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4 Ways Marketers Can Better Connect With Men, Women Online

  |  February 24, 2012   |  Comments

When it comes to consuming content online, gender stereotypes remain strong. Vive la difference.

We all know men and women consume online content differently and there's a proliferation of websites specifically geared toward these two demographics. But the question is how do they consume content differently? Our media company, which includes SheKnows and CraveOnline, extensively surveyed readers of both its male and female-targeted websites to better understand the different ways men and women are consuming content online. The resulting insights can help publishers and marketers build stronger connections and deeper engagement with these two audiences.

Let's begin with where men and women are going online to consume content. Our research found that women are going to general sites that offer a wide range of categories of content all on one site to peruse through such as iVillage.com, SheKnows.com, or Yahoo Shine. These sites tend to be a natural extension of the traditional women's magazine format. By contrast, men are going to sites of specific and often narrow interests - sports, news, gaming, and entertainment. Often these sites are unfamiliar to a mainstream audience, but very popular among certain affinities. Every hardcore video gamer knows IGN.com and every Mixed Martial Arts fan visits Sherdog.com.

The next question is why are they going to these sites and what do they value online. Women are seeking content that provides advice and information. Again, think back to traditional print magazines with full-page articles that feature advice on parenting, relationships, recipes, etc. Our research discovered that women find informative/useful articles almost three times more valuable than men. Men, on the other hand, value news or information such as sport results, weather reports, and stock research, or they are seeking recreation such as humorous videos.

We know where and why they are seeking out these specific sites, but what are they doing once they get there? Women read full articles and join communities to seek others' opinions and advice while sharing and connecting with others. ComScore found that women spend nearly 30 percent more time than men on social networking sites. Traffic patterns on our web properties suggest that when it comes to content sites, men are getting in and getting out - gathering their information and moving on. Specifically, men are spending four minutes on male-targeted CraveOnline.com; just half the time that women are spending on female-focused SheKnows.com. When it comes to sharing, men will share something if it makes them look better or makes someone else look worse. For example, women will post photos of their children or pets, while men are more likely to post pictures of their car.

With all that said, how do marketers effectively connect with women/men online? Based on our research and experience, we suggest four important strategies:

1. Target where they spend their time, and are most engaged.

  • Find the female-specific topic general sites for women.
  • Find the special interest affinity sites for men.

2. Use your time wisely.

  • Women spend longer on a page, therefore you have more time with them but they are not interested in being interrupted during their focus. Blending in a sponsorship with content is more effective than distracting them. Consider: content or article sponsorship, branded holiday guide.
  • Men spend a shorter time on a site or even per page; therefore you have to get their attention with something worth their time. A high impact unit is key. Guys want destruction, humor, or disgust. Consider: a home page takeover or custom overlay.

3. Provide value.

Successful advertisers are thinking beyond traditional banner ads and providing something of value to their online consumers.

  • Women are coming to the web for information or advice and ways to improve the lives of themselves and their family. Consider: advertisers should provide them useful takeaways such as tips, recipes, shopping list, or even contests and giveaways.
  • Men value entertainment, facts, and humor. Consider: tools or widgets that stream sports scores or stock tickers, entertaining branded webisodes, countdown clocks, and exclusive movie trailers.

4. Empower them to share.

  • Women want to connect with others. They will share photos, anecdotes, anything that makes life easier. Examples: branded cutest pet photos, or pregnancy calendars (tickers).
  • Men tend to only share if it is something that allows them to show off (quiz results), makes fun of others, or provides entertainment/humor. Examples: sponsored photo altering widget, posting fantasy sports and bracket results, or email and text message pranks.

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Mike Dodge

Mike Dodge serves as chief executive of Evolve Media's publishing unit, AtomicOnline, with a portfolio of over 120 owned and operated and affiliated websites. These websites roll up under four branded demographic hubs: CraveOnline.com, SheKnows.com, GameRevolution.com, and theFashionSpot.com reaching over 40 million men, women, and teens each month. Dodge oversees a team of 100 employees and 280 contractors and freelancers responsible for editorial, operations, business development, marketing, sales, and product development.

He was formerly general manager for the Home and Real Estate Division of Internet Brands, Inc. where he oversaw the division's expansion from three to 12 major web properties and tripled revenue to over $20 million. He also served as CMO for Zensys, a Cisco and Intel-backed wireless technology company, and held management positions with McKinsey & Co. and Proctor & Gamble. He holds a BA in political science from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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