Understanding your target demographic is essential to a strong marketing campaign, no matter what medium you use. The same goes for social networking; you must know who your audience is in order to build better connections with your fans.

The chances are pretty good that your audiences on your various social media networks are composed of more women than men. We’ve hunted down research about the gender divide to figure out exactly what role women play in the realm of social media. The ladies are currently in the lead, and have been for some time.

Early Investigations

The topic of gender in social media isn’t new. Studies have found that women’s use of social media has exceeded men’s for at least three years. For example, Nielsen’s data from December 2009 found that women were using their smartphones more than men for social networking.

BlogHer, a cross-platform media network and publisher focused on women, also reported in 2009 that 42 million women in the U.S. used social media weekly or more. The results showed that the popular social networking platforms of the day — Facebook and MySpace — got the most usage, followed by blogs.

A similar study by ComScore, released June 2010, also examined the role of women in shaping Internet presence. The research showed that women spent 30 percent more time per month, using social media networking sites than men. It found that almost 56 percent of women used their Internet time to stay in touch with people, compared with 46 percent of men.

ComScore also investigated men and women’s use of Twitter in April 2010, and found that women marginally outpaced men in adopting the platform. However, the differences were too small to accurately determine how each gender used the network.

Findings From the Past Year

Several heavy-hitters like Pew, Rebtel, and Nielsen have continued to analyze women’s use of social media and have all released reports in the past year. Rebtel’s data examined approaches to communication and found that women exceeded men in their use of social networks for staying in touch with friends, family, and coworkers.

Nielsen’s social media report, from the third quarter of 2011, included online video views in its data. The company said that a larger number of women view online video through blogs and social networks, but men logged a higher number of streamed videos and hours watched.

The Pew Research Center is a leader in analyzing advances in new media. It operates the Pew Internet & American Life project, which releases regular investigations into the Web’s impact on the nation’s citizens. The unit issued a report in 2011 that found larger percentages of women used social networks to stay in touch with family and friends. Another 2011 report from the Pew center confirmed these results about the gender split, finding more women among the members of Facebook and Twitter.

Research into Spending

Investigators are also curious about the gender divide when it comes to spending habits. BlogHer released its fifth annual “Women and Social Media Study” in March. The research focused on women’s spending habits through social media platforms. It covered both BlogHer’s internal network and a sample of the greater U.S. population.

The results showed that 41 percent of women relied on blogs to learn about new products, while 39 percent used them to look for product recommendations. Thirty-six percent used blogs to help them make purchase decisions. In fact, blog recommendations led to purchases for more than 61 percent of active readers, compared with 33 percent of Facebook and 31 percent of active Twitter members.

A report from TNS also compared the Web spending of women and men (along with their other Internet habits). The findings showed that in all age groups, women spent more time shopping online than men. It also noted that women were less likely than men to find online ads intrusive, and were more likely to seek more information about a brand seen in those ads.

What Does it Mean for You?

At this point, the evidence about women’s use of social media is hard to ignore. So what should you do? First off, don’t forget to look at the bigger picture. Ideally, the readership for your social media presence is large, so even though a majority may be female, you’ll want to do your own investigation to understand their ages, ethnicities, incomes, and interests. Gender is just one element of the equation.

Think about the research and reports as indicators of where you’re most likely to find more potential customers within your desired gender demographic. Investing in ads on Facebook and having a good blog presence may be good ways to connect with women about your brand. Use social media to strengthen your connections with existing female customers or to broaden your base to include more women.

Most importantly, remember that things move quickly in the digital world. Staying on top of the latest research and statistics will help you navigate this field and craft your strategies. Information is power, after all.

Do you tailor your social media marketing to women? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Jerry Bunkers, Ed Yourdon, Intel Free Press, Garry Knight, Jerry Bunkers(2)]