Social Enterprise

Marketing to women on social media: 5 tips for doing it better

Forget about pictures of women smiling eating salads. Here are 5 ways to update your brand's approach to reaching women online.

"There's really no growth in comfort," said Katie Raymond, social media marketing manager for Harman, "If you're feeling pretty comfortable in what your social strategy is in targeting women, then you probably need to change it a little bit."

It's not a bad thought considering that women control the majority of household spending but still experience a disconnect in the ways brands talk to them.

"For us as tech brands, we need to not lose sight of the fact that the way social media really works, is it benefits women in the way that women communicate," she said. She gave the example of crowd sourcing product reviews- something women are more likely to do, and are more able to do through social media. That means social can provide a space for authentic conversations around brands, she said.

Updating strategy also takes a new approach that mirrors a changing workforce where more women are on or leading the teams responsible for advertising.

"As women socially, they change in their acceptance on what their roles should and should not be. The advertising does reflect that," she said.

Still, in a world filled with stock art of women laughing alone eating salad, she sees the work that still needs to be done. Here are five tips to keep in mind when reaching out to women on social media.

1. Start with the data

Before launching a strategy, Gartner's Jennifer Polk said to start with a few different types of data. Site usages can show how many site visitors are women, and how they behave on the site in comparison to their male counterparts. Brands can also look at customer data to learn about buying patterns, as well as look at their marketing data, if possible, for more insight on audience segments and micro segments. So, beyond looking at demographics that include details like gender, there's also information that relates to age, income, marital status- anything that would affect a woman's purchase decision.

This kind of insight can be helpful in tailoring experiences relating to content, messaging, creative assets, and offers to women.

2. Be nuanced

Micro segmenting leads into another point of Raymond's. While some of the most common roles associated with women relate more to the home- wife, mother- she said there's a mostly untapped opportunity to reach women who don't fit into those roles.

"We're finding now that more women are okay with being single and not having children for a while, are okay with being a mom and then still continuing on with their career, so I think it's finding ways to target those women and finding newer channels to target those women," Raymond said.

She also said that perhaps reaching these women means going beyond Pinterest — marketers' go-to move for targeting the female demographic — and looking where else they're active in the social space.

3. Listen to your female audience

On a similar note, Coree Silvera, content and social media manager for LiveWorld, as well as blogger of Market Like a Chick, suggested social listening as a way to get to better know different groups of women.

"Spend some time doing some social listening," she said, "Where is your specific female audience most active? Look at the language they're using. Listen to them for a little while, see what they're talking about, what's important to them." This can be particularly helpful, she said for community building. Creating a sense for the customer that they're heard and accepted can go a long way toward brand loyalty.

4. Pink is not always the answer

As the recurring theme seems to be not making broad assumptions about a group of people, that applies to the tired practice of using pink as shorthand that a product or creative campaign is made for women.

"I think we run into a lot in the tech space where the idea of just shrinking it and pinking it, that becomes the go-to for when you want to market a product to women," Raymond said. And though she has the sense that this trend is fading somewhat, it's not totally gone, along with the tendency to make products smaller- shrink it and pink it.

"Not every woman wants pink and there's a good number of women who find that a product that is made a little more smaller, daintier, that's patronizing to them," she said.

Instead of trying to appeal to women on the basis of size or color, Raymond says a stronger bet is appealing to women based on a value set that matches the specific audience of women.

"If I know that TOMS is a company that gives back to the community, that believes that not only is it that they want to put a great product out there, but they also want to give back and if that aligns with me, then I don't mind liking that brand, and interacting with that brand on social media because they share that same value," she said. Marketers just have to find that value set.

5. Be empowering

Raymond cited maker of athletic wear, Under Armour and they way they portray women as being successful in showing strong images of women.

"The way that they position women in their advertising is very empowering, so it's the look on her face, it's the stance," she said. "You'll see that they take a completely different and focused approach there."

Using an empowering message also has to be done with some care. Silvera referenced a campaign and contest built around female empowerment that included a prize of a kitchen remodel. It was a tone deaf move.

"They got a lot of grief over that," she said, " because here you are saying 'empower the woman' and then, 'oh, here's something for your kitchen'." That's a very traditional and stereotypical message to send. If the audience had been, for example, homemakers expressing an interest in new kitchens, it would have been appropriate, Silvera said.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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