NextStage has been studying social media since before social media was “social media”. We started investigating how people respond to digital information back in the days of BBSes, message boards and the like. We created wikis and blogs with distinct gender lines back in 2002-3 and watched how the different gender groups interacted and adapted themselves and the medium into something that would serve them.Two things are really becoming obvious.
Most blogs and wikis, whether the main contributor is a man or a woman, get a double spike when women are involved. Spike #1 occurs when a female posts an entry or comment. Spike #2 is that a woman’s post or comment spurs other posts and comments from both genders.
Things that Don’t Change and Things That Do
I’ve written before that defining elements in how men and women utilize social networks are based on their needs for authority and community, respectively. I explained in an IMedia presentation, Gender Specific Marketing Discoveries, that how males and females utilize social media to build community is distinctly different. The elements that draw men don’t necessarily draw women and vice versa, and that the elements that repel men don’t necessarily repel women, so on and so forth.
What surprises most people during these presentations is that what’s true in the offline world has recognizable analogs in the online world. This is one reason why virtual worlds such as Second Life have some of the magnetism they do in certain demographics. Social needs remain social needs regardless of whether they’re demonstrated on the soccer field or in cyberspace. What changes is how those needs are demonstrated.
It is part of the wiring of the male mind that men will always notice women. It is part of the wiring of the female mind that women will also always notice women. One of the differences in the wiring is that men — given no other information to work with — will hypothesize about the person they’re communicating with. Hypothesize is a polite way of saying they’ll fantasize.
Men will hypothesize about other men along a social power or authority vector. Western culture recognizes this vector as “success” and the two easiest ways for males to recognize success when no other factors are available are that men envy you and women desire you.
Men will hypothesize about women along…well…along fantasy vectors. Get two or more men together, get them really comfortable with each other, and you can measure their true level of comfort with each other by how quickly the conversation degrades into discussions about women and usually around the themes of power and authority.
Women will also hypothesize and fantasize but where men are using vertical vectors to understand what they can not see, women are using horizontal ones. Women will place women and men at a psychological distance from themselves based on the number and types of differences that exist between them. This is actually a multi-dimensional placement along a primarily horizontal line (Should you ever take a class with me or see me at a conference, ask me to demonstrate how men relate to men and how women relate to women). The most obvious way gender differences demonstrate themselves is that women create networks to establish power and authority, men establish power and authority to create networks.
Success Requires a Woman’s Touch
These gender differences play themselves out in the development and growth of online social networks. Men post an entry or comment and the fact that they’re male automatically makes them psychologically distant from women. Women post an entry or comment and women respond to understand direction and distance, men respond to understand hierarchy.
This is a boon to businesses marketing to any mixed gender demographic. Want to make sure your message reaches an optimal audience? Advertise on a social media site. Just make sure women are part of the audience.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
Links for this post:
- DC Emetrics Summit on 14-17 Oct ’07
- Society for New Communications Research Annual Research Symposium & Awards Gala on 5-6 Dec 07 in Boston.
Come on by and say hello.