Women in Social Media: Seeing Their Influence

Online marketing experts have long lead the belief that social media is the great equalizer, and there are hundreds examples that support the narrative. Everything from the Arab Spring, to WikiLeaks and Grumpy Cat have shown the world that even the smallest idea can influence millions. My personal recent favourite was Oreo's hijacking of the Super Bowl for its OREO #DunkintheDark. Companies that don’t have massive budget for promotions can now harness the power of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which are available for free, and obtain the same level of success or perhaps even more than their large brand competitors. Small businesses can now bring their enterprise in a global scale a lot quicker and more convenient. But who in the pool of talent is embracing the digital revolution, driving new influences and agendas.

gina tweetA recent exchange of tweets with my good friend Christel Quek (who recently steps into the shoes to lead Twitter's Content across Asia) Middle East, and Africa, shared a fascinating report on the gender indifferences on the various platforms. Perfect timing given International Women's Day just past, and we've seen the rise of hashtag #Twitter4Women which bounced between Singapore's highly influential group of Gina Romero (@Gina_Romero, Athena Network), Freddie Covington (@Freddie_covi) and Sara Varela (@VarelaSara). A group that has been at the epicentre of Social Media and Women in Singapore for years. I can't commend these women highly enough for the enthusiasm, drive and leadership they've shown during my time in the space. I have been lucky enough to be included in some of their awesome work such as being a VIP at a recent Connecting Women event hosted by Gina.

Brand Engagement in Social Media

The report at the centre of the conversation tweaks at a trend that many of us might understand, but very few have seen the numbers laid out so beautifully. The recent data provided by survey firms such as Pew Internet Research, however, tells a different story: the “equalizer” doesn’t really extend to males and females. Even in social media, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is very much alive. One interesting extrapolation I would have liked to see, would be extending the sample population be extended to cover more nationalities, regions and ethnicities to see if the general trends continue. While this study is insightful, its a very US centric view of the world. Particularly in hyper growth markets like Indonesia, Brasil and the Philippines. If anyone knows of such a report, or data, please do let me know.

What do the numbers say?

New in Social Media

Based on the information provided by Pew last September 2013, over 70% of U.S. adults are using social media. But:

  • Among the women surveyed, close to 80% of them are in social media. There’s an almost 10% difference from men with only 69%. Kind of a rough number to derive insight from, but we have to assume the sample selection was unbiased.
  • A number that is very close to my own agenda on mobility, the female population dominate men when it comes to accessing social media  through their mobile phones at 41% for women and 39% for men. This piece of data I am keen to explore further, figure out if its a behavioural or context difference in the genders.
  • They lead across the biggest social media platforms to date, such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. They are equal with men in LinkedIn.
  • Women also spend more time in social media than men at 30% versus 26%.
  • It’s also not surprising to note that they are the more interactive in social media, considering the amount of time and domination in various websites. For instance, they are more than likely to show support, read news and updates, post comments, or get offers from brands than men.
  • Females are in general more “visual” since they top the men on sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.

What can we gather from all these? Like any other data on the behaviours of society on the internet, these numbers represent only a sample. The sad truth is there are really no hard conclusions to draw from these figures, as they are merely a survey and therefore subject to interpretation to anyone who gets to have it. Any creative statistician could tune the numbers to support multiple theories. Nevertheless, based on the data, we may hypothesise certain points:

  • Women have a huge influence when it comes to building brands, as it turns out that they can be there in every sales cycle, from brand awareness to purchase (like getting offers). Although men shouldn’t be out of the picture when it comes to marketing products online, if you want to grow fast, you may have to attract the attention of the women first.
  • While some may say women have been more outspoken over the last few decades, social media has given them a more dynamic avenue to create opinions, form communities and develop circles of influence.
  • Brands with the female population as target markets should do three things: be in social media, give them tools to collaborate and be more interactive, and specialize in visuals. Its' all about empowerment in communities.
  • A very interesting thing to point out is how more men are in LinkedIn than the ladies. It could be because LinkedIn is more referred to as a professional website and therefore less dynamic in structure than other sites like Twitter and Facebook. It could also reflect the structure of LinkedIn's platform, could it be said LinkedIn is more formal, structured and controlled?

So has social media changed or altered any gender roles in the social space? My humble opinion is women were more social creatures even before the advent of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. So the new enablers like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter only heighten a universal truth. But it does highlight the important role the ladies play in driving the dialogue in a world where brand is now a two-way conversation. No longer can the hierarchical push message structure of yesteryear resonate with the market, instead brands have to draw sincere empathy in the pursuit of consumer support and dollars, engaging the audience in a two-way dialogue of purpose, position and value. Does this represent a strong changing of the guard? Does man's logical, structured mind limit their abilities in a social world? Is it any wonder women like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are such prominent figures in today's socially connected, tech savvy world. As we rebuild society's social frameworks, sense of belongingness and community, those they master social interaction will rise to the top. Raise your glass to the ladies of social media in celebration of International Women's Day.

Social Media use via Mobile