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GENDER INEQUALITY ON TWITTER: Men Get 2x More RTs & Follows Than Women

And there’s a scientific reason why.

#Duh.  That’s right…#duh, which is actually the reason why men are almost twice as likely to be retweeted than women (but I’ll get to that in a minute). If we don’t already have enough to worry about with things like unequal pay in the workforce, body shaming, and street harassment, now women have one more gender disparity to battle online. This one, though, is actually the result of our own actions…or words.

A recent study conducted by NYU doctoral student Allison Shapp analyzed over 1,600 tweets. Tweets that used hashtags in the “traditional” way – i.e., to designate a searchable term such as #NewOrleans or #MarchMadness – were much more likely to be retweeted than hashtags that were used to express emotion or mimic dialogue (#sorrynotsorry, #notmyday, or #duh, for example). Why? “Traditional” hashtagging is done to facilitate search and bring together thoughts on a common subject – so these tweets are more easily found and shared. People are more likely to search for #BMW than #BestCarEver.  #Duh. Overwhelmingly, 77% of men use traditional hashtags in their tweets, while women tend to use emotionally charged tags expressing personal opinions and #imnotsurprised.

I took a quick glance at my own social media profiles to see what I had hashtagged recently. #SoHungry, #ILoveYou , #SoGood, #SoCute and #ThankGod were used more than once in the past week alone. I used #duh more than five times. Look at my boyfriend’s feed, and the tags are #Hiking, #Motorcycle and #Dog. The Atlantic recently published an article regarding this phenomenon, and while the results make perfect sense they are still frightening.

It’s certainly not news that men and women communicate differently. The scary part lies in the fact that women’s voices are being overshadowed on the internet by their male counterparts. Harvard Business Review found that both men and women are more likely to follow males on Twitter, despite the fact that the network’s user base is split about 50/50 when it comes to gender. Men dominate Twitter’s “top influencer” lists. So what can be done about it? It will take more than Huff Post’s “The Funniest Tweets from Women this Week” column to amplify women’s voices on social media.

Was the hashtag created, purposely or not, to skew toward a male audience? #IDontKnowButIllBetYoureCheckingYourHashtagsRightNow. Either way, it’s important for marketers to recognize the different ways that the genders utilize Twitter. 

~ Anne Martin, AAE, The S3 Agency


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