How are women and men influenced differently on social media? Specifically how does social media impact women and men's purchase consideration and habits differently?

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How are women and men influenced differently on social media? Specifically how does social media impact women and men's purchase consideration and habits differently?

Hello! Thank you for your query regarding how social media influences the purchasing considerations of men and women. The short answer is that women are more likely to be influenced by social media in terms of considering a purchase. Across both genders, user-generated content - such as reviews, feedback, and comments - are the most powerful form of content in influencing shopping behavior. Below you will find a deep dive of my findings.

To compile this brief for you, I first looked for surveys and other consumer research conducted by firms such as Deloitte and PWC, regarding the social media usage and behavioral differences between men and women. While this research revealed a great deal of data regarding usage patterns and overall consumer behaviors, there has been very little recent quantitative research that compares how social media impacts the behaviors of men and women differently. I then cast a wider net and looked for research, case studies, and insight prepared by industry analysts and thought leaders. Finally, I conducted a press search to look for any relevant articles and additional insight. While no quantitative research exists regarding how social media influences the purchasing considerations of men and women specifically within the consumer apparel and CPG categories, I have included references and examples within these verticals where available.

As a foundation for analyzing the differing impact of Facebook and Instagram on the purchasing habits of men and women, one may first consider the different usage of these tools. According to the most recent research by the Pew Research Center, in 2016, 68% of all internet users in the United States are Facebook users, vs. 28% who use Instagram, with more women being active on both social networks. The difference is particularly notable on Instagram. Among all Internet users in the United States, for example, usage rates break down as follows:

Network U.S. Men U.S. Women
*Facebook 75% 83%
*Instagram 26% 38%

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to use Twitter (25% of all male Internet users, vs. 24% of females) and LinkedIn (31% vs. 27%).

The most recent research that directly compared men and women in terms of the overall impact of social media on buying decisions was conducted by the Society for New Communications Research in 2014. Though several years old, this survey revealed that social media has a greater impact on women than on men when it comes to making purchases. Indeed, 31% of women say their purchases are influenced by social media, compared to 15% of men. More recently, a 2016 study by SUMO Heavy shows that women are also 60% more likely than men to purchase directly from social media networks.

A 2016 survey by Collective Bias, meanwhile, revealed that both men and women are most influenced by Facebook, followed closely by YouTube, which is more influential among men (23%) vs. women (14%).

According to PWC's 2016 Total Retail Survey, among consumers of all genders, user-generated content - such as reviews, feedback, and comments, are the most influential form of content in influencing shopping behavior, according to 45% of consumers surveyed. This is followed by promotional offerings (44%), and advertisements (30%).

A global survey by Olapic underscored these findings, revealing that 76% of consumers find user-generated content across all social channels more trustworthy than brand-generated ads, and are 56% more likely to make a purchase based on user generated photos.

In terms of brand endorsements on social media, particularly in the fashion vertical, real people win out over celebrities among both men and women. Fifty-two percent of American men and 65% of American women, respectively, prefer brand-generated content to feature real people.

While I could locate no data regarding the impact of social on the CPG vertical, research by Deloitte reveals that 49% of apparel consumers consult social media when considering a purchase, primarily to find inspiration.

Analysts and thought leaders point to several differences in how social media content influences men and women. According to the agency LeadUp, for example, men are impacted by content that answers question such as “'Why should I buy this?' and 'How does it help me?'". Not surprisingly, men are more likely than women (62% vs. 50%), therefore, use social media to compare products before making a purchase.

Women, conversely, are more impacted by lifestyle factors such as others who use a product and content that answers questions like “How is this product going to make me feel?" In following, women are more loyal to specific brands, with nearly three quarters (71%) of women "passionately" following brands on social media, compared to 18% of men. Similarly, women are more likely than men (25% vs. 12%) to purchase from brands that position themselves as promoting social good.

Capitalizing on women's emotional connection and the importance of lifestyle factors in social content, Dove, for example, found great success with its Dove Ad Makeover campaign, which was designed "to give women a much needed self-esteem boost." On Facebook, the company overbid negative search terms relating to female self-esteem (such as diet or plastic surgery) so those terms would lead to the display of their positive messaging. The campaign reached 5.5 million unique visitors and boosted brand mentions on Facebook by 71%.

In marketing to men, meanwhile, Wilkinson Sword, a U.K.-based razor firm, is targeting men's social behaviors with a social revamp in which it has eliminated accounts on platforms (such as Instagram) that were not generating engagement, and focused on encouraging user generated content on its remaining channels. On Facebook, for example, it has activated a review section and offers selected reviewers free products, which often lead to repeat purchases, according to company executives.

To wrap it up, both men and women are influenced most by user-generated content - such as reviews, feedback, and comments. While lifestyle-relevant social content impacts women, men are more influenced by practical factors such as how a product helps them and why they should buy it.

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