Is social media widening the gender divide?
Facebook and Twitter can be a force for positive change, but not all feeds are equal
We know social media has the power to influence behaviour.
Obama was one of the first politicians to see the power of social and use it as a tool to connect with his country. Charities have helped fight cancer just by getting people to share pictures of themselves without make-up. And I got people to vote for my cat as pet of the year through a few simple tweets. Social media can be a force for positive change.
Everyone's experience of social media is different, and you might not always have the power to change that. Your friends, likes and behaviour all influence the content you're served by the platforms and brands can also pay to have a say in your social content consumption. This was most talked about around the Brexit referendum and Trump's election, when the content we were served through social channels was highly likely to influence our voting behaviour.
When a brand pays to share content on social platforms, it can choose whether you see that content depending on your gender. Take me and the bloke sitting next to me: we have a similar outlook on life, a similar job, similar political views and the same number of children, but our social media feeds can look dramatically different because of our biological make-up. It could even be considered that social media platforms are widening the gender divide by allowing brands to target content in this way.
Rather than debate the social responsibility of social media platforms, I'd rather consider how useful this type of segmentation is to brands. In recent years, we've seen a rise in psychographic segmentation – though ignore the fancy terminology, because it's a good thing. Rather than breaking people into buckets based on their age, gender and the amount of money they make, you segment by their lifestyle, interests, outlook on life and opinions. This is a much truer reflection of society today and human behaviour. We do not stop liking a particular piece of content when we hit 35, but we are drawn to brands that represent our shared interests.
Social platforms focus on demographic and geographic segmentation first. It pushes our audience back into the buckets we've tried so hard to liberate them from. While our sophisticated paid-media specialists are able to build segments that work for clients, it's not so easy for brands that don't have access to agency expertise.
Facebook and Twitter both regularly update their paid-targeting options so it will be interesting to see if they begin to allow brands to segment in more sophisticated ways. For now, if you need help navigating the social media algorithms, you can get in touch with the social team here.