Gini Dietrich

Women Rule the Social Web and Your Sales

By: Gini Dietrich | September 13, 2012 | 

There is an older blog post (from January 2010) that keeps making the rounds via the web.

A Rant About Women” by Clay Shirky is based on the premise that women are not self-promotional, which holds us back. He quotes a magazine editor who tells a friend of his that men promote themselves all the time, but women wait for people to take notice.

He goes on to say that, in order for us to be treated equally, we must be forceful and self-confident. He says:

It’s tempting to imagine that women could be forceful and self-confident without being arrogant or jerky, but that’s a false hope, because it’s other people who get to decide when they think you’re a jerk, and trying to stay under that threshold means giving those people veto power over your actions.

And therein lies the problem. When we act like men, we’re seen as the word that begins with a B… you know, another name for a female dog. But if we act like women, we’re not going to get ahead.

The Glass Ceiling

But even if we acted like men, had the self-confidence to be called mean names, and were forceful and self-promotional, there still is a glass ceiling.

I’ve written about how I had to create a fake personality for Charles Arment, my “business partner,” who doesn’t exist, in order to do business in the early stages of Arment Dietrich.

Charles was a great partner. He gave me negotiation power. Prospects took me seriously. And he didn’t exist.

I’ve always figured if you can’t fight the battle, join them and then have the last laugh. I beat the glass ceiling with my own Remington Steele.

Women Rule the Web

But, at least online, the glass ceiling is beginning to be shattered. Not only does social media create a level playing field, women rule the roost (80 percent!) when it comes to purchase decisions (not a surprise) and brands are turning their attention to them.

Just Who Do You Think You’re Talking To? Owning Up To Women explored where women are hanging out online. It showed women spend more time on the social networks than men and they also spend 30 percent more time being social, connecting with brands, and buying. They’re also more likely to share their purchases online via sites such as Facebook and Pinterest.

In fact, women are nearly 80 percent more likely to buy something they saw on a social network than through any other channel.

Rant Against Women

This year, we’ve seen it all, especially with the election heating up. Call it the mommy wars, the war on women, “legitimate rape,” or whatever the latest and greatest non-PC, asinine comment is.

Whatever it is, this “rant” against women is setting all of us back 50 or more years.

Women rule the roost at home and they make most of the purchase decisions. While some companies are creating products specific for women (Bic Pens and Evernote for Women?), I’m not sure it has to go that far.

We’re not stupid. We don’t all like, need, or want things in pink. What we want, instead, is to be treated like intelligent human beings who make careful and thoughtful decisions about what we buy for our families.

Either you target us or you don’t. But whichever way you decide to market your products or services, discounting women – or target us in a condescending way – will only hurt your sales.

P.S. Mr. D called me a feminist the other day. After re-reading this, I guess I have to agree. I am a feminist! Hear me roar! Do you hear this Jenn Whinnem? Oh. And. A version of this first appeared on Search Engine People.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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116 responses to “Women Rule the Social Web and Your Sales”

  1. AmyBlankenship says:

    @ginidietrich @spinsucks I like things in pink. Just sayin’

    • ginidietrich says:

      @AmyBlankenship LOL!! As do I (my laptop is pink). But I don’t think all products need to be pink just so we’ll buy.

      • AmyBlankenship says:

        @ginidietrich I feel a lot of female commentators cross the line into “women who like pink are stupid/sellouts”. All tastes should be ok.

  2. bdorman264 says:

    Whoa, I knew you were good but just didn’t know how good. How incredible is it you can mention legitimate rape in a Jan ’10 post, and they are talking about it in the ’12 elections. Amazing……
    Ok, ok; guilty as charged -white, middle-class male. Women have come a long way however, but so have blacks, gays, and any other class who has been give second-class status. But there is still a long ways to go. 
    This might be simple, but the cream will rise to the top regardless of who you are. Because of who you are might make you have to work 3 to 5 to 10 times harder, but it can be done. 
    I know who makes the money in our house, but I’m very aware of who control the purse strings. I lost control when I said ‘I do.’……………………doh……………If someone wants my money, they better be able to sell my wife. 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @bdorman264 LOL!! I did an interesting interview with the Minnesota Pork Producers a few weeks ago. Their big push is to get moms to the farm so they can see how pigs are cared for in order to build trust. Women always take extra time to read nutrition labels and be sure what they’re feeding their families is nutritious. Now it’s extending to other areas, as well. 

