Social media & gender: the impact of female-dominated usage
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of chatter about gender as it relates to Social Media usage. (Did you know there is actually a Wikipedia entry dedicated to this topic?) It seems that gender usage varies pretty significantly across all of the major social networking sites.
Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Social Network site recently sampled 2,255 American adults on their use of social networking services in the Fall of 2010. The survey was conducted on 975 total users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace (not sure why they included this failing site) and the results are seen in the graph below.
According to the Pew study, nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn, but all the other social networking platforms have significantly more female users than male users.
The effects of this usage have led to some experts in certain industries that were once dominated by one gender or another to be dominated by the opposite sex on certain networking sites. A new report from LinkedIn, a site that has acquired more than 100 million members since its inception in late 2002, says women in traditionally male-dominated industries have become more “connected” than their male counterparts and thus have acquired an expert status in their space with the same being true for men in otherwise female-dominated industries.
“This is based on a networking ‘savviness’ formula that considers the ratio of the number of men’s to women’s connections on LinkedIn, and the ratio of men to women in given fields. So in an industry where 45 percent of profiles are women’s but women have 70 percent of the connections, women would be considered the savvier networkers.” For example, a woman in the tobacco industry was viewed as more knowledgeable than her male counterpart and vice versa for a male in the beauty industry.
Earlier this year, Johanna Blakely, Deputy Director at USC’s Norman Lear Center gave a speech for Ted in which she talks about how social media might mean the end of gender stereotypes. She believes that social media is going to “free us from some of the absurd assumptions that we have as a society about gender.” Blakely suggests, even though more women are on the social media sites, what the sites are actually measuring are the interests of the users as a whole. She believes (and I agree) that “shared Interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator of human beings than demographic categories.”
When media and journalists stop using old demographics and start looking at the trends online as a whole, what effect do you think this will have if the majority of the users that are being studied are women? Will brands, tv shows and movies be more targeted towards the interest of the female population? What type of impact do you think this will have on “old media” and our society in general?
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