Social relationships can have important fitness consequences, and how well an individual is socially connected often correlates with other behavioral traits. Whether such correlations are caused by underlying individual differences in social attraction usually remains unclear, because to identify effects of individual traits on social attraction, it is essential to experimentally exclude the influence of the social partner. Using standardized high-definition video playback on captive great tits (Parus major), we effectively demonstrate the influence of individual traits on the motivation to be near a conspecific. We show that social attraction varied contrastingly with boldness and stimulus novelty. Shyer birds tended to show stronger social attraction when they were confronted with the stimulus bird for the first time. Lower ranked birds showed the overall strongest social attraction. This rank effect remained after experimentally changing dominance ranks by altering group compositions. Moreover, preference for social association tended to increase with a decrease in dominance rank, suggesting that birds plastically change their social preference in relation to their within-group dominance status. Our results provide insight into how social relations can form and change, processes that are key for understanding the long-term consequences of the social environment, and the role individuals might play in influencing this environment themselves.