Women & Our Online Behavior and Social Media Habits

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SheSpeaks.com conducted a great survey of women’s online and computer habits, and published the results in a comprehensive 65-page document.  It’s a fascinating study that looks mainly at women’s social habits online, and most definitely has implications for online marketing.  Looking at the results of this study can help you tailor your marketing campaigns to effectively, rather than ineffectively, reach out to women.

Shopping & Social

Not surprisingly, the top activity for women online is shopping.  The third most popular activity is social networking, which is also not a surprise given the stereotype that women just love to talk.  The fact that both of these activities are very popular with women means that there is also some cross-over issues to consider.  If women like to shop online, they’re likely to talk about that online and there are probably certain kinds of marketing tactics that will work better with them.

One of the first very obvious things that this study shows is that women of all ages are very active in social networks. Younger women are more active and have more contacts than older women, but a sizeable number of 40+ are taking advantage of social networking, and in some cases are more engaged than their younger peers.

Making up half the world’s population, “women” is a pretty large group.  Within that group, then, you’d expect some different patterns of behavior to emerge.  The biggest differences can be seen in different age groups – under 30’s and 40-somethings on up.  With most 30 and unders having grown up with computers, it’s not surprising.

Key Findings of the Study

Here are some of the key findings for the two groups:

Younger women:

  • Are more likely to say “connect with others” as top online activity (73%), compared to 40+ women (31%).
  • Are more likey to look at consumer generated content (28%) than 40+ (10%).
  • Are more likely to have profiles. 86% of 30 & under have profiles.
  • Facebook and MySpace are most popular (78% and 79%)
  • LinkedIn is more popular with high earners (41% for HHI $120K+ vs. 17% overall)

Older women are:

  • 45% of 40+ have profiles.
  • More active than younger women on Classmates (42% vs 19% for <30s).
  • Facebook and MySpace are most popular (65% and 63%)
  • LinkedIn is more popular with high earners (41% for HHI $120K+ vs. 17% overall)

None of those findings are really all that earth-shattering.  Perhaps most surprising, however, is the high numbers of older women (40+) that are using social networks.  It appears that while a majority of women join these networks to “connect” or “reconnect” (61% and 66%), there are also other factors at play.  Younger women are most likely to join connect, reconnect, and share photos.  A high proportion of older women, on the otherhand, join to keep an eye on their kids’ online activites, especially those with children ages 13 to 17.

Women aren’t just signing up and forgetting about their profiles and connections either.  Half of all women log into social networks everyday.  Two-thirds of under 30’s log-in daily, and 41% of 40+ log-in daily.

So what do Women do on Social Networks?

When you get a bunch of women together, who most enjoy shopping online and talking, what exactly do they talk about? 62% of all women talk about products, and 71% of those with children ages 13 to 17 talk about products.  What kind of products do they talk about?  The most talked about category of products on social networks by women is beauty products.  After that food/restaurants and movies/entertainment were also popular, especially amongst younger women.

How do women feel about ads?

Women generally do not have good feelings about ads.  26% said they actively ignore ads, and another 20% said they are annoyed by ads.  A few notice interesting ads once in awhile, but only about 2% ever actually click on an ad.

What does this information mean for marketers?

This study has some very valuable information for marketing professionals.  First it identifies the places that women frequent online – Facebook, MySpace, and Classmates.com. And of course, shopping websites.  If you’re trying to market to women, these would be some good places to start.  However, you may not want to go the traditional route of buying an ad placement.

Instead, marketers should find a way to interact with women, their potential customers.  Creating a Facebook or MySpace page and engaging with them is one simple way to start.  Apps, plug-ins and other fun things that they can put on their profile is another way to keep your brand or service in their line of sight, and it’s likely to capture the attention of their various “friends” on the sites who visit their profiles.

Women clearly like to talk about products, so giveaways, contests, and viral campaigns might also be worth exploring.  Anything to get them talking and sharing the news with their friends!

It should also be noted that while women love to rave about their favorite products, they can turn on you just as fast.  Anyone remember the whole “Motrin Moms” debacle?  Online-saavy moms banded together and created some real waves that  both Motrin and the media could not ignore, showing the real muscle and might of their social networking skills.

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  • http://www.searchenginerankings.com.au Anup

    This is so true. We work for a number of women websites and often find that social networking forums become active very quickly. Women are more candid with other women when it comes to discussing beauty, fashion or even parenting.

  • http://www.cashflowtipsbydon.blogspot.com Don Simkovich

    So women are product-oriented? Not surprised. But I am surprised to see that MySpace is popular with women 40+ . . . I wonder if it’s because they’re tracking their kids!Seriously.

  • http://blog.hudsonhorizons.com Lauren

    I can vouch for many the younger than 30 stats… though I’ll admit, I do like Twitter better than Facebook! (Shh…)

    I definitely tend to ignore ads, and *am* often irritated by them. Just because I’m a female between the ages 20-25, my ads are all about weight loss and engagement rings!

    Nice post – thanks for sharing your findings!

    -Lauren (@beebow)

  • http://www.advertisingvehicles.com/_blog/Ad-ucation Blake Castetter

    Julie, great blog post! Thanks for sharing this survey with us! As an advertising sales professional, this type of data helps me to create a marketing strategy for those companies that look to reach a feminine audience!

    Don, I definitely think you’re right! With the way myspace has fallen off (compared to facebook, twitter, and youtube), that is the only explanation for such popularity of myspace!

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Jenny

    This is a great blog topic. I think we probably could have guessed the statistics just from the basis of female behaviour patterns. I agree with Lauren about the ads, and have found exactly the same thing, but the statistics you have presented are really fascinating, thanks!

  • http://www.tag44.com Tag44

    Nice post especially for woman’s…!!

  • http://www.marykay.com/marinami Marina

    Hit home for me! Social Media because I am a woman who is On the Cusp of Wow! I am 52 & Social Media, though new to me clearly the future. I just started a business – is it ok to say: $5 off purchase of $15 dollars or more at http://www.marykay.com/marinami – enter Event Code: SEJ
    (facebook: Mary Kay Michigan)