  3. rachaelseda says:

    As women we need to help eachother, not bring one another down. I think learning how to stick up for yourself is something women aren’t taught to do as much as men. Thankfully I have a Mother who would not stand for that and I learned early how to stick up for myself in many different ways. It’s interesting to see how big of a role the wives and female family members of politicians have progressively played in campaigns over the years, as they should. I often wonder if in reality it shouldn’t be one president we’re voting for on the ballot, but both the Mr. & Mrs. President and Mr. & Mrs. Vice President on the ballot….

    • ginidietrich says:

       @rachaelseda Interesting perspective, Rach. We tend to look at the First Lady as someone who has beautiful clothes and spends her time with sick kids. Maybe that won’t change until we have a woman president, but I certainly believe Michelle Obama has offered our country more than pretty clothes and charity work.

      • rachaelseda says:

         @ginidietrich Yes and I’m thinking we’ll be increasingly seeing that the First Lady can’t get away with just being the President’s “trophy wife”

        • magriebler says:

           @rachaelseda  @ginidietrich What I love about Michelle Obama isn’t that she shops at one of my favorite stores and has the most beautifully toned arms ever. It’s that she knows what it’s like to be a working mom with a husband on the road. It’s that she shines with a fierce intelligence. I’m still waiting for the day when we have our first woman president. In the meantime, I want the bar to be set pretty high for our First Lady. Just sayin’.

        •  @magriebler  @rachaelseda  @ginidietrich Exhibit A: Eleanor Roosevelt

        • ginidietrich says:

           @magriebler  @rachaelseda I just read an interview with her and she said she lets the dog sleep on the bed when her husband is out of town. That made me laugh because Mr. D has a Wednesday night poker game and I TOTALLY let Jack Bauer sleep in his spot.

  4. CM_SocialMedia says:

    @mjtam @ginidietrich me too, notice if your too nice then ur prob not smart, if ur too direct then ur difficult, News: We can be both.

  5. katemhamilton says:

    @PegFitzpatrick @spinsucks @ginidietrich my sentiments too! 🙂

  6. ginidietrich says:

    @valerica Yes we do!

  7. ginidietrich says:

    @AndrewThrasher Now I have All the Single Ladies in my head

  8. ginidietrich says:

    @mjtam Love you for saying so!

  9. Great post, Gini. Honestly, why is this still true? “But even if we acted like men, had the self-confidence to be called mean names, and were forceful and self-promotional, there still is a glass ceiling.”  

    • @PegFitzpatrick it’s because men are still afraid and intimidated by confident women so we try to keep them at bay, IMHO. But it’s changing 🙂

      •  @SociallyGenius  That is most likely true…but why? Are men afraid and intimidated by confident men?

        • @PegFitzpatrick Depends on the setting, but generally I’d say no. I think they’re more envious than intimidated by Alpha Males. Alpha females make us uncomfortable because it threatens the old men are supposed to superior to women stigma. But as more women rise to the forefront, men will be forced to come to grips with the reality that there’s a helluva lot of things that women are equally talented, or even better, at doing.

        • ginidietrich says:

           @SociallyGenius  @PegFitzpatrick I don’t know why it still exists. I don’t like what’s happened to our country this year for women. We’re supposed to do it all and then we’re not. We’re supposed to stay home then we’re supposed to go to work then we’re supposed to stay home again. Why can’t responsibilities be shared equally so we can all have whatever it is we want?

  10. OK, anytime a post can reference one of Pierce Brosnan’s finest works it’s awesome.  
    I was so lucky to start my career at a company that had so many women in leadership that mentors were around every corner.  Thanks to them, I probably have a completely warped perspective of what corporate culture can be like for women.  It seemed in a women dominated board-room, opinions and ideas were sought, no force required (again truly awesome start). I don’t think that I would have lasted two minutes in a place that didn’t want an opinionated woman around!  
    Hopefully as women begin to shape company cultures on a larger scale, women won’t have to be like men.  They can work in a system that values how women communicate.  (Though having fake employees does sound like fun. ) 
    Sometimes it just seems ridiculous that these issues still exist.  Women run one of the manliest, fastest-growing brands in the nation (Buffalo Wild WIngs) and there are still people who are concerned about what we can do?  

