Where The Girls Are

21 02 2011

In last fall’s blockbuster hit The Social Network, we learned that a geeky (and cheeky) Mark Zuckerberg’s primary goal in developing the initial Facebook at Harvard was pretty simple: to meet girls.

Well, it must have worked, because the women sure have clamored to his site.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that social networks in general appeal to younger folks, but according to a recent study, they also appeal more heavily to women in general. Females have long been characterized as being more of the social animal type than are males, so this really comes as no surprise. Women in their 30s are the new force with which to be reckoned.

Fifteen years ago, males far outnumbered females when it came to computer usage. But that gender divide faded as we crossed into the 21C. Whereas the boys could once hold their tech dominance over female heads, now it is the females who are more connected than the guys.

At least in online circles.

As for the older folks, I can understand the gap, although I continue to see an increasing number of 50- and 60-somethings on FB. I’m sure much of this gap has to do with the fact most of the folks in my cohort and older simply did not learn to use computers until well into adulthood (I was one of the lucky ones, having started in 1974 in an Honors Math course in high school). There are social networking sites like Eons that cater specifically to Baby Boomers, but their sampling of the overall age bracket population is slim.

So what does it all mean? Simple. This demographic information is a gold mine for Facebook and other social networking sites. Sure, FB already routinely distills this information themselves, since they have the birth date and gender of all registrants. But this study goes deeper than just delineating the ages and genders of account owners, for it looks at actual usage. As a marketer, knowing that women in their 30s have, on average, 6 social media activities each day, gives me an idea of both reach and frequency.

While FB has already built much of its renown as a targeted advertising medium, I expect to see even more of it on social media sites. Products aimed toward younger and/or female consumers will likely dominate the social graph. And for the older and/or male audience: get used to it.

While the Eons site may, in principle, be a good example of effective nichemanship, I am not at all attracted. Maybe it is because I don’t see myself as ready to start looking for pasture to be put out on. It’s bad enough I caved and joined AARP (for the discounts…for the discounts!!). I don’t want to be reminded of this aging thing anymore than necessary.

Maybe this also opens a window of opportunity for FB. Why not make a conscious effort to attract naysaying and/or reluctant old timers? While you’re at it, make it a little easier to change the font size (click here to see how convoluted this process currently is). And quit changing things around every couple of months. Geezers hate it when you move their cheese. Or Ensure.

Maybe Zuckerberg was a lot more prescient than for which he is credited. It was in trying to find where the girls are that he stumbled into the mother lode. Word up, guys: Put the video games and programming on hold, and join the conversation. The online crowd has changed since 1995.

Dr “What’s On Your Mind?” Gerlich



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