Advertisers Could Target Online Audiences More Efficiently with Personality Scale, Journalism Researchers Find

By Nathan Hurst
MU News Bureau

Columbia, Mo. (July 12, 2012) — Online advertising has become prevalent in the past five years, and social media sites, such as Facebook, have played a major role. Now, a study at the Missouri School of Journalism has developed a method that could help advertisers target online audiences easier by knowing their personality types.

Heather Shoenberger
Heather Shoenberger

Using a new personality scale, researchers determine how people with certain personality types use social media websites. Heather Shoenberger and Edson Tandoc, journalism doctoral students, found that those individuals who liked high-risk activity tended to update their status, upload photos and interact with friends frequently. Individuals who were more reserved, though, tended to merely scroll through Facebook’s “news feed,” and did not upload photos or actively engage with their friends frequently.

Edson Tandoc
Edson Tandoc

“The scale that we used is called the Mini-Motivation Activation Measure, or Mini-MAM, scale,” Shoenberger said. “Using this scale, we were able to find a trend in the patterns of how people with certain personality types use social media. I believe this could really help advertisers and certain types of media groups target potential customers with particular ads on social media sites. For example, if a company wants to target a population for a high-risk activity, they should try to determine who is active on Facebook posting pictures and updating their status frequently.”

In their study, Shoenberger and Tandoc surveyed people about their use on Facebook and then asked them to take the Mini-MAM test to determine their personality type. Those who leaned toward high-risk activities were labeled as “appetitive,” while those who were more reserved in their activities were labeled as “aversive.” They found that while both personality types used Facebook frequently, there were significant differences in how those on Facebook use the social media site.

“If you’re highly ‘appetitive’ or lean toward high-risk activities, you’re more likely to want engage with media that are more exciting, whereas those who are higher in the ‘aversive’ trait tend to enjoy safer and more predictable media experiences,” Shoenberger said. “Identifying these individuals using the motivation activation measure can give advertisers an advantage over their competitors and bring some order to online advertising.”

Shoenberger and Tandoc’s study was presented at the International Communication Association Conference in Phoenix this summer.

Updated: June 9, 2020

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