    • ginidietrich says:

       @HeatherTweedy The problem is those women are few and far between. I spend a lot of time doing my own silent focus groups while I travel. In airports, hotel lobbies, restaurants, as speakers at conferences, in meetings…it’s all still dominated by men. And I mean less than 10 percent are women. I don’t know why that is, but it exists and I think that’s why those of us in the business world are expected to act like men.

  11. Hey, I’m on board. I didn’t care if my male counterparts thought I was a sellout or a mama’s boy (even if I am), I’ve went on record saying Women are the heartbeat of Social Media. I’d ROARRRR with you but I’m afraid that it would be misinterpreted as a cougar roar and I just can’t have that label, sorry! Keep fighting the good fight, Gini.

  12. magriebler says:

    Way to embrace the “F” word, @ginidietrich! Say it loud and say it proud. You’re in great company.

  13. Can you make me a sammich? 

  14. jennwhinnem says:

    Proud to have you in our ranks, Gini.
    I’m disheartened by the generalization from Clay Shirky “all women are like x.” But you knew I’d say that. I’ll tell you something. I do self-promote somewhat, and it offends people, and you know what? Too bad.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @jennwhinnem I was watching Law & Order last night (it ALWAYS puts me to sleep) and, as one of the female detectives was interviewing a bad guy, I thought, “That would be a great profession for women, if only to teach them to stand up for themselves.”

  15. belllindsay says:

    Ok. Not even joking. I was thinking just the other day “I must ask Gini who this “Arment” person is” – hahaha My jaw is still on the floor. I can’t *believe* you created a false partner persona – and I also think it’s one of THE SMARTEST things I’ve heard in a VERY long time. Hear you roar, indeed!!! 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @belllindsay Yeah…it was pretty funny. But then USA Today got a hold of it and it’s not exactly honest leadership. So I came clean and we had an obituary contest internally. The winner was on the site for a while. It was pretty funny!

      • belllindsay says:

         @ginidietrich Yes, I can see that side of it also, but really, it’s so great, and such an amazing biz story – plus, you didn’t do it for nefarious reasons, and the obit thing was beautifully played. All around win win, in my books.

  16. ShellyKramer says:

    Funny, I never thought of myself as a feminist until lately. Then I realized that if not me, who? I’m with you – not targeting women or doing it in a condescending way is just not smart marketing.

  17. RebeccaTodd says:

    Where to start? First of all, the whole Arment thing…I didn’t think I could adore you any more, yet here we are…pitter patter… you are amazeballs. And as much as I hate the whole expression, you’ve really got some lady-balls. 
    I frequently get told I am “too aggressive” or “so assertive” just for having opinions I am willing to express. And I wear a skirt while I do it, shlock horror! If that makes me a feminist then so be it. 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @RebeccaTodd LOL! Thanks. I was venting to a friend about a meeting I’d had and he said, “Why not give those guys what they want? Create a partner.” So I did. It was kind of in jest and then I realized how well it worked!

  18. allenmireles says:

    Great post, boss. I’d add that many younger male people are learning to treat women with respect (and sometimes the appropriate amount of awe) based on how they themselves have been raised. My poor sons, having been raised with a strong-willed woman as a mom, have been fortunate enough to have a father who has great respect for women (although he finds us hilarious often–but then so do I) and for men, children and small animals (mostly although the pets are getting on his nerves) and who demonstrates that on a daily basis.I would agree that the marketer who operates with less than full understanding of how women today research online, share information, build networks and shop is selling himself short. Any many are. Sad but true…Finally, hooray for Charles. Great, great story. I have used a similar tactic (not deliberately) since my weird name makes everyone assume I am a man. Works well as a screening tool and allows me to be quite forthright until they figure it out. 😉 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @allenmireles On my drive out to CPI this morning, there was a segment on one of the morning shows about someone’s boss. The woman DJ was saying she thinks it’s rude that men interrupt a conversation when they need something, but women will either wait until the conversation has ended or ask if she can quickly interrupt. I thought it was interesting to hear the call-ins because the men leaned on the side of it not being rude to interrupt and the women leaned on the side of being considerate and treating people like people.

