He's just not that Pinterested in you! Social Media and the Sexes
Social media may be the new “it’ technology. But even in the digital age, we are dividing along the Mars/Venus axis. In the new virtual world, men are from Foursquare and women are from Facebook. Pinterest, the latest, buzziest social site, could easily be sub-branded “Boys Keep Out.”
User data from my agency’s site revealed that men are hanging out on Foursquare at a 2:1 ratio compared to women. On Facebook, women outnumber men by about the same ratio. Of course, Foursquare isn’t anywhere near as popular as Facebook but there are some interesting behavioral takeaways from this statistical observation.
Foursquare is a social media forum (Gowalla is another) where people check in whenever they physically visit a location. Visitors may comment but mostly they check in to establish their whereabouts. Many companies marketing on Foursquare offer tangible rewards for frequent drop-ins, whether it’s free drinks or other merchandise. But the biggest reward for men, apparently, is earning Foursquare’s “badges.” The ultimate prize is becoming “Mayor” of a location—an election of sorts for high frequency visitors that confers not just virtual status but implied power.
This plays to sexual stereotype. Foursquare rewards users with increased status by cultivating frequency without commitment. It’s a macho environment where men mark their territory like wolves in the wild or dogs at fire hydrants. For women, there’s a different animal instinct at play. Women may be reluctant to declare their real time location for safety concerns of stalking or robbery. Guys don’t appear to worry about this personal threat. They’re too busy earning badges.
At the other end of the social/sexual spectrum, Facebook offers a consensual community where the reinforcement for participation is in communicating with others who share your interests, friendships and activities. People don’t get rewarded for frequency on Facebook although marketers avidly promote contests and incentives to create more engaged consumers of their products. The language of Facebook is all about “liking,” “sharing” and “friending,” terms most often associated with female communication styles. Or as Sally Field once said, “They like me. They really like me.” And the more likes, the better.
Just to be sure my findings weren’t uniqu, I did a little googling and found lots more Mars/Venus data and the more social media we add, the more the sexual divide chasms!
The Pew Internet folk who constantly monitor online behavior, published a piece in the fall of 2010 showing exactly the same 2:1 ratio of men using location-based services like Foursquare.
More recently, there’s been more attention paid to the male/female fault lines across the latest in social media, including Twitter, which surprisingly (to me at least) breaks more heavily male perhaps because it’s another forum for being the first to assert you whereabouts and breaking news.
Mashable reported in February: “As a general trend, women engage more on most social sites, including on Facebook and Twitter. Comscore says women are the majority of social networking users, and spend 30% more time on sites than men. Plus, mobile social network usage is 55% female, according to Nielsen.”
A recent study of social media by Porter Novelli Communications in the UK also showed similar trends in Facebook and Foursquare to my anecdotal observations. They found:
45% of men who use social media check in to locations (like Foursqure) vs. 33 % of women
35% of men who use social media are Twitter users vs. 27% of women
In the same report, Forrester Research reported that women participate in social media to share information and engage in conversation. Men are more competitive and tend to watch videos, create content and dominate in posting their opinions online. No surprises there!
And what of the latest social media darlings: Google+ and Pinterest? As you might suspect, men are sorting their friends and acquaintances with greater alacrity on the former and women are sharing their favorite fashions and food on the latter. This comment from a recent TimeTechland article: “A quick perusal of the site (Pinterest) finds plenty of photos exemplifying beautiful design and fashion, which — though not solely the domain of women — certainly attracts its fair share of them. Visual.ly estimates that 83% of Pinterest’s users are female. …”
And over at Google+, the Techland article notes it is “the software engineer staring at a stark white screen. In fact, software engineers make up a serious portion of the social networking site’s users, second only to college students.”
Guys just aren’t that Pinterested in you and the things you pin! They’d rather do cool dude things like classify their friends, family and acquaintances like a stamp collection. We all know that Google has the male DNA down cold as anyone who’s ever turned on the masculine phone boom of “Droiddddd” can attest!
A fun infographic I found on Proust, a new social site that wants to help you know your friends better, further reinforces these male/female differences in online sharing. Proust is clearly more focused on the “madeleine” crowd. And Klout, the new measure site that measures your online influence is clearly oriented to the alpha male user with its “my klout is bigger than yours” competitive sensibility.
And as infographics are now the latest online trend, here’s another from onlinemba that shows sexual preferences across a spectrum of social media. No suprises here although Linked In use is about evenly split at 50/50 but the data is engagingly presented.
Of course, people don’t segregate by male & female everywhere online. Social media is not a complete recreation of your junior high prom experience! But understanding where the boys are --and the girls aren’t--online reminds us that the virtual world is not that different from the real one.
Mimi Sells is a marketing executive in Palo Alto, California where a new social media site is born every minute.