You heard it here first: digital media is changing the way we act. And hold on to your hats folks because how we act is also influencing digital media. As I’ve explored throughout this digital literacy series, much of social media’s popularity can be linked to its ability to fulfill some of humanity’s basic needs. While all humans have an innate need to be social, there’s always been a great deal of debate about how men and women differ in this regard. Now this may not answer the question, but statistics do show that men and women vary in their social media preferences and behaviours.
A recent infographic released by Digital Flash NYC breaks down the results of a recent survey on how men and women differ in their use of social media. Here are some of the most interesting findings (you can view the infographic here):
- 56% of social networking site users in the U.S. are female – that translates into 81 million women!
- More women than men are on Facebook (58%) and Twitter (64%)
- 82% of Pinterest users are women
- Men dominate on Reddit (84%), Google+ (71%) and LinkedIn (63%)
- There are more men on LinkedIn than women on LinkedIn, Google+ and Reddit combined.
- Females over the age of 55 spend more time playing online games than males aged 15 – 24 and males aged 25 – 34 combined.
- Women are far more active on social networking sites than men, racking up 99 million more visits per month than men.
Women in their digital domain
The above stats are certainly interesting but can any of them be linked to our off-the-web lives (and is there a difference)? I found a research paper from June 2009 that offered some interesting findings and predictions that seem to validate these results, while drawing a connection between what women want online and off.
The report, Women in their Digital Domain, was produced by Microsoft Advertising, Mindshare and Ogilvy Chicago. It was written to educate marketers on how to sell to women using digital media, but given the fact that three years are like a century in social media years I looked at it as a sort of digital media hieroglyphic.
The report begins by stating that women are inherently expressive (we’ve heard this before, haven’t we ladies?) citing that women speak 7,000 words a day while men speak an average of only 2,000. They suggest that this is the reason that women are so drawn to social media: it gives them an outlet to express themselves, especially through blogging. They go on to say that women are interested in using social media as tools for accessing content – they’re less interested in the technology, more about how it can make their lives easier. On the other hand, men love their gadgets and prefer info-driven activities. This may account for why the above survey shows men are more active on sites like LinkedIn, Google+ and Reddit.
The rise of the digital diva
One of the most interesting sections on the report focuses on the demographics of female digital media users, breaking it down to three “life stages”:
- Gen Y – ages 25 -34: The report says this group sees digital media as a part of the natural rhythm of their lives, calling them digital naturals. For this group, sociability is the key function they look to digital media for.
- Gen X – ages 35-44: This group consists of women at the height of their careers, busy at work and/or with growing families. They look to digital media to help them manage their busy lives – connectivity is key.
- Early boomers – ages 45 – 54: The women in this age group look to digital media to enhance their lives. The report states that this group is made up of both digital media resistors and digital media adopters. This group uses digital media to shop, play online games and pursue their passions. This personal passion is the key thing they look to digital media for.
- There’s no age group beyond the boomers. I guess they think you’re digital media dead by then, which I find troubling. I mean my grandma has an iPad and she’s in her 80s!
Anyway, moving on.
The report then breaks down female social media users into three categories:
- Digital outliers (9%): These women aren’t really into digital media or technology.
- Mainstream users (75%): For the women in this group technology holds a basic role in their lives, but they don’t consider themselves digital media experts.
- Digital Divas (16%): The report says this group considers themselves to be on the “cutting edge” of digital technology.
It’s this last group that the report suggests marketers pay attention to:
Digital Divas are an important cohort to understand. The group serves as a precursor for what is to come. In due time, more mainstream digital users will adopt today’s more sophisticated digital behaviour.
Three years later and I think the above results prove they were fairly accurate in this prediction.
What women want
One final note of interest, this report suggested that female social media users make use of digital media for six main reasons:
- To get information
- For connection with friends and family
- For fun
- As a tool to help them achieve daily tasks
- As a place to find more time for themselves (this one’s interesting because digital media is helping them do things quicker so they’re able to free up more “me time”).
- A place to pursue their passions (photography, writing, scrapbooking)
These are pretty interesting observations that translate well with how popular Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are with women.