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Men Are From Foursquare, Women Are From Facebook

by Guest Blogger  |  
March 13, 2012

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!

Why not?

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 Astronaut Spaceship Helmet Woman)

Mimi Sells is the chief marketing officer of Oshman Family JCC.

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  • by Astrelfrog Tue Mar 13, 2012 via blog

    Pictures of kids and pets? Get real. If I see one more stupid cat picture on FB, I'm bolting. You're going to offer sports tickets for men and furry things for women? Please come into the 21st century. While it is certainly true that I don't do Foursquare, a lot of younger women do. The gender divide isn't as drastic as you seem to think. Respectfully submitted.

  • by Mark Holdener Tue Mar 13, 2012 via blog

    To sum up, Foursquare fosters competition & appeals more greatly to men. Facebook, on the other hand, engenders a sense of community and communication & is of greater interest to women.

    Pinterest is following the Facebook model with similar results. Likewise, I would hazard a guess that the competition involved attempting to be the first to break news on Twitter appeals more greatly to men, although both women and men share an interest in catching up on breaking news.

  • by AJ Tue Mar 13, 2012 via blog

    Mimi, you missed a lot in this one (respectfully ;) ). I've been contemplating this for about a week now, based on a PEW Internet study from last year.

    Facebook is NOT an interest/communtiy network (want an Interest network, check out It's a network where the average user knows each other. The average user has 229 friends on Facebook, and only 7% of those are people that they've never met in person. These are neighbors, high school friends, etc. What I've noticed about Facebook? Facebook is largely people making a public picture of who they wish they are (the average user anyway). Dysfunctional people tell you how normal they are, poor people show off their car they can't afford. Girls I know tell me all the time how much they disliked the person that they're picture commenting on Facebook. I would like to know out of the 1200 fans your org. has, how many of them work out regularly at the facility?

    All social networking sites except a select few have more women than men, not just Facebook. I also suspect that your statistics reflect the fact that the people handling your marketing are targeting women (women are much more active on social networking sites than men. Women would target women because they see them posting and feel comfortable commenting on women, men would target them because well, they're men.), and women are more likely to like pages, especially community based non-profits.

    If you look at stats taken from samplings of Social Media users through random polling, the numbers are more even. Facebook is roughly 60 percent female and 40 percent male. (PEW lists 58% female and 43% male with a 2.3% margin of error). So which site is composed mostly of males? LinkedIn almost has the 2:1 male to female ratio you mentioned. Are we supposed to think this means that men are off working why women stay at home and visit the community center after playing on Facebook? No, generalizations and assumptions is what social media disasters are made of. It's the same thing as when a girl posts a picture on Facebook and I ask how many months along is she is.

    As a research type article you are reaching here, and that is the problem I'm having with it. As an opinion thing, it's totally valid and has some good thoughts, but it reads like you're making sweeping assumptions with unrelated statistics, and when you add "Just to be sure our findings weren't unique", it re enforces the fact that this was supposed to be authoritative.

    The study that men use Foursquare 2:1, alright good citation, but then cite an opinion article about what a woman did at SXSW? You came out with a good idea or 2 (targeting men on Foursquare, but honestly, who is checking in at YOUR location more? Why use general stats for Foursquare and then use a page specific stat for Facebook?), but posting more pictures of cute animals? Seriously? I have a feeling that you're using likes and comments to measure the success of your campaign, but what type of content is going to make people want to pay you money for your services? Interestingly enough, the recent pictures on your Facebook page that have had the most success are the ones that show your community members actively engaged in activities... which leads me to believe that you aren't going to start posting pictures of small helpless animals and it was just a figure of speech lol. People that read this don't know that though, they think your marketing strategy involves a bunch of bunny rabbits and a Nikon Camera.

  • by mimi Tue Mar 13, 2012 via blog

    Hi AJ,

    Totally appreciate your thoughtful comments. Of course you are right, we won't be posting cute bunnies just because. However, as we a community center with lots of families and a preschool, pix of kids doing things at our center ARE totally appropriate for our crowd...not a generic choice just to get more women engaged.

    Sweeping generalizations are always high risk but I made my observations (with tongue lightly planted in cheek) about how male/female behaviors are different online based on our experience. In fact, since I wrote this, I've found even more data confirming sexual preferences on the latest social media like Twitter and Pinterest. I'll let you guess where the sexual divide, um, divides on those!

  • by Harry Hallman Wed Mar 14, 2012 via blog

    "The problem with statistics is they are like (You know) and everyone has them and most of stink. "

    I can find numerous sources that show the demographics of Facebook and they are all different. The truth is, and a fact that Mimi made (I think) is that the only statistics that count are the ones that apply to you. If you target women with children then I would hope your social media site followers, likes, friends or whatever are skewed towards women. That would show me your branding efforts are working.

  • by mimi Sun Apr 1, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, everyone, for all the comments, shares and retweets of this post.

    Since writing it, I've found lots more confirming data of the male/female sexual divide across the latest social media like Google+ and Pinterest and wrote a new post called "He's just not that Pinterested in you." It ran last week in Social Media Today. Here's the link:

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