Five ways to tap into women’s online sharing habits – and how they differ from men’s

Dr Peter Steidl examines how the biological factors that make women different from men impact the way they interact online. Here’s his advice on how to encourage women to share your brand’s content.

Much has been said about the differences between men and women. But all these differences come back to an event that plays out some eight weeks after conception. Until this time, we are all female – even somebody who eventually turns out as a footy player or Mr World!

Around that time, something happens if your genes carry a Y chromosome:  testosterone floods your brain and creates unique circuits that drive male behavior.  At the same time another hormone, MIS (Muellerian Inhibiting Substance), destroys the brain circuits that drive female behavior.

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brain development by gender


If, on the other hand, your genes have two X chromosomes you are destined to remain female. You go through your development in a stable, undisturbed way. These male and female circuits have a huge impact on how individuals interpret the world around them, how they feel about what they experience, and what importance they attach to different experiences which, in turn, creates different ‘deep rooted drivers of behaviour’.  

Not surprisingly then, the respective biological development paths explain differences in the way men and women use social media and, in particular, how they share content.

Let’s start with the driver of sharing, which is the same for men and women: dopamine, the naturally occurring ‘feel good’ transmitter. Dopamine behaves like a drug by driving addictive and pleasure-seeking behaviour. Social sharing provides the same release of dopamine that we get from other pleasurable experiences like sex, eating and exercise. But it doesn’t end with that first share. Every time a person responds, likes something, invites us to an event or comments on our post – we get another dopamine ‘hit’.

According to a recent TPoll commissioned by RadiumOne, 90% of all Australian females and 85% of all males share content online. In other words, there is not much difference with respect to frequency of sharing. The key differentiating factor between male and female sharing behaviour is the way in which dopamine interacts with other hormones and brain chemicals.  

Neuroscience studies suggest that oestreogen and oxytocin play a role in shaping female behaviors, including social recognition, bonding and trust.

In a recent collaborative study with RadiumOne we explored the impact of re-targeting consumers who have shared relevant content on marketing results, identifying five ways brands can harness these naturally-occurring ‘drugs’ to drive improved marketing outcomes:


1. Connect emotionally

The female hormones oestrogen and oxytocin result in women feeling emotions more intensely than men. The RadiumOne TPoll research showed that women are far more interested in creating emotional interactions and checking updates regularly, while men are more likely to use social networks to answer questions or obtain advice from others.  

2. Promote social intimacy

Women are driven to bond deeply and build strong relationships. They seek greater ‘social intimacy’ through their sharing behaviour and are more likely to share content that confirms membership to their informal peer group. Whereas men tend to be more motivated by a need to be seen to be successful or to position themselves as achievers and leaders – women more often want to ‘belong’.

3. Avoid competitiveness

Unlike men, who have higher levels of dopamine and testosterone, which drives more competitive online social behaviour – women will often avoid content that compares them to others. They are more likely to express their values and views and, by doing so, share something about themselves, rather than trying to look better than others.

4. Says who?

It’s important for women to know who the content they are sharing is from. Men are more likely to share if content is interesting, and allows them to position themselves as thought leaders or ahead of the curve. Men tend to give only secondary consideration to the question of who is providing the content. Women, however, care quite deeply where the information is coming from.

5. Put feelings first

What’s new and game-changing for brands these days is not just knowing that women want to connect emotionally, and they want to belong.


It’s knowing what they’re feeling.

Social sharing data is not just an indicator of advertising receptiveness, but also the perfect trigger for marketers to connect with women. Conventionally, brands have relied heavily on great creative to evoke consumer interest. However, an ability to uncover their ‘right now’ feelings and emotional states (through sharing behaviour) can significantly lift the impact of marketing communications, boost brand relevance and, ultimately, sales.

There is an important point marketers who want to exploit this opportunity need to take into account: When we talk about social sharing we often get caught up in thinking purely about social networks. However, online sharing also includes copying and pasting links into emails or instant messages (also known as ‘dark social’). In Australia, dark social now accounts for 75% of all sharing, versus 21% on Facebook, and of the Australians who share online 95% use dark social channels.

My recent collaboration with RadiumOne, marrying neuroscience insights and dynamic big data, has allowed us to uncover these five tips that will enable brands to unlock the value of sharing among female consumers – across all sharing platforms. The key to exploiting this opportunity is to use sharing data that tells us what, when and how women share the things that really matter to them.  

Ultimately, ‘sharing is caring’ – and this is a hugely valuable insight for any brand committed to truly connecting emotionally, effectively and efficiently with their most valuable consumers.

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peter steidl RadiumOne_Why Females and Males share_infographic.jpg


Dr Peter Steidl is principal at Neurothinking. More on his collaboration with RadiumOne here