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Business - Written by on Friday, June 5, 2009 8:17 - 5 Comments

Social Media Gender Stereotypes

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I recently came across some interesting research by the Harvard Business School on gender differences within social media networks. The study was conducted on 300,542 randomly selected Tweeters, monitoring variables such as amount of activity, number of follows and followers, as well as various gender make-up in follow tendencies. Here are some of the key findings, ensued by my personal hypotheses:
twitter-gender
“ Women comprise 55% of all Twitter users where as men make up the balance of 45% ”
This is not surprising as women tend to dominate social networks; Facebook’s users are 66% female in comparison. It’s not necessarily numerous cases of “Chatty Cathy” in play but rather that women perhaps have a lifestyle that enable them to spend more time on social networks. Females are also more relationship oriented (nurturing gene) and have a tendency to share, connect, and interact with others.“ Men and women follow a similar number of people, but men have 15% more followers than women”
Interesting. I would have guessed it was the other way around but this essentially reflects the intended purpose of Twitter as a content provider rather than a communication medium. Evolutionarily, males and content generated by males are regarded more highly in society. Hence more followers who are seeking relevance as opposed to noise (i.e. status updates). Weakness in quantity is offset by strength in quality.

“Males are almost twice as likely to follow another male over a female”

twitter-user-follow
Twitter, in its raw simplicity, is not exactly designed for optimal match-making. The lack of in depth user profiles, photo sharing, and other visual media make other networks such as Flickr, Facebook, and MySpace much more attractive options to the average creeper. Plus it’s socially awkward for a man to follow multiple females and keep tabs on <what are they doing now?>, not particularly online stalker friendly…

“The median number of tweets per lifetime per user is only one, but the top 10% of active Twitters account for over 90% of all tweets”

This is perhaps the most significant finding, as it contradicts all the hype surrounding Twitter’s interactive platform. Despite being touted as the leading outlet for two way communication, stats sadly reflect a much more traditional one way broadcast model. However, I do give credit that Twitter is still in its infancy and that the majority of the population is still struggling to transition fully into web 2.0, but for the most part, participants remain passive (see Dennis’s recent post on innies vs. outies).
Despite numerous research like this one, it’s still unclear as to how Twitter fits into the social network phenomenon. Numbers are often helpful in illuminating the what, but the why is still left unanswered… What do you think?



5 Comments

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Zackatoustra
Jun 5, 2009 9:06

There are a couple of points that reduces the pertinency of that research, in my opinion
1.Gender figures : “We found that men comprise 45% of Twitter users, while women represent 55%. To get this figure, we cross-referenced users’ “real names” against a database of 40,000 strongly gendered names.” Ok, but what about all those spammy twitter accounts with “feminine names”?
2.”We examined the activity of a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009″. Why not examining “real” users?…

Steven Burgess
Jun 6, 2009 17:18

On point #1, I would say that “Females are also more relationship oriented (nurturing gene) and have a tendency to share, connect, and interact with others.“ is the real reason, not a lifestyle issue. In personal anecdotal experience, I see that men actually generate more status messages both on FB and Twitter.

I am also not surprised about the distribution of tweets across members. It follows the usual pattern of networks, where 80% ( in this case 90%) of the value is created by 20% (in this case 10%) of the nodes. It would be interesting to see a more sophisticated analysis of tweet patterns.

giulio quaggiotto
Jun 7, 2009 21:10

The blog post below from Umair Haque on “Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical Innovators” has some useful insights on “how Twitter fits into the social network phenomenon”. See, for instance, the distinction between neighbourhoods and networks:

“Neighborhoods beat networks. Twitter’s network effects don’t feel much like standard ones. I can subscribe to your feed, yet you don’t have to subscribe to mine — times millions. What’s going on here? Twitter realizes neighborhood effects, not just network effects: complex sets of intersecting, overlapping, mutually reinforcing network effects. Oprah’s followers are a neighborhood, and so are Ashton’s. You can benefit from joining many of these neighborhoods — not just one larger network.”

The full post is at: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/haque/2009/06/twitter_2.html

Yuan Ding
Jun 8, 2009 17:00

Thank-you all for your comments :)

Zack: I total agree with you; there are a lot of spam accounts on Twitter, many of which have feminine names. However, I think that the researcher(s) chose to keep spam accounts in the data set because it holistically reflects the Tweet landscape since many of those accounts are amongst the most active contributors.

Steven: Yes, the lifestyle hypothesis is a generalization of the female gender, but so are the nurturing tendencies (Gossip Guys anyone?). After all, these are only fitting stereotypes and maybe the truth is that there is no significant difference between male and female behaviours within social networks…

You’re right, Twitter’s distribution is comparable to that of other networks but it’s surprising that 90% of Wikipedia’s content is even generated by the top 15% of contributors. To me, Twitter’s microblogging 140 character format poses less barriers for entry than editing knowledge based encyclopaedia articles.

I am also on the lookout for better social media analytics, I will share the link with you if/when I find something interesting :)

Giulio: Very interesting read! I especially agree with “public beats private”, “Simplicity beats complexity”, and “neighbourhoods beat networks”.

Conversely, I disagree with “circuits beat channels”. I find that tweets are still prevalently broadcasts. Oprah isn’t really conversing with anyone, most of the time she’s updating us on her life or promoting her show. Here’s a recent one : “Just saw RUINED…. OMG….. EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON STAGE WAS OUTSTANDING…. Boo-hooing next to Jane Fonda had to borrow tissue.9:18 PM Jun 5th from TwitterBerry”

Josh Chandler - What Stage is the Viral Web at right now?
Jun 15, 2009 10:59

[...] mediasphere” has exploded over the past year (53% of women in America use it, and 45% of men use it), ranging from microblogging services such as Twitter and Tumblr, all the way up to photo sharing [...]

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