By Liana “Li” Evans
There is a definite difference in how men and women utilize, share, communicate and move around in social media. It’s actually fascinating to watch once you become aware of the differences. I started to notice the difference months ago, by studying the audiences in all the different social media mediums and how the people within the communities speak and communicate with one another.
My thoughts on this were further intrigued after reading two different pieces.
The first piece was Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I read this looking at the different demographics involved with the different types of social media channels. I was utterly fascinated with how social news and social bookmarking sites skewed highly male, and forums and networking skewed highly female.
My interested was further piqued after reading a survey conducted by Rapleaf (hat tip to Dianne Aull of BootstrapSEO for turning me on to this). In this smaller study, by smaller I mean the number of social media sites looked at, it showed overwhelmingly that women dominated sites like Facebook Friendster and Myspace. In this survey it showed that LinkedIn skewed highly male.
So why the difference? Why such lopsided numbers in demographics?
If you understand anything about how men and women react to one another, in general (and understand I do realize not all women and not all men fall into these categories, but a majority do), women converse and share more. Women want to talk about their experience, they want to express their feelings whether they are raving about a product, pissed of about the service they recieved or gushing about a book they just read, women love to share. Networking sites like MySpace and forums are places that not only facilitate this, but encourage it.
Men on the other hand are less expressive. It’s rare you see a man gushing about the brand new suit he picked up at Men’s Wharehouse, or ranting about how the lawn care guy didn’t really cut his grass the way he liked. Men tend to voice their opinion in the quickest and fastest ways they can, to get back to the tasks in front of them. This is why sites like Digg, LinkedIn and Delicious skew highly male. It’s simple, you write a review, you answer a question, you vote a story up, you bookmark a page. Simple, there’s not much “sharing” going on there.
I even find it fascinating with my friends across all the different networks. The most active friends I have on the Social News Sites – 95% are men. They are the ones sending me “shout outs” to come vote up their submissions – without any explanations, just the email. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, but as a woman, I tend to want a bit more (see I’m looking for expression). Men think really nothing of this, because it’s sort of like, I vote you up, you vote me up when it’s time.
Women, on the other hand generally approach it as, “Hey do you want to read this? If you like it, feel free to vote it up”, and send me a link to the actual article/post, rather than to the social site. I’m not saying one way is right over the other, I’m just pointing out, how men and women communicate differently.
For men, its seems interacting in social networks is more like a transaction, I’ll do this for you now, you’ll help me out down the line. For women in social networks it is more about sharing their feelings, and experiences on these networks. Even these networks and companies providing applications to these networks are becoming more and more attuned to it. Look at RockYou and Slide, the designs are very geared towards women with those “glittery” options right there at that top of both.
So how does this affect marketers? By knowing your demographic, it can help you to know where to start a conversation with your potential audience at. Where you can appeal to them more, basically on their own turf, where they feel most comfortable. If you are technology company, maybe you put together a knowledge base of articles on tech topics and start working with Digg, SlashDot and Delicious. If you’re a scrapbooking company, start groups on Facebook, upload photos on Flickr and join those scrapbooking forums. Knowing where your audience is is a big part of your strategy in social media, understanding how men and women differ in social media use can also go a long way in reaching the right audiences too.