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Why Women Prefer Online Communities to Social Networking Sites

Written by Joshua Paul | on February 17, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Social networking sites may be less appealing to women than online communities.

Only recently have organizations begun to optimize how they use public social networking websites and online communities to fit their member's online preferences.

Both online communities, where the data is owned by the organization proving the community, and public social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn where the data is owned by the social networking site, have a role in member engagement. Simply tailoring your member engagement strategy to the way different segments operate online (i.e. men vs. women or new members vs. longtime members) can significantly help your organization engage, mobilize, and retain members.

Here are three reasons why women prefer online communities to social networking sites when interacting with the communities of the associations, user groups, and nonprofits to which they belong:

Trust, Trust, Trust

Women trust the information they get from online communities more than social networking sites, like Facebook. According to a recent study from iVillage, online communities were scored highest by their users in questions of trust:

  • Online communities: 49 %
  • Portals: 46 %
  • Social networks: 24 %

Women Trust Online CommunitiesSource: eMarketer

According to the research, women also feel that they are more likely to waste their time on social networks, which puts them in a mindset where they may miss relevant information even if they do come across it on a social network.

Depth of Reliable Information

Data suggests that women rely on online communities for researching topics, while social networking sites are used more for entertainment or keeping in touch with family and friends.

Women are more likely to regard online communities as having the right people and advice on products and purchase decisions. Study: Where do women turn for connections to the right people for advice on products and brands?

  • Online communities: 47 %
  • Social networks: 16 %

Female members are more likely to believe that the community managers, members, and vendors in your online community are qualified to meet their need for information.

Behavior of Vendors

Brands and companies are becoming skilled at finding creative ways to use Facebook and other social networking sites to build brand awareness, followers, and lead lists. Though it is the social network user who control the permissions and privacy to a degree, the social networks don’t monitor their sites for overaggressive marketing or often respond annoyed users.

Associations, user groups, and other owners of online communities have a vested interest in ensuring that their members get value from their community, feel comfortable, and continue coming back. The combination of community managers policing aggressive companies more closely and vendors being on their best behavior (so that don’t get kicked out) results in a much more helpful and collaborative environment.

Member Engagement Take Away

Use social networking sites to drive your audience to your online member community where you own the information, set the rules, and lay a foundation of trust for your members.

Use the comments below to agree or disagree with this article.

Use this guide to evaluate, select, and plan a successful online community for your association.

Topics: Member Communities, Associations, Member Experience

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