How Women and Social Media Can Win Elections, Customers and the Rest
We’ve all experienced it. That moment in which you open your Facebook page just to be immediately overcome by a plethora of articles reporting social injustices across the world, repeated gifs of the latest Trump joke and, most of all, endless, passionate debates about politics on the comment bar below.
Has social media evolved from a place in which to cheerfully look at kittens and duck-faced selfies into an arena in which politicians fight for votes?
Using social media to try and galvanise citizens for political purposes is not a new practice. Thomas Paine, for instance, made good use of the printing press to distribute his Common Sense pamphlet to almost 500,000 people between town halls and taverns, thus securing their support for the American Revolution.
So you could see why, with over 80% of female internet users and 73% of men using social networks for at least two hours a day, it would seem logical for politicians to use the channel to spread their beliefs in an attempt to reach us.
But it’s not quite as simple as that. Just using the most up-to-date social technology doesn’t necessarily equate to effectively mobilising people. For that, one would need to understand the psychological and sociological mechanisms behind the behaviours driving the networks, and then use them to their own advantage.
Obama, for one, got it right. Powered by big data analysis and strategic insights, his pioneering 2008 campaign set the path for social media engagement. Memes and likes travelled across cities to reach over 5million supporters, generating not just $1billion in donations from mobile phones, but also the votes of the ’connected millennials’ that led the president to a revolutionary victory.
Yet Obama’s success was before everybody was using Facebook. The 145 million monthly users being nothing compared to the 1.7billion it boasts nowadays. Meanwhile Twitter had only just started and iPhones didn’t exist yet, so in some ways you could say it was a smart niche that Obama and his team were tapping in to.
But what about 2012? Despite Mitt Romney’s own social media campaign, Obama repeated his success. Why?
Because Obama’s social media strategy spoke to women.
Women voted more on the election day and they voted more for Obama. In fact, female Obama voters made up alone nearly one-third of the whole electorate - an unprecedented result matched only by Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign. Obama engaged with them on social media and reaped the rewards.
It’s an often overlooked fact that it was women who made social networking popular. And it’s clearer than ever today that they are still fuelling the revolution.
Let’s look at the facts. Women post twice as much content as men do, and generally have 8% more friends. They’re more interested in social decisions and political debates online too – women aged between 25 and 44 dominated the debates on Facebook during the 2016 Australian election, the social network recently revealed. Closer to home, 30% of young Brits admit to being influenced by the political posts that their friends share.
Whilst this is something for Trump and Clinton to be mulling over, the same communication principle applies to brands as well. With over 94% women interacting with them online – as opposed to a meagre 20% of men – it is evident that if brands want their content to be shared, they need to make it appealing to a female audience.
How that’s done depends on the brand and sector, but we’ve seen many recent successes by brands getting involved in social change topics. Ben & Jerry’s’ Australian stunt, for instance, in which they withdrew their Phish Food flavour from the market to raise awareness around the Save the Reef campaign, resulted in an 81% increase in likeliness to purchase their brand in the future. And we all know about the success of Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’ – the ‘Evolution’ spot was one of the first brand campaigns to go viral on YouTube, and seven years later its ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ became the most watched ad of all time.
Because at the end of the day, one thing, for sure, is true. Every brand, politician, artist or entrepreneur out there needs the support of the people in order to succeed. And in 2016, the best way to get it seems to be making sure women on social media are on your side.