  19. Lisa Gerber says:

    I feel like I’ve said this before but one of my favorites is Simone de Beauvoir. In The Second Sex, she said the world would be a very different place if it were ruled by women. 🙂 I read that in college and it has really stuck with me. Now i want to go find the book again. I think it would be interested to read it. Five years later. (AHAHAHAHAHA. who am I kidding.)
    Anyway, I think we should all be feminists – why wouldn’t we be? So we can go make @jasonkonopinski his sammich? 🙂 But seriously, being a feminist doesn’t mean you don’t make him his sandwich on principle. You make it because you want to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

  20. rustyspeidel says:

    I have to say I really don’t think about it at all. Either you’re competent and pleasant to work with or you’re not, whether you’re male or female. If you are, I’m all in. If you’re not, you’re out, your sex be damned. Why is that so hard for some people to deal with?

    • ginidietrich says:

       @rustyspeidel You know, I was thinking about this from the perspective of a friend of mine who is Muslim. Until about two weeks ago, I had NO idea she’s Muslim. It’s a non-issue. She’s hilarious, she’s smart, and she’s been a very good friend. But suddenly people are treating her differently now that they know her religion. It’s the same thing you’re saying…WHO CARES?

  21. josiecino says:

    @ginidietrich great blog post Gini!

  22. I knew a guy just like Charles Arment! Maybe Charles knows him. His name is Burton. He was a partner with a Chinese guy named Sen Ching, who makes antique reproduction English and French furniture. It’s really high-end stuff – one of his conference tables in the US Supreme Court. Sen’s English is horrible, and being Chinese in the US, decided that he needed an English partner. So he joined forces with Burton. In the first 18 months, Burton-Ching expanded to 15 showrooms across the US. 
    Funny thing, Sen’s wife Stella did all of Burton’s work. 

  23. I take issue with the idea that women rule the roost at home and make the purchasing decisions because that is painting with too broad a brush. It doesn’t specify which purchases we are talking about.
    More than a few of us men cook and do some of the shopping for food. We are usually involved in the decision making process for larger purchases.
    Within the online world I am curious about how they developed the numbers as to activity levels and who does what. Are there really more women online or are women just more vocal? I don’t think it is black and white.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love women and I want a world where my daughter believes she can do anything she wants, I just wonder about some of this.
    And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say that I still think that a woman’s biggest enemy is other women. 
    Other than that I think we are on the same page.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @thejoshuawilner Don’t get me wrong…I didn’t say men don’t make purchase decisions or cook or clean or do the grocery shopping. But Josh, you’re in the waaaaaay minority. That’s why Nintendo is asking for your advice and counsel. You’re not the norm. I don’t know the exact number, but I think the women decision makers are in the high 80 percentile. 
      That said, I do agree women are our own worst enemies. 

      •  @ginidietrich  It is not just about groceries and the daily household items. Big purchases like appliances, cars, electronics. Is it just one person or is the couple involved in making those decisions together. I think it is more complex than just looking at a few items.

        • ginidietrich says:

           @thejoshuawilner I agree, but the research shows most decisions (all of the things you mention and more) are made by women. All of those decisions are made by me in my house. I even bought the stinking lawn mower.

        •  @ginidietrich  I am not buying into that research. It has been a while, but I have seen research that contradicts this too.
          I’ll lay odds that you are in the minority and are the exception. Most women are not making the decision on what lawn mower to buy on their own.
          I know stories about women who decide what refrigerator or washing machine they want but they still talk about it with their partner before they spend the money.
          I wonder whether the researchers checked with the stay at home dads because most of them handle huge amounts of “traditional” female decisions.
          I am not trying to be adversarial, it just doesn’t match up with what I hear, see, know and have read.
          Something is off about this.

  24. lmspreen says:

    Thought-provoking as always, Gini. My eyes were opened when I read “In The Company Of Women”, which says the reasons women treat each other the way they do are related to brain and hormone chemistry and other kinds of hard wiring. Interestingly, although the book addresses women:women relationships, the authors also extrapolate the interactions between men and women. And I will tell you, Clay Shirky’s advice might ring true with men, but it’s 85% guaranteed to fail if that’s the strategy the top-woman takes with female coworkers, no matter their rank.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @lmspreen Interesting! I’m going to pick that up and then we should chat!

      • jackinessity says:

         @ginidietrich  @lmspreen oooh me too. I need help with this. I had to rebrand myself “Warrior Princess” to survive in the SIlicon Valley tech culture… but you’re right, that doesn’t work on my fellow ladies. What to do?

        • lmspreen says:

           @jackinessity  @ginidietrich After reading the book, I listed some of the high points here:
          But I got SO much out of the entire book, I really recommend it. 

