What makes social media “social”? Blog Post # 2

This week saw the celebration of Facebook’s 10th anniversary.  A Pew Research Centre survey shows that, despite rumours of its impending death, Facebook use is still on the rise, even among teens.  But it seems that users approach it differently based on their gender.  The survey results suggest that women use it for more truly “social” purposes than do men, who use it primarily to catch up on the news.

While equal numbers of men and women use Facebook to receive feedback on comments and get updates on their networks, more women than men use it to receive support, help others, look at photos and videos, and share “funny” posts – to be sociable, in other words.

If men and women tend to use the most popular platform in different ways, then businesses and organizations trying to reach customers or influence the political actions of the people in their networks should probably tailor their social media messaging and usage to the gender differences that have been documented. Facebook would be a good platform for sharing stories and videos that women might repost and share with their friends. It would be a good tool for raising awareness amongst women of social issues.  But it might not be a good place to post a call to action for men.

In May 2013, U.S.-based Government Technology magazine reported that it isn’t just how men and women use social media that differs – they also are drawn to different social media tools. More men than women use Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  More women than men use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. While 67% of online adults use Facebook, 58% of Facebook’s user base is female.  And the average woman on Facebook shares more items and has more friends than the average man.  But where they really dominate is on Pinterest, where 70% of the user base is female.

Men, on the other hand, tend to flock to Google+ but they don’t use it to interact with other people — it is not a “social” media platform in that sense.  Similarly, they outnumber females in using LinkedIn (at 54% of the user base), using it primarily to research other companies or to reconnect with past business associates. The network they seem to wish to connect with is a professional network as opposed to a community or family or “social” network.  Men also go to YouTube more often and spend longer on YouTube than typical female users do.  YouTube, while it invites comments and sharing, does not promote social interaction the way that the female-dominated platforms do, so much as consumption of entertainment.

You might conclude from this that if you are trying to generate business, you should  have a strategy to go after LinkedIn or Google+ but there isn’t any evidence that companies have done that successfully yet.  Interestingly enough, Pinterest is generating more business for companies using social media than is any other platform.  Companies seem to be doing a good job of reaching the female consumer with social media.  If I were running a business and trying to generate revenue from male consumers, it seems that a good YouTube video and a sound company profile on LinkedIn would be the preferred medium, but we might want to start referring to those platforms as the less-social media.






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