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Are Women Really Ignoring Social Network Marketing?

Research is mixed

Social media marketers have noticed the millions of women taking to social networks and blogging as a prime target. But research from Q Interactive presented at ad:tech Chicago may be causing marketers to rethink those efforts.

According to the “Women’s Survey,” despite more than one-half of women active in social media visiting social networking sites at least daily, 74.8% reported not being influenced by social networks when it came to their purchase decisions.

A little more than one-fifth of respondents said they were somewhat influenced, and only a tiny 3.3% reported great influence on their purchase decisions by social networks. About 15% of respondents to the survey reported not using social networks at all.

The female Internet users polled were much more likely to say online purchase decisions were affected by coupons and discounts (41.6%), products ratings and review Websites or information searches (22.2%) and even online advertisements (9.5%) than by advice from friends (7.6%) or blog posts and online communities (4%).

Further, the top social networking activities of responding female Internet users—who have been touted as a group highly likely to share product information with their online communities—were sending private messages to friends and sharing photos. Just 8.7% said their No. 1 activity was getting product information, and 1% claimed it was writing product reviews.

It should be noted, however, that only one response to the question was allowed. While researching and sharing product information might not be women’s first priority on social networks, that does not mean they are not doing it.

Among female social network users surveyed by BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners in March 2009, 34% said they used social networks to share their opinions and 20% sought advice and recommendations.

Further, in a spring 2009 study of female social network users by ShesConnected, substantial majorities of respondents considered researching products and services (79%) and finding deals and discounts (64%) important.

eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson suggested that consumers surveyed about their reliance on social networks for purchase decisions may not be thinking of the constant stream of product-related information they share with their networks on a daily basis.

“Perhaps it is true that social networks are not a primary source for this information—yet,” wrote Ms. Williamson in the eMarketer report “Marketing on Social Networks: Branding, Buying and Beyond.” “But it is also true that social networks are immensely valuable for passive transfers of information, and these may ultimately prove more powerful than dedicated consumer review and comment sites.”

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