Study: Women Dominate Online Purchase Discussion — and Not on Twitter or Facebook

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ADOTAS – According to research that social media monitoring and analytics company Visible Technologies released today, 69 percent of online posts expressing purchase intent are written by women — but advertisers have been slow to leverage the places on the internet where the social conversation is happening that brings women to the point of making decisions about their purchases. Sure, 44.2 of posts by women that expressed purchase intent happened on Twitter — but 27.82 percent happened on blogs, and 26.82 percent happened in online forums. Less than 1 percent happened on Facebook. It might be surprising that where the discussion — and the meaty, in-depth discussion — about purchases takes place somewhere other than in the hot social networks du jour. But that lopsided attention among advertisers underlines another figure that Visible pointed out in announcing its report (albeit one it didn’t derive from this particular round of research), one that says 91 percent of women feel misunderstood by advertisers.

“The spend for social media marketing continues to increase,” Visible’s director of research and analytics and professional services, Carly Wilcox, said in a recent conversation. “I think — hope, anyway — we’re going to see more of a focus on who’s actually using those sites.

“Companies have done a great job on the Twitter train,” Wilcox elaborated, “but I use the word ‘conversation’ very lightly on Twitter.” Wilcox pointed out Visible’s research (which sorted out 125 million online conversations in just the fourth quarter of 2011) indicated the real decision-making happens elsewhere, in more than 140 characters at a time. “Women are residing on these blogs and forums,” she said.

Looking into the topics covered by those blogs and forums, Wilcox pointed out that in spite of “stereotypes about these mommy bloggers and mommy sites,” the conversation cuts across a wide range of categories. Among all the posts about purchase intent by women across all networks and forums that Visible tracked down during the research, 37 percent had to do with children and family, but 18 percent had to do with clothing, 10 percent with coupons and deals and 8 percent with technology. The report underlined one category to illustrate the issue a little more deeply: Sports are often seen as a male-dominated market, but 31 percent of the purchase-related posts about sports that Visible found came from women.

Visible’s research indicates a market that’s potentially potent, yet currently underrecognized by advertisers, yet Wilcox advised advertisers and marketers be cautious and prudent in how they approach these online communities. “Don’t just click the box and say, ‘Yup, I’m advertising there,” she said. Brands should, she said, “come in and be a trusted source in the community.” As it stands, in these blogs and forums, “conversations are happening that don’t have a brand mentioned,” Wilcox said. Moving into that space probably involves a different approach than Facebook or Twitter, which, as she said, “are great for putting out brand messages,” and where brands have been part of the dialogue for a while. And the dialogue on each of these platforms is slightly different. “It’s not just about throwing more money at social media,” Wilcox said. “It’s about learning the discussion in the community.”

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