Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Men Tweet Loudest . . .

. . . territorial claim? Attracting female-feathered-friends?

In a Harvard Business School study this month, HBS found that men seem to be much more vigorous users of Twitter than women, going against the "long-standing" social media tradition of women as the power players.

This actually makes perfect sense to me, and is something I assumed already, because of three big reasons:

1) Nature of content

Twitter is not about really elaborate connections that women favor on Facebook/MySpace where you can see dynamic pages of photo and story content, they're terse updates and generally connections to news.

According to HBS "the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets . . . on a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production".

Why? Because typical social networking is about sharing, having a conversation, which is appealing to women. Twitter does not really foster a "conversation", it is very alpha-male driven; "I am an expert, listen to me."

Which leads me to . . .

2) Twitter is used more by industry windbags

This fits in part with the inherent difference between the two platforms. Business people aren't very interested in tagging people in photos, taking part in cute surveys, etc., but they are very used to the veritable ticker-tape flow of information present on Twitter. While one platform is seen as meaningful social connection, the other has very streamlined value as focused information-mining.

This actually reminds of an experience I recently had: I was at a Sunday brunch populated mostly by young Hollywood artists, writers, and socialites (?). The topic of social networking came up and this circle of mostly women expressed confusion at the real use/benefit of Twitter, meanwhile one of the other men and I kept trumpeting its wonderful use for business, marketing, information-gathering, and trend-following. This other gentleman was the owner of a prominent downtown LA restaurant. We eventually went off on our own to relish in each other's social media genius and merrily discuss business strategy in the developing downtown LA area.

So business people like Twitter, and as we know, in spite of increased gender equality, the world of business is still dominated by men, especially when we are thinking of the main Tweeters as being source of information/authority, so it makes sense that Twitter is dominated by men.

To further propel this idea that Twitter is for business people (aka men) is the median age of Twitter users, which according to Pew Internet is 31, and this other article which shows us an even more in-depth picture of Twitter use across age. So users are not kids posting about parties. They're grown-ups talking shop.

3) Everyone's experiences are just like mine!

I looked over the people that I follow on Twitter and realized they were almost all male.


alea said...

Don't you think we need more research on the use of Facebook/MySpace before claiming that what women "like" about it is the depth of conversation?

I mean, there could be all sorts of reasons for this trend. One that jumps to my mind for, say, Facebook, would be that it started out on college campuses where women outnumber men 6 to 4 on average. Or the nature of the interface could be at play here (I'm not sure how, but I'm getting at the fact that it could be a usability, and not a social rationale).

John Quintana said...

While more research would definitely be helpful on social media utilization, ultimately social scientists must always resort to suppositions in trying ascertain root causality of behaviors.

That being said, previous research indicates that women/girls do tend to enjoy creating narratives and exchanges via other social media, in particular blogging, where it has long been documented that teenage girls blog and podcast at a significantly higher rate than do boys.