Almost two years ago we conducted research showing that the most important referral for a Boomer woman comes not from an expert, or an advertisement, or someone she has nothing in common with. The most important referral (after her own experience with a product or service) comes from a “woman like me.”
On a daily basis we see these referrals taking place on VibrantNation.com, and we know that women find them valuable because the only people on VibrantNation.com are other women like them.
A new report from iVillage has confirmed this in the context of other communities online.
According to its research (based on 2,232 women respondents), 51 percent of women identified online communities as places they trust for information on products and brands, while only 14 percent said the same thing about social networks like Facebook.
Women value both social networks and online communities, but they use them in very different ways.
As I wrote here almost two years ago, there is a big difference between what I called “vertical sites” (which connect people with shared interest or backgrounds) and “horizontal sites” (which, like Facebook, connect everyone):
As NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick said about this research: “This big thing called social media is very different than this huge thing called community.”
And here’s how one VibrantNation.com member put it:
I found all the conversations on Facebook very superficial and to be honest – plain boring. I got tired of reading about who needed coffee when, how great they were, and what they were having for dinner. Even though this is all internet, women on VN share their dreams, fears, and their life stories. It doesn’t begin to compare with the trivial on FB, in my opinion. When people are willing to open up and share who they are, people connect, friendships are made, and lives are changed – instead of just reading words.”
The difference doesn’t just benefit women; it benefits brands as well. Advertisers who target Boomer women appropriately on VibrantNation.com generate far higher click-through rates than they do on broader networks and sites that attract the same woman. In one recent case, a national soft drink brand got click-through rates 5 times higher on VN than it did on other sites. It’s logical to conclude that women are more receptive to marketing messages from other women – and from brands themselves – when they feel safe, and there’s nothing like the safety of being surrounded by other women like them.
Do others – marketers or women – see similar differences between the benefits and impact of real communities online versus social networks?