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Women use social media more than men: what’s news orgs’ response?

News organizations, take note: More women than men are using social media, a new study says.

The study, from Information is Beautiful, uses Google Ad Planner numbers to come up with its conclusion that more women than men use many popular social networks. Digg stands out because 64 percent of users are men. LinkedIn and YouTube are tied, genderwise.

You can view that data yourself, but here are some findings I found interesting:

Twitter: 57 percent women users.

Facebook: 57 percent women users.

Flickr: 55 percent women users.

Patrick Thornton at BeatBlogging.Org, which tipped me off to the study, notes that it’s important to understand the demographics of each social network because “news organizations — especially newspapers — have struggled for years to attract as many female readers/users as they do with males.” You can say that again.

The traditional media has largely failed in wooing those female readers — despite the potentially lucrative fact that women make 80 percent of the buying decisions in most American households. This problem has become even more urgent in today’s troubled days for journalism, where many newspapers are cutting the features sections, which were long the province of women readers. I argue that news important to women shouldn’t show up only in the features sections, but at least these sections guaranteed a space for women. I fear that as news organizations cut features, news for women will evaporate from the pages and online news that will make up the new journalism.

But then this study comes along, showing that women get social media. Not all women, mind you, but many. There is something about social media that resonates with them, perhaps in a way that is more powerful than the way it resonates with men. I have some ideas of why that might be. My first thought when I read about the study results was to think of my own experiences. What do I do with my girlfriends? I sit around and chat, talk about life, build relationships. What does my husband do with his guy friends? They play golf or tennis or poker or volleyball. What is social media all about? Virtually sitting around and chatting, talking about life and building relationships.

Yes, that’s an oversimplified gender stereotype based on a study of two people, my husband and me. Yes, there’s more to it, which I will explore as the course of study for my Ph.D. program is this very topic: what women get out of the Web.

Attracting women readers

But for news organizations the question is not really why do women get social media but what does that mean for attracting women readers? If news organizations can answer that second question, they will stand to gain readers — and money — for sure.

This social media finding is significant in several ways. Men spend more time online, are more tech savvy and use the Web to gather information more than women, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. So the social media finding isn’t a function of women using the Internet more than men, I’d argue. There is just something about social media that grabs them.

For news organization leaders, this means: Start taking social media more seriously. Stop spending so much time wringing your hands and figuring out how to limit how your employees use social media. Instead, make a firm commitment to using social media. Lots of it. All the time. Don’t just set up a Facebook page for your organization and do nothing with it and then argue, “See, didn’t work.” Don’t set up a Twitter account but seldom tweet and do nothing to drum up followers, so your tweets fail to reach a critical mass of people.

Use those well-honed reporting tools to spend time on a variety of social networks. What are women doing there? What do they want? How can your news organization help them get what they are looking for online? Don’t stop with the biggies, such as Facebook. Try the niche social networks: TwitterMoms, for example, has a buzzing online community. As do Cafe Mom and WorkitMom.

But don’t stop at moms, as some news organizations’ efforts to attract women readers have. Not all women are moms, and even those who are moms have interests outside their children. Really. Just like men, we have hobbies, fascinations, and interests that have nothing to do with our ability to reproduce.

Check out Ning, where anyone can set up a social network. When I just searched, I found 3,783 social networks having to do with women. Scan the top blogs for women listed at AllTop or read Divine Caroline, a site that’s about “every woman and the bonds that connect us even though we’ve never met.”

The mission: To find out what women are doing on these sites and figure out how your news organization can serve this need.

Beware: This might not make money right away. And, I know, news organization feel they can’t take the time to do anything that doesn’t yield an immediate profit. But you must. If you only focus on finding a new business plan, you may discover you’ve lost more readers — and the power to win them back — by the time you figure out the finances. Sorry, but you have to do it all.

                                   
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Justin Ellis    July 18, 2014
With $3.5 million in grant funding and an eye for collaboration, the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX aim to bring deep investigations to radio and podcasting.
  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com/blog Patrick Thornton

    @Gina,

    I think there is a real story brewing here about why women use social media more than men, and there is real potential for news organizations to harness social media to connect better with not only female users — but all users.

    Humans are inherently social creatures, and I think that’s ultimately what the Web teaches us. News organizations need to become more social and fast.

    I have some other theories about why women use social media more than men that I floated at my new blog, The Media is Social. That kind of post isn’t appropriate for BeatBlogging.Org, but it’s the kind of content that I may develop on my new blog.

    Good luck with your research. I’ll be eagerly awaiting it.

  • http://www.thoughts.com Thoughts.com

    Social media is important for both and the difference is not a huge difference. The results to a study to see why women use social networking would be interesting. The study could lead to equal user ship and valuable information for social networking sites.

  • http://savethemedia.com Gina Chen

    Patrick,

    Your theory about more women enrolling in college accounting for the difference makes sense. Would be interesting to see an age breakdown of usage — to really explain that difference.

    Thoughts,

    Yes, more study definitely needed. While differences between women and men on each isn’t that big, collectively does seem like an intersting trend.

    Interesting.

    – Gina

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  • Sid P

    I see ning being mentioned as a way to create your won social networks – just a word of caution, if you do set up a network with ning, you will not be the owner of the membership data or the content and they can cross-promote you members to other networks

    A better alternative would be SocialGO, where the network creator is the owner, 100% outright.

    In my opinion, it’s important that if you create a website, network or whatever of your own, that you should own the data

  • http://womenmakenews.com Amy Cross

    I read the data–one interesting conclusion is that social web households are mostly childless.

    Most sites listed their 66-90% of users being childless.

    Only myspace and upcoming has 43% and 41% no children in house respectively.

    Maybe the ones withe children are on mommy blogs?

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