Thursday, August 2, 2012

New age women - savvy users of tech and internet

Over the past few months, a lot of interesting facts and figures have emerged, painting a clearer picture of what women are doing with technology and on the internet. While a lot of trends are international, some of them can still apply to the Indian context. 


1) Women use social media for personal networking, men for information and business networking


Jezebel carried an interesting piece titled Men are from youtube, women are from instagram. The accompanying infographic from Life is Beautiful paints a fascination picture of gender balance on social networking sites. Women dominate Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace. While men dominate LinkedIn, Google +, YouTube, Digg, Stumbeupon, DeviantArt and Reddit. All these sites have a social element, but it appears that socialising on the net is skewed towards women while business or information networking is skewed towards men.


It's also interesting to note that the sites patronised largely by women allow a more fluid networking experience, mingling work and pleasure, friends, ex colleagues, relatives and more. The sites which are skewed to men facilitate more structured interaction for exchange of  information. Reddit, Google +, Digg and Stumbleupon are used more by the techie community and are based on sharing and discovery of information. It seems that men's social networking is more purposive than women's.

It is just possible (though I don't have data to support it) that women's usage of social media is more extensive and deeper than men's. This infographic on WATBlog reveals that more women update their FB status/ pictures daily compared to men, and they are more likely to log in daily and comment. Also women make far more daily visits to social media sites than men.


2) Women gamers are growing in number


The traditionally male bastion of gaming is being infiltrated with women users. This seems to be driven by the shift from traditional PC and console based gaming. Gaming on mobile devices is booming and women are avid gamers. In this intriguing analysis of top grossing iPad apps, BGR points out that among the top-grossing (ie. paid) iPad apps, female oriented apps lead male oriented ones by  ratio of 3:1 in the top 5. The article classifies the women-oriented apps like Dragonvale and Mystery Manor, as those which are not combat-based or adrenalin pumping. While this is contentious (do all men play only violent or competitive games?), the 'feminine values' in these apps certainly dominate the male ones.


The article also makes another interesting point - women represent the elusive and desirable target market of people who pay for apps, making them an attractive audience for developers. We are therefore likely to see more and more 'female-oriented' apps being developed.


The Zynga-Facebook combine (remember Farmville? Word with friends?) is also contributing to the growing legion of women gamers.


BGR quotes another study published by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) which estimates that 47% of gamers are female. 


3) Women's usage of technology devices is rising


In the same article I linked above, BGR notes that an eMarketer survey shows growing that iPad ownership among women has overtaken male ownership. I know at least 5 women over 50 (one is my mom!) who prefer the iPad to their smartphone screen or the PC for browsing. Women may not always have the time or patience in their multi-tasking lives to fire up a PC or laptop. My mom, while sitting in front of the TV, often asks for my iPad to Google something that caught her attention while watching a program. The convenience and intuitiveness of the tablet interface could easily trigger usage among an entirely new segment of women users. Definitely, the consumption of internet by this segment will increase.


In India, the last figures we saw suggested 20% of  females  use the internet. The numbers will grow with the penetration of mobile devices like smartphones and budget tabs, on the wave of mobile internet. 


Clearly there is a case for a differentiated strategy tackling the female internet/ mobile device user.