More than once, I’ve read statistics that demonstrate how women are much more likely to use social media than men. Some of those statistics focus on the specific role a woman may have in life. One that I noticed specifically mentioned how quite a few mothers utilize social media to do something that women have always done well – communicate their likes and dislikes.
None of this should come as a surprise to you. Most of our lives, it is the women who tend to encounter, analyze, and then ultimately share information with their peers. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a new restaurant in town, a great recipe, or a hot business tip. When women find value in something, they want others to know about it.
However, that doesn’t mean that all social platforms are ruled by women. LinkedIn, the oldest of the social platforms and the most business-oriented, skews more male in its population (and always has). And Twitter is almost equally split between males and females, according to Mediabistro’s2013 statistics. Why is that? Although statistics show us the raw numbers across all platforms, only observation tells us how each sex uses them. Do some listening and observe for yourself. Women tend to share more than men, and are naturally more reticent—even in live networking situations. So what does that tell us as marketers?
Men, Women and Social Sharing
It’s hard to think of any type of social interaction online that women don’t use with great effect. In the days before Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest came about, women were often found creating and participating in forums built around specific topics. The information those forum participants shared created a strong sense of empowerment. Everyone had something to share and also something to learn.
Men paid attention to forums too, but interests basically split along gender lines. Women gravitated toward subjects they were interested in, and the same for men. Marketers who paid attention to this phenomenon made sure they asked the right questions on these forums to spark more conversation among their target audiences. And that’s the key to marketing anything—knowing your target audience. Knowing what pushes their buttons. Knowing how they like to receive and share information. Knowing what kind of information they’re looking for. Knowing what motivates them to use a particular platform.
When I check the list of people I’m following on Twitter, the posts that share links to helpful information or include a quick tip on some subject are much more likely to come from women. My news feed on Facebook does include posts from men and women, but the posts from women are much more likely to include ideas that I can use right now. With sites like Pinterest, many of the best links and images come from women who know how to use this medium to best advantage.
On the other hand, men seem to have a different set of rules for using most platforms. They like to have conversations too—just different ones. Take a look at a Twitter conversation between two guys and you’ll see what I mean. There might be a lot of back and forth, but the tweets themselves tend to be shorter. The same for LinkedIn conversations. Men have to be powerfully motivated to share an epistle on a social channel. We’re just not wired the same way as women when it comes to conversation.
Why are Women So Good at Social Media?
The bottom line is that women are communicators. Whether at home, at community events, or in the workplace, women are much more likely to communicate their thoughts and feelings about whatever is happening. By contrast, men tend to be more reticent about sharing information on social media platforms. The one possible exception is when it comes to business promotion. Since that doesn’t tend to get too close to home, men are likely to share links to businesses they like, or share opinions with people that they believe will see things in a similar light.
These are traits that brands should pay close attention to when communicating on social platforms. What kind of content is your male audience more likely to share with his peers/associates as opposed to your female audience? Are your platform profiles and content skewed to one or the other? Have you tracked which platform facilitates the most sharing by your target audience? Rather than look at your audience in terms of job description—try looking at them as men and women when creating the content you want to see shared. I think you’ll see an appreciable difference in what, where and how each likes to share.
Regardless of gender, however, a primary thing to keep in mind is the quality of your customers’ experience with your brand. The old axiom that bad news travels fast is doubly true on social channels. Give a person a bad experience, and social gives them a quick way to tell the world. But if you pay close attention to customer experience at every touchpoint, and bend over backwards to ensure smooth sailing, you’ll have to worry a lot less. And if you provide such a great experience that your customers think you’ve read their minds, social sharing takes on another (much more pleasant) dynamic.
Brands Should Pay More Attention to Content and Context on Social Channels
When thinking through customer experience, I would invest a great deal of effort in evaluating how women and men utilize the features built into the site and listen closely when they make suggestions on how to make it more user friendly. Since women drive the lion’s share of conversation online, the last thing I would want is for women to decide my site was not worth the time or effort, and they would rather spend their time elsewhere. But how can I make it just as user friendly for men?
Perhaps one of the reasons women have taken to social is that social profiles are geared to the way they like to communicate. What if we work harder at creating social utility and content that better fit the male profile? Would we see the demographics even out more? The possibility is there and it is worth pursuing.
Brands should take this to heart, and take some time to watch how women and men use (or don’t use) the social business pages they create. Here again, creativity should start with anticipating the user experience for each gender. Women are definitely stronger when it comes to social sharing—so your platform, content and usability should reflect that. But rather than leave men out of the equation, we should be watching them more closely as well. What motivates men to share? How is their perception of customer experience different from that of women—and how can you capitalize on that? How can you provide more incentive for them to pass along their experiences to their peers, coworkers and employers?
Social sharing will become more and more important as digital matures—so I think we’ll see more success across genders when we learn to provide platforms that meet both of their needs. That means paying more attention. Asking more questions. Inviting more feedback. Women might be sharing more now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it easier for men to share as well. We just need to pay closer attention to what, how and why men and women use and share online, what turns them off and what delights them–so we can create great experiences for them, and provide optimal opportunities for both to share those experiences.
Originally posted at InsideCXM – April // Expert Insight