Our fascination with the differences between men and women has spawned countless TV shows, hit songs, and best-selling books. And now we’re starting to understand how gender also influences social media use.

I began thinking about this while reading Porter Novelli’s EuroPNstyles research, conducted among  consumers in the UK and other European countries by my colleague Melissa Taylor, EVP of strategic planning and research. Drilling down into the facts and stats around social media, several clear trends emerged showing that the same preferences and behaviours are being played out in the digital space just as they are offline.

Of course both sexes are highly engaged in social media, but our data indicates that women are using social channels to reinforce existing social connections, and to interact with friends and family. By contrast men demonstrate a clear bias toward showing or sharing status, and promoting their opinions to the wider world. Never mind Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – today it seems Men are from Foursquare, Women are from Facebook.

I pulled some of these trends into a presentation that I gave today as part of Social Media Week London, here are a few UK highlights:

  • Women are more socially active than men:  65% of women access social media at least once a week, compared with just 51% of men
  • Women are more likely to connect with people they know: 93% of women using social media do so to read posts and view pictures from friends or to comment on their friends’ profiles. For men the numbers dropped to 89% and 84% respectively.
  • UK women lead the rest of Europe in following brands to access deals and offers – this is the motivation for around 64% of women in social media, compared to a European average of just 52%, and 56% among UK men.
  • Men are more likely to use social networks to display status and opinions. In the UK, 45% of men use social media to check into places compared with just 33% of women.  Men are also happier to broadcast what they’re saying to the world: 35% of socially-savvy men are Twitter users compared to 27% of women.
  • Men are also more active in the blogosphere: 54% of digitally-active men say they seek out other people’s blogs to read, compared with 46% of women. Men are more active bloggers than women too (34% vs 24%).

 

It’s interesting to see that Forrester, the Wall Street Journal, comScore and even Facebook are all seeing similar trends, although brands and marketers are not always following suit. As Forrester’s Tracy Stokes argues: “Women have the potential to drive a brand’s reputation online because compared with men, they are more connected with each other and like to talk about brands and products, especially in social media. But marketers, particularly in more male-oriented categories like finance, are not making a digital connection with women.”

It sounds simple but in this new era of communications, it’s not enough to know how to “do digital” – we still need to understand people and what influences them, regardless of the medium.  Those brands that manage to combine social media savvy with human insights will maximise their chance of success.

Note: EuroPNStyles is an annual study conducted by Porter Novelli among more than 10,000 European consumers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands (UK sample = 1,700 people). It reflects our agency’s belief that research uncovers insights which can trigger behavioural change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helen Nowicka is executive vice president, digital, with Porter Novelli Public Services in Washington, D.C.