  25. rustyspeidel says:

     @ginidietrich Read this. It’s another take on the UVA story, but the interesting part is how intent one woman, the Rector, seems to be in tearing apart another woman, the President. To your point about supporting each other. An exerpt:
    “That’s my biggest disappointment with Rice’s piece. It puts personality first, so we miss the meat of it. We learn that [Helen] Dragas criticized [Theresa] Sullivan for how the president dresses. Then Dragas bristled at the notion that such a comment could be construed as sexist. But at no point did Rice or Dragas consider the fact that such a criticism is also classist. Sullivan, it seems, is not Dragas’s kind of person. This personal rift is true—perhaps relevant, certainly interesting—but ultimately banal.”

  26. geoffliving says:

    @ndkeehan Yes, you do!

  27. geoffliving says:

    @laurenfabrizi @ginidietrich Did a nice job on that.

  28. geoffliving says:

    @JGoldsborough How is it going in Kansas City?

  29. JimConnolly says:

    @StephWMSGroup 😉

  30. sirpa_aggarwal says:

    Thanks for a great post, Dini! You got me laughing there in the beginning. So true: Sometimes it feels like we’re between a rock and a hard place. Yet, as you pointed out, it’s wonderful for *all* of us that women’s rights continue to progress towards eventual equality. And there’s no stopping that momentum!

  31. ginidietrich says:

    @ideasurge Kendall! Hi!

  32. ginidietrich says:

    @StephWMSGroup Thank you!

  33. BillGiltner says:

    2 points:
    1.  Clay Shirky does not necessarily know squat about anything.
    2.  The idea that women need to steer clear of behavior that will get her called a bitch is outdated, and may not have ever been a reasonable guideline as a guideline for undesirable behavior

  34. ginidietrich says:

    @CraigMcBreen Oh yes!

  35. ginidietrich says:

    @CraigMcBreen Oh he’s!

  36. ginidietrich says:

    @CraigMcBreen crap. I meant yes. Not he’s.

  37. rdopping says:

    Women are hot. I love them. Why? Cause they are smart…..:-)

  38. rdopping says:

    @CraigMcBreen @ginidietrich Oh no! Not the INTERNET! Dammit.

  39. HelenDDavies says:

    @radiojaja women are awesome 😉

  40. jackinessity says:

    Oh my gods, Gini… you read my mind. I’ve been on a feminist kick ever since seeing the Winklevoss twins speak on Friday. Here’s the post I did last weekend:

    I’m totally sharing this post. You’re my hero!

  41. […] saying the answer to the glass ceiling isn’t asking women to behave more like men. You can read the whole post here. She got some blowback from her readers so I jumped in to defend her. One thing I love about this […]

  42. tiaraandglasses says:

    @SpinSucks So very true! Great post.

  43. lmspreen says:

    Here you go:

  44. justmoritz says:

    @Snowflake07 @SpinSucks And men rule just aboy anything else. Men and women are not equal by design. #unddasistauchgutso

  45. Tinu says:

    In my book there’s wrong with being a feminist. I prefer the term womanist a la Alice Walker, but the bottom line is this: it’s okay to be FOR your group as long as the definition of doing so is being against others. Lots of men are feminists, doesn’t mean they’re anti-man.

  46. TedRubin says:

    What is happening now, as more women spend more time on more social networking sites for more reasons, is that women’s purchasing power now goes well beyond the purse … into women’s relationships.
    Consider how important relationships are in social commerce, and you see that women and the relationships they bring with them are key to expanding brand visibility and company growth through their powerful and innate desire to share.
    Before brands go any further in implementing their current marketing strategies, they need to ask themselves:  What are we doing to connect women with our brand/product/service? What are we doing to make sure women are engaged in all aspects of our product and service cycles? What are we doing to build and nurture relationships with female consumers, and empower them to spread the word?
    Build relationships with your women consumers, and you will see exponential returns (Return on Relationship: ROR). Why?… because Women ROCK the social world!

  47. […] If you’ve been ignoring women as a target demographic in your social media marketing, you are missing out on nearly two-thirds of overall consumer spending. […]

  48. […] saying the answer to the glass ceiling isn’t asking women to behave more like men. You can read the whole post here. She got some blowback from her readers so I jumped in to defend her. One thing I love about this […]

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