professional' purposes, is the distinction really that great? And, is it going away? Do we tweet as ourselves to keep it touch and tweet as our business to build a community? Or in the end is building a community the real end-game in both situations? If that's the case, it might be beneficial to share ideas, content and assertions with both your personal and professional network to keep in touch with 'personal' contacts and continue to expand 'professional' ones. Any thoughts?

  • by Meagan Dahl Fri Sep 28, 2012 via web

    Great information here, I especially appreciate you pointing out spend vs. invest. This rings true to strategies I've implemented for my agency's various media platforms but it's great to have data visualizations to support our thoughts. I think that understanding your audience is the core of social media marketing, and understanding leads to connections, which ultimately leads to conversions. But none of that can happen without the understanding transmitting into an active relationship between parties.

    If you can pinpoint what your audience's needs are on individual platforms and, in turn, speak to those needs, you are creating collateral and empowering them to be advocates for your brand. So yes, spend time vs. invest time, but both can be equally effective in fostering relationships.

  • by Jawdat Sun Sep 30, 2012 via web

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to write a dissertation about the relationship between brand and social media there is any suggestion please or help

  • by Mike Peiman Tue Jun 11, 2013 via web

    Interesting overview of the poll. FYI, your math in the final sentence doesn't add up, looks like it should be 6%, not 15% difference (in other words, both are a fairly modest difference). Thanks for the insight.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Wed Jun 12, 2013 via web

    Hi, Mike. It's a difference of 6 percentage points--which is not the same as a 6% difference.

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