How Women Will Revive the Global Economy

It’s no surprise that economists — and brands — are pinning their hopes on women to get the economy back on its feet. Worldwide, women make the majority of household purchase decisions, controlling $12 trillion of the world’s $18.4 trillion annual consumer spending, according to Boston Consulting Group — and that portion is growing. But yesterday’s tried-and-true advertising messages may not be enough to capture their attention.

Tired of being “advertised at” and wary of spending too much after the recession, women are increasingly ignoring traditional advertising, instead looking for information and recommendations from friends to inform their purchase decisions. They also want to find out about discounts and promotions to make sure they’re getting the best deals.

Brands eager to build affinity with women need to change their marketing strategy from one of “talking at” women to “talking with” them. The best way to create this trusted dialog is through social networking.

Many women are social by nature and have long enjoyed shopping together, sharing deals with friends, and sharing their opinions on products and services. Now, with 75 percent of women Internet users regularly logging on to social networks within the U.S., according to BlogHer, iVillage, and Compass Partners’ “2009 Social Media Study,” social networking takes the inherent nature of women to “share deals” to a whole new level. And it happens almost every day.

According to our study, “Women and Social Media 2009,” 53 percent of female American Internet users make use of social media at least once per week, if not more frequently. Women can share coupons, promotion codes, or opinions on products not just with their immediate friends and family but a wider social network of like-minded people.

Brands that engage in an open dialog with women via social networks provide them with trusted information such as product reviews and brand forums to make more informed decisions, and offer them exclusive deals they can share with friends and family.

Being too pushy with brand messages is an instant way to derail a social network marketing strategy. Instead, think of social marketing as a dialog where women can share their concerns, get useful information, and ask questions about products and services.

Here are some practical strategies for getting social marketing to women right:

1. Create content of value to women. Whether you’re writing content for a Facebook brand page or crafting tweets, keep in mind the type of content that will interest women. Some 75 percent of women turn to social networks first and foremost to connect with friends and family, according to the Social Media Study; they aren’t logging on with the goal of interacting with your brand. As a marketer, you need to create useful content that will drive women to “friend” or “follow” your brand. Examples include: how-to articles about your products and services; customer forums where people can share product reviews and ratings; informative articles and videos about topics such as work/life balance, parenting, health and wellness that have a subtle tie-in to your brand; and exclusive information on new products.

2. Deliver deals. Many women are increasingly looking for exclusive deals and discounts on social networks. A November 2009 Razorfish study found promotions and discounts were the primary drivers of “friending” a brand for over a third of social networking users and 44 percent of Twitter users. Further, some 79 percent of women said using social networks to research products and services was important to them, while 64 percent said the same thing about finding discounts, according to research from ShesConnected.com. Make sure the discounts you offer social networking users are exclusive; to get women to follow your brand on social platforms, they should get access to deals not available to the wider public. In other words, if anyone can search the Web for your 20 percent promotion code, offer social networking followers 25 percent off.

3. Encourage sharing. The only thing better than getting a bargain is sharing that discount with friends. Make your social content and promotions easy to share by adding a “share this” button to all of your content. Most marketers report that at least 20 percent of their site traffic comes from people arriving via links shared through e-mail or social networks. And because people trust their friends and family above all others in terms of purchase advice, these visitors convert at four to five times the rate of visitors arriving via clicks on paid ads.

The bottom line is that if you want to connect with women, you have to go where they are spending the majority of their time online: social networks. Smart brands aren’t just using social network marketing to influence individual women to make purchases, but to encourage them to share brand messages with their entire social network. Together, women just might spend their way back to a strong economy. 

Andiara Petterle is CEO of Bolsa de Mulher based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She can be reached at andiara@bolscorp.com and twitter.com/apetterle.