Social Networking: Apparently It’s a Woman Thing

Woman Connecting on the ComputerA little while ago, I came across an interesting article in Businessweek written by Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf: The Social Media Gender Gap, covering the results of a survey conducted by Rapleaf. What was interesting about it was that for once, the “gender gap” goes in the opposite direction of what one might think.

To quote the author:

Traditionally, men are the early adopters of new technologies. But when it comes to social media, women are at the forefront. At Rapleaf we conducted a study of 13.2 million people and how they’re using social media. While the trends indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, our findings show that women far outpace the men.

According to the survey details, it’s only on LinkedIn that men outnumber women (by about a two-to-one margin). On each of the other sites studied (MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Plaxo and Hi5), women outnumber men by about the same two-to-one margin. According to Hoffman, in part the dominance of women in social media stems from their observation that men tend to be more “transactional” while women tend to be more “relationship-driven.”

Indeed, LinkedIn, with its emphasis on job-seeking, making introductions and gathering business intelligence seems to be the most “transactional” of the sites studied. The other sites studied tend to focus more on “friending,” sharing photos and profiles, publishing personal updates, playing casual games with each other — in other words, relationship-building activities.

Some more interesting observations from the survey:

Among twentysomethings, women and men are just as likely to be members of social networks. Facebook, MySpace, and Flixster are extraordinarily popular. But we found that young women are much more active on these sites than young men. And men above 30—especially married men—aren’t even joining social networks. With the notable exceptions of LinkedIn users and venture capitalists in the Bay Area “friending” everyone on Facebook, married men are not hanging out on social networks. Married women, however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between ages 35 and 50 are the fastest-growing segment, especially on MySpace.

So perhaps it wasn’t simply coincidence when Small Business Trends published a set of “point/counterpoint” articles on social media and the “pro” position was taken by a woman, while the“con” position was articulated by a man.

The guy who wrote the “social media is a waste of time” article clearly found social networking a complicated, scary place, and his first reaction was to retreat to old, safe, arms-length ways of doing business (soliciting sales through direct mail, sales calls and trade shows, for example). Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these things are ineffective. Clearly, they are and will continue to be. What I am saying is: these things have their place, and social networking has its place and writing either one off as worthless is, quite frankly, foolish and short-sighted.

I guess it’s a chicken and egg question — do guys avoid social networking sites because they just don’t feel comfortable with the primarily female communications mode there… or are the social networking sites set up to appeal to women because the men weren’t signing up in the first place? Honestly, I don’t know.

My opinion: perhaps social networking is a waste of time for those who don’t know how to participate appropriately. But there’s plenty of evidence and testimony from others about valuable relationships, useful business intelligence and yes, even direct sales they’ve made through effective social networking.

Perhaps those who don’t “get” social networking simply need to get more in touch with their feminine side.

Diane Aull is an experienced web consultant who helps entrepreneurs and small businesses make more money through their websites. Read more helpful advice at www.BootstrapSEO.com or find out more about her site review and consulting services at www.Nineyards.com.

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