A guest post by Mimi Sells of Oshman Family JCC.
A funny thing happened on the way to evaluating our nonprofit agency’s social media results. We discovered a Mars/Venus connection.
Want to know where the boys are online? They are hanging out on Foursquare and other geo-location sites, outnumbering women by a 2:1 ratio. Meanwhile, on our Facebook page, women outnumber men by the same ratio. Of course, Foursquare isn’t anywhere as popular as Facebook, but there are some interesting takeaways from this analysis.
So, what’s going on?
Foursquare is a location-based social media forum. (Gowalla is another). People check in to Foursquare whenever they physically visit a location. They may comment or simply check in. Many companies marketing on Foursquare offer tangible rewards for frequency, such as free drinks or free merchandise. But the biggest reward is earning Foursquare’s “badges” and ultimately becoming the “mayor” of a location—an election of sorts for high-frequency visitors.
Facebook is an entirely different community where the reinforcement for participation is in communicating with others who share your interests and participate in the same activities. People don’t get rewarded for being on Facebook---although marketers avidly promote contests and other incentives to create more engaged consumers of their products. Facebook is the amped-up version of the old-school “party line,” where people are encouraged to “share” with others.
What We Found Out
As a community center, the Oshman Family JCC is already a place where people come to participate in our programs. They work out, take classes, attend concerts, send their kids to camps and preschool here, etc. What’s exciting for us to explore is how they also choose to interact with us online. On Facebook, for example, we have more than 1,200 fans (more than two-thirds of whom are women). What they like doing online is seeing videos of our events, participating in captioning photos, and generally commenting on performances and programs they've attended. Where they aren’t is on Foursquare!
Foursquare tends to reward you with increased status by cultivating frequency without commitment. It’s a little more macho, like an animal marking his territory. Also, there may be a natural hesitance for women to declare their real-time location for safety concerns of stalking or robbery. At least, that’s what the women we talk to say. Guys don’t worry as much about the personal threat of revealing their whereabouts. And then, there's the stereotype that men are more competitive. Foursquare promotes competition by awarding badges and increased status to frequent participants.
Just to be sure our findings weren’t unique, I did a little investigating and found some interesting confirming data. The Pew Internet research folk, who constantly monitor online behavior, published a piece in 2010 showing exactly the same 2:1 ratio of men using location-based services like Foursquare. And a writer for The Economist blogged in 2011 about “The Secret Sexism of Social Media” in which she noted: “At this year’s SXSW festival held in March in Austin, I ran into a social-media wonk from New York and asked him how he had been enjoying it. He said it was great: He had won five badges from Foursquare… securing the mayorship of his hotel's pool. It occurred to me that I have yet to hear a woman brag about getting a badge from Foursquare, and that I never will. In fact, come to think of it, I barely hear women mention such services at all.”
Long Live the Difference
How can we leverage this Mars/Venus behavior to create closer online bonds with members or consumers?
For Foursquare, create check-in offers that specifically appeal to men. We’re looking into offering tickets to sports events, promoting our leagues, and thinking more carefully about what and how we promote there.
For Facebook, we are increasing posts of cute pictures of kids and pets, adding even more helpful videos with tips from our trainers, and continuing to promote dialogue and commentary on relevant topics.
Of course, we don’t want to segregate our members by male and female. We want to continue to grow both online communities and new ones on Google+ and Tumblr. But you can certainly market more effectively when you know where the boys (and girls) are!
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock.com: Astronaut Spaceship Helmet Woman)
Mimi Sells is the chief marketing officer of Oshman Family JCC.