I'm sure you've all seen the gaudy statistics when it comes to the gender split of Pinterest's following -- anything ranging from 72 percent to a staggering 97 percent of its user base has been reported as female. It begs the question: How is the "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" theory split across the other social media platforms -- and why?
Facebook: The gender divide on Facebook is currently at 58/42 in favor of women, according to recent results. Women also spend more time on Facebook and engage more -- uploading more photos, creating more status updates, and providing more information about themselves.
Twitter: It isn't particularly shocking, but users tweet at and engage with females much more than they do males. Women tweet more frequently too, but when it comes to actual user numbers, it's only a minor majority in favor of women: 52/48.
Google+: Google+ is dominated by men (71 percent), mainly comprised of early adopters, engineers, and developers. Furthermore, about 50 percent of Google+ users are 24 or younger.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn reports an even ratio of men and women who use the site to connect with other business professionals. However, men are more active users on LinkedIn (63 percent) because they see it as the most efficient way to network.
There's already some patterns appearing in the divides shown above, but Pinterest remains a fascinating case study in how it draws such a large number of women to its platform. With its stylized yet simple logo and interface, Pinterest has tailored itself toward females as much as it possibly can, while being as covert as possible, so it's not construed as too feminine. But subliminally, the signs are all there, as evidenced by its "About" page:
"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes."
It doesn't sound like a male-oriented user experience! Pinterest also retains a valuable level of anonymity that doesn't require a large personal commitment to the community. Compare this with Google+, which is text-heavy and has a busy interface. Entering a social network into the pool at such a relatively late stage, Google needed to exist on its own terms and merits. As such, while it offers a lot of interesting and unique innovations, it requires a deeper understanding in order to get the most out of its vast capabilities.
A Wired magazine panel recently pinpointed the two core problems for females: "the way Google+ works, and the people who are on it." Research has shown that women much prefer to engage in predominantly female circles, a big reason why Pinterest is a huge opportunity for brands.
Looking at the statistics, perhaps unsurprisingly social media mirrors real life. Women (generally) prefer it for social experiences, while men are more likely to utilize it as a means to an end. (Interpret that however you like.)
What's clear is that there's currently a bombardment of digital noise, and little differentiation out there. We're overexposed when it comes to social media, as sharing has become a habit for us. As a result, the worth of a share has been diluted incredibly.
Humans value privacy -- it's an innate trait and something that's been compromised in recent times by the social network boom, with the likes of Facebook interfering with this need by insisting that privacy be sacrificed. As a result, what we'll eventually see is new forms of privacy emerging, as we share things that aren't important to us at all.
Social is still maturing, and what we'll likely see is each platform carving out its own niche or utility -- much like the respective roles LinkedIn and Facebook currently play. It's not to say there will be an agricultural-esque cull of irrelevant networks, but rather definitions will be a lot clearer, particularly in terms of gender. In this respect, perhaps Pinterest really is the future of social networking. Aiming for a gender-specific demographic is a brave business model, but with Facebook and Twitter being so gender-neutral, it certainly looks to be a sound one.
Fiona Menzies is managing director of gyro Dubai.
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