The Power of Women’s Networks, by Michelle Hawkins

two women walking
Women’s networks like are growing from strength to strength and are becoming ever more influential. Advertisers are scrambling over themselves to harness the power of these networks to reach the large numbers of women like you that they see as “online influencers”.

As women, it seems we’re more attracted to social media than our male counter parts and are far more active. We rack up an impressive 99 million more visits per month (Pew Research Centre) and this gender difference is growing. Always curious about what drives human behaviour, I started to investigate why and drew our four key insights into this gender difference;

  1. Women naturally want to help others.
  2. Women are considered to give better advice than men.
  3. Women like to recommend.
  4. Women trust recommendations from real people with a face.

Women naturally want to help others

Baby_nuturing[1]There are some obvious biological difference between men and women, most noticeably when it comes to childbirth. This not only manifests in physical differences but also in the way we’re hardwired as women to be more nurturing and caring (although I’m sure we can all think of a few exceptions to the rule!).  This tendency motivates us to want to help and protect others.

Interestingly though, women often want to help other women in particular. This kinship might be as simple as having greater empathy with other women through similar life experiences. For example, enables women to help each other through the shared experience of having been on business trips as a single female traveller feeling vulnerable and lonely. But it could also be driven by a chemical difference.

Oxytocin, often called the love chemical, is higher in women than men and plays many roles during and after childbirth as well as in in orgasms, social recognition, pair bonding and trust. But interestingly, it also promotes ethnocentric behaviour, i.e. showing greater trust and empathy towards members within our (female) communities than those outside.

Women are considered to give better advice than men

Not only do women want to help others, but it seems they’re much better at it too. A recent survey by iVillage found that women are considered to give better advice and their opinion is more valued by both men and women. The reason for this may lie in our evolutionary history . . .

Go back some 80,000 years to a time when men were hunter-gatherers and women were women_networkinghomemakers. As hunter-gatherers, men needed tangible results (i.e. food) to survive and saw business relationships as transactional. Women on the other hand were the keepers of fires and builders of communities and needed relationships to survive. For this reason, they saw business as relational and recognized the value in building networks and communities.

Rather than using modern day social networks purely to sell, women are using them to build relationships and to connect with like-minded women in online communities, stoking the virtual fires.

Women like to recommend

Not only are women more likely to be trusted for their views, but women themselves value word of mouth more and so engage in more of it. And this is self-perpetuating for two reasons.

Firstly, every time you help someone and do something kind, you get a surge in feel good chemicals. This makes you feel happy, gives you the feeling that what you’re doing is right and motivates you to repeat this behaviour to feel good again. Secondly, your good deed has a ripple effect because giving is contagious. If you give someone a gift (be it tangible or intangible), they feel a sense of indebtedness and are much more likely to give something back in return like a recommendation of their own.

Women trust recommendations from real people with a face

Recommendations are perceived as trust worthier when they come from a real person using “real” language and not that of a biased marketeer. This is especially powerful for women when they can see the picture of the person posting the comment rather than an anonymous author. Women are naturally drawn to faces and are much better at decoding facial patterns than men. Social networks that put a face to a name like become more powerful by increasing the feeling of trust and transparency.

As men and women embrace this new connected world in different ways, I predict a big shift towards women innovating through systems thinking. Using virtual networks to share and find ideas and then piecing them all together to come up with new ways of doing things. So here’s to the rise of our new connected world, to women’s networks, to helping each other, and to a generation of women who are fast becoming the key influencer online.

Michelle HawkinsMichelle is the Head of Happiness at The Flying Dodo. She uses her knowledge of the brain, consumer psychology and marketing to turn what was once seen as a subject for the self-help shelves into a field of expertise taking pride of place in the business section of the bookshop. She optimises customer and employee experiences by applying the science behind human motivation and behaviour to make them more engaging, positive and memorable. And because we are physiologically wired to repeat what makes us happy, this creates loyalty and gives companies an unbeatable emotional advantage. / @thehappydodo

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One thought on “The Power of Women’s Networks, by Michelle Hawkins

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  1. Love your article, Michelle! As well as being a massive fan and supporter of maiden-voyage, I also belong to a very strong female network in the North East (UK). It’s a great place for support, advice and referrals. There’s always going to be exceptions to the rule, but in the main, I know I can trust their recommendations.

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