Gender Differences In Social Media Participation

Written on May 14, 2009 – 10:34 am | by Ryan |

gender-social-media

“I think women put more emphasis, focus and time into their social media browsing than men. Men seem to be very ADHD with social media, jumping from news story to story, whereas I’ve noticed women take slow time and incorporate what they read more into their daily life and lifestyle planning.”

Loren Baker, Search Engine Journal

A great thing about social media marketing is that you literally get a first-rate, hands-on education in human anthropology. You learn what moves people. You learn what people want. You learn how to tug at heartstrings and drive emotions to their limit. You learn how different groups of people respond to different types of content. It’s simultaneously liberating and disillusioning to discover how predictable groups of people behave.

[Note: for the rest of this article, I err on the side of gross generalization. This is necessary to make a general point. There are definitely exceptions to the rules and it’s your duty to identify them;-)]

One of the more interesting observations I’ve made over the years as a participant in social media is how differently males and females participate. It is easy to see a strong analogy between the playing field of social media and the playground from elementary school. On the one hand, you have the males who are driven by aggressive competition, accomplishment and the highs of “victory” (football at recess/24 hour digg voting marathon). Sure, there are some females who join in, but for the most part, the aggressive side of social media is dominated by men. Just like how dodgeball games during gym class were usually dominated by the boys. Females, on the other hand, tend towards activities that are cooperative, non-aggressive and friendship building. As I recall, during recess in elementary school, the girls would teach other things like hand-clapping rhymes or sit around in a circle making bracelets (or each others hair). Not all the girls, but most of them. I think the same holds true in social media. Women are looking for like minded people to learn from, to share with, and to build lasting friendships.

Men use social media as a means to some other end. Men want success. Men want traffic. Men want money. Men want to be the best. Men compete to be the best at social media like athletes compete to be the best at their sport. Just like there are superstars in sports, social media sites like Digg and Reddit also have clearly identifiable superstars (and their fanboys).

Now, it would be silly to say that women don’t want things like traffic, money, success, etc. But the point is just that most men are using social media for something other than the social interaction. Women seem to actually use social media as an end in itself: they use it for socializing.

So whereas men use social media to accomplish things and gain status, women seem to use it for “deeper” stuff like building genuine relationships, solidarity and discussions about life (which men might call gossip;-) In my experience, women are much less likely to hit you with a dozen social media vote requests in a single day. I have half a dozen guys bombard me everyday via AIM with non-stop vote requests without even stopping to say hi. Women, in my experience, like to drive real conversation. They actually take the time to read stories and then tell me what they thought rather than just skimming headlines and voting blindly. Women are energized by compliments and pats on the back and affirmation. In other words, women are more social with their social media because in reality, women are more fundamentally social beings.

Women also tend to be more principled in their social media voting. This can be good and bad. The good is that if I send a story to a woman and ask for a thumbs up on StumbleUpon, if she actually likes the story she is more inclined to take the initiative and submit it to other social media sites she is active on (Twitter, Kirsty, etc.) The bad is that women are much, much, much more likely to secretly downvote a request if they don’t like the story (or the person who wrote it). As an example, I’ve stopped sending any “Hot Women” articles to my female social media friends because I have strong empirical evidence that the majority of them end up downvoting. This is not surprising at all and I should have figured it out much earlier given what I know about my wife;-)

Observations

So before getting to a list of some observations and a handful of insightful quotes from my social media friends, let’s draw a conclusion. I believe that the social media professional will be much more successful at his or her craft when taking gender differences seriously. The key, really, is to understand the needs of each person you interact with. Offer them something in return. But don’t assume that everyone wants the same thing. Take the time to understand what motivates each of your social media friends and go above and beyond the call of duty to interact with them so that when it comes time that you need something, they are eager to help. And remember that it’s very easy to wear out a social relationship of any kind (marriage, friendship, business) if one party is not having his or her needs met or if one person is carrying too much of the burden.

Before ending this article I’ve included a few more general observations that come from various social media friends who chose to be anonymous. We’d love for you to add your thoughts in the comments.

