Is Twitter the Mad Man of online social networks? It may appear so as gender differences abound and males dominate the environment.
Research released by the Harvard Business School examined the activity of a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009 to find out how people are using the service. They then compared their findings to activity on other social networks and online content production venues. Here are some of the findings which focus on gender differences. The results are fascinating:
- Of the sample (300,542 users, collected in May 2009), 80% are followed by or follow at least one user. By comparison, only 60 to 65% of other online social networks’ members had at least one friend (when these networks were at a similar level of development). This suggests that actual users (as opposed to the media at large) understand how Twitter works.
- Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women. Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other. This “follower split” suggests that women are driven less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for reciprocating relationships.
- 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. Even more interesting is who follows whom.
- An average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman.
- Similarly, an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman.
- An average man is 40% more likely to be followed by another man than by a woman. These results cannot be explained by different tweeting activity – both men and women tweet at the same rate.
The study then goes on to say that given what previous research has found in the context of online social networks the results are even more interesting. In a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women – men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know. Read more about the research paper on Twitter.
The findings are extremely valuable for those looking at Twitter as either a knowledge-sharing exercise within organisations and also for marketers looking to utilise the tool to engage with consumers online. For example if the way to reach a woman on Twitter is through a man the impacts on influencer networks are surely impacted. More analysis to come!
About the Author: Jenni Beattie is the Director of Digital Democracy a Sydney based research-led Social Media Consultancy . Enjoy the article? please subscribe to the RSS Feed