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(Editor's note: With Yahoo launching Shine this week, the market for online social networks geared toward women gets even more crowded. The new site, targeted at females aged 25-54, will move into a neighborhood already occupied by Sugar Media, Glam and iVillage, now part of NBC Universal. Here's venture capitalist Tim Draper talking about Glam, in which he's an investor. For a look at the reasons why women are becoming the most important audience for social networks, we turned to Auren Hoffman, co-founder and CEO of Rapleaf and one of our newest Vator.tv contributors.)
Men are from Video Games, Women are from Social Networks
The gender gap on social media is growing
It's no shock that men and women act very different online. The web is an extremely social medium, with Web 2.0 being all about social. Men traditionally are early adopters, especially when it comes to tech, but when it comes to social media, women are at the forefront.
At Rapleaf we conducted a study of 13.2 million people and how they are using social media. While the trends among the sexes indicate they are both massively using social media, women are far outpacing men - here is our hypothesis as to why:
Just the facts, madam.
For those under 30, women and men are just as likely to be members of social networks. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Flixster are extraordinarily popular. But we found that young women are much more active on these sites then young men. And for people above 30, men - especially married men - aren't even joining social networks.
With the notable exception of LinkedIn usage and VCs in the Bay Area friending everyone on Facebook, married men are not hanging out on social networks. Married women, however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between the ages 35-50 are the fastest growing segment on social networks, especially on MySpace.
Looking further into this trend, we believe that young men spend as much time (and sometimes more) in front of a computer than young women. And they have just as much free time, if not more. But the competition for their computer time comes from spending hours playing video games such as World of Warcraft and many first-person action games.
Many men who play casual games tend to like games like poker with betting involved. Since most social networks ban gambling, men find sites (most of them offshore) that allow them to wager when they play. Women on the other hand are large consumers of casual games and most social networks, especially those that are dominated by third party applications, are essentially big casual game networks.
Women also spend much more time decorating their social network profile pages, making slide shows, and more. Popular sites such as Whateverlife.com exacerbate this effect by offering and catering MySpace layouts to young women.
So while young men and women are signing up for social networks at a similar rate, young women are "throwing more sheep" at people.
Now young men understand that they can't spend ALL their time playing video games (though some do) as they still need to interact with the opposite sex. Sex is one of the strongest drivers of online usage and many men see social networks as a gateway to potentially filling that desire.
Men, in general, tend to look at things more transactionally than women. Once men get married, they see increasingly less value in being on a social network. Which, of course, is why married men dominate LinkedIn - the most transactional social network (with the exception of AdultFriendFinder). LinkedIn is all about getting information and introductions now.
Women, on the other, hand are much more relationship-driven and less transactional than men. They spend more time on social networks building relationships, communicating with friends, making new friends, and more. Married women put up pictures of their immediate family on social networks and use their social network profile as a family home page to share with friends and relatives.
With all this happening, we're witnessing a burgeoning gender gap.
Just take a look at RockYou and Slide, two dominant photo widget sites, These sites are very clearly targeting young women, down to the fact that they have traditional feminine colors (i.e. purple and pink), glitter text everywhere, and are almost exclusively decorated with pictures of women. They don't even give men lip service on their site. Both companies do have a few niche Facebook applications that target men, but the fact these applications are hidden and often marketed under different brands proves that that women rule this space.
If you are creating a new Web 2.0 site and you want to go viral, you target women. Young women drive virality and so all the new innovation is targeted towards them. That means that the gender gap on social networks (and increasingly in all of social media) is only going to widen. More and more innovation will be targeted towards women and they will continue to get more engaged. And while we expect men's adoption to social media to continue to increase, it will likely be slower than the rate of adoption by women.
See More: Data from the Rapleaf study
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