  • Men often make accounts that look like attractive females for pragmatic purposes (to motivate more action by other social media participants)
  • Women tend to use Twitter more for chatting and real conversations
  • Men tend to use Twitter more for marketing
  • Women are more likely to forward chain emails
  • Men are more comfortable with manipulative behavior so long as it helps them acheive their goals
  • Women like sites that facilitate discussions about life and offer a peek into others’ lives
  • With men, social cooperation comes down to swapping favors
  • With women, you have to earn social cooperation through relationship

Quotes from Social Media Users


More men are using it for networking and establishing authority/credibility. More women are using it to share their lives and to connect with other women who share the same values or similar experiences. Women are using it more for solidarity. They’re social beings, and social media has given them the amazing capability to find like-minded women instead of feeling judged and misunderstood by the women in their immediate families/geographic regions.

Daniel Dessinger

Social media is a lot like relationships in real life – men tend to want information and to give out info if it will help them get ahead or achieve a goal. Women tend to take it a step further and are more willing to connect on a deeper level.

– Charlene Polanosky, Essential Keystrokes

Men seem to promote more, it’s more “about me,” whereas women are natural networkers and seek cooperation and participation. Don’t throw tomatoes at me, I’m just making a generalization in what I’ve obserrved.

– Brian Wallace, NowSourcing

I think women socialize more, but they both use it too boost careers and brands.

– Deb Ng, Freelance Writing Jobs

Women want to be popular or communicate, men want to make money or be considered cool.

– David Peralty, BrandingDavid.com

The biggest difference is that women are actually more naturally atuned to the whole social aspect, and tend to spend more time interacting and consuming the content, whereas men tend to be more fly by visitors and less interactive.

– Elise from Cell Phones .org

I’d say women are more drawn to social services like facebook and twitter, where communication is the feature as opposed to something like digg where there’s a competition like atmosphere.

JD Arney

I think men want success from their participation on the social media. I think women mostly want to be social and have fun.

HART, http://twitter.com/PetLvr

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  1. 19 Responses to “Gender Differences In Social Media Participation”

  2. By antje wilsch on May 14, 2009 | Reply

    Interesting article. I want to meet your wife ­čśë

    We initially thought that our site would be heavily geared towards women (family centric) but we have been proven wrong. What has proven right is our marketing messages – men grasp the value of “personal story/legacy left behind” and are willing to pay for this. Women are more about using the tools to bring family members closer & stay connectec. But our users are split right down the middle in usage patterns – which surprised us.

  3. By Ruud on May 14, 2009 | Reply

    “Women want to be popular or communicate, men want to make money or be considered cool.”

    On the one hand I just want to say something smart like “we’re all just humans” but playing the gender difference game; we must not be frequenting the same social networks because I see examples of both on either side…

  4. By Jeff Flowers on May 14, 2009 | Reply

    I wish there were more women that get involved in social media, whether it’s digg, reddit or twitter. I’ve always found digg to be a bit of a competition, which is probably why women don’t stick around for very long, if they truly get involved.

    I do see more women on Twitter and Stumble, and I like that, because those are my two favorite social media sites.

  5. By Lee Ann on May 15, 2009 | Reply

    What I’m curious about is how much of the behavior of either gender is taught and how much is inherent. Do women tend to behave as they do simply because that’s how they are raised? Same with the men. How much of our behavior is actually natural?

  6. By Tad Chef on May 19, 2009 | Reply

    My impression is that women are, like in real life, more social while men tend to focus on hierarchy as in top lists and other ways to prove authority.
    Even top social media users like Tamar tend to be on top for being excesseively social while the men rather work hard to get there. Of course woen also work hard etc. but they tend to be better networkers.

  7. By Janet on May 19, 2009 | Reply

    Nie post Ryan.
    (gross generalization ahead)
    I agree that men focus on the prize and women focus on the long term relationship.
    If you look at how business relationships are changing it may be time for men to start focusing on their business relationship to their customers, colleagues and competitors a bit differently.

    While it may be true that men tend to be the more aggressive players in social media circles, is that the right play?

    Tad Chef-

    Saying women get to the top for being excessively social while men work hard to get there is an over simplification.
    Some men have to work hard to understand how to give value rather than demand attention. The ones who are best at social media, and therefore at the top of the heap are the ones who naturally volunteer help and opinions rather than scream “look at how great I am” over and over.

    Business environments are changing and the relationship with the customer is being recognized as a long term benefit to the company. Better build that relationship or watch somebody else do it instead.

  8. By Donnell Harmon on May 19, 2009 | Reply

    Interesting article, it is true that most studies indicate that a greater proportion of women use social media for the social interaction and to build communities. The differences in the usage of social media should not be considered surprising seeing as women are traditionally more known for developing deeper social interactions.

    However, when writing blogs in the future I would be careful of the wording you choose to convey this point. Suggesting that using social media to talk socially is by itself a “deeper” use of the media is a controversial idea. It is important to note that was the original purpose of many social networking sites (Myspace Facebook etc).

    With that being said, I believe in the crucial points made in this article. In the last 6 months I ( a male) have developed a greater interest in using social media to achieve ends such as networking, marketing etc. However, that is not surprising seeing as I have a marketing degree, and work in advertising. The question I want to pose to readers of this blog has yet to be addressed. Is there any correlation between the differences in the number of males and fermales in certain professions that might explain the differences in the usage of social media?

  9. By Stacey Rynders on May 20, 2009 | Reply

    Well, I’m confirming your assertion on women by posting a link to your post. I enjoyed the observations, and I hope others do as well!

  10. By Pamela Egan on May 20, 2009 | Reply

    This was an extremely insightful article. I have often noticed some of the same things pointed out by the author here regarding the various ways men and women use social media, but this article definitely shed some light on a few that had not occurred to me. Kudos for a very interesting read!

  11. By Stephanie Valentine on May 22, 2009 | Reply

    Good points in this article, with a significant caveat on how these are generalizations. Most of my women friends do get on social media to socialize, while the men in my life have “goals” with their social media. Having said that, I’m the exception to that rule. I tend to be very goal-oriented and have less patience for “chatting” on social media for the sake of it. I have a couple of other women friends who are also like this. We participate in social media, but for business reasons rather than threads of socializing. If we’re going socialize, we’d rather do it in person, if possible! Great post!

  12. By Ki on Jun 11, 2009 | Reply

    I used to notice to something similar with coding. Guys would code pretty quickly. I think basically to get recognition. Girls would spend more time and comment their code. The practical upshot is if I had to take over someones code I would prefer if it was a girl that wrote it.

  13. By Leah Rencontres on Jun 26, 2009 | Reply

    Nice article! So, my conclusion would be that men and women act socialize on internet as they do in the real life.

  14. By Patrick Carroll on Sep 25, 2009 | Reply

    Nice article, its probably true. I use social media far more for business rather than pleasure.

  15. By G.weber | link building services on Dec 14, 2009 | Reply

    Gender has been an issue as to who performs best. Women are serious, men are more serious. Women plays a very big role in the society. They can’t be underestimated. Men are more competitive. But no matter how far the difference may be, both men and women are important.

  16. By Paradise Valley AZ on Jun 16, 2011 | Reply

    Whooah Ryan…those are some pretty broad generalizations. I am a female and I definitely see myself more the “male” category as someone who uses social media to “accomplish” things rather than build relationships. Interesting premise but like you say, it is just a generalization.

  17. By Hayat Penalver on Sep 22, 2011 | Reply

    Yes, there is a difference between how men and women use media but I wonder if many of these differences are just the consequences of the stereotypes of the society that still think that women are submissive and just want to socialize.

    I think that nowadays women want to be as powerful as men, so the line that differenciates them might be dissappearing and the use of media might be changing by each gender as well as their roles have changed in daily basis. Before men used to work and women stayed at home doing chores or taking care of the babies. I see that now women not only work but also do many things that only men used to do. Now, women want to be successfull too and for this they need to be competitive as well. They have been trying to take more part of the society and be more active. And these changes might started to be noticed in their use of media too.

  1. 3 Trackback(s)

  2. May 20, 2009: Stacey Rynders « Gender & Social Media Use
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