Corporate Eye

Online Communities Trump Facebook to Connect with Women

New research from Burke Research and iVillage (a website and online community for women owned by NBC Universal) reports that women, an audience coveted by many brands, prefer niche community websites over broad social networking sites like Facebook.  This finding presents an interesting opportunity for brands to better connect with women, gain their trust, and build relationships with them.

As eMarketer reports, 51% of women surveyed during this study cited that online communities like iVillage, BabyCenter and CafeMom are places they “trust for information on brands and products.”  Similarly, 47% of respondents reported that these online communities have “the right people for me to seek advice on brands and products.”  These percentages were double or triple the percentage of respondents who believed the same things about social networks.

Equally interesting were the respondents’ answers when asked what online communities and forums are best for and what social networks are best for.  The results follow.

Online Communities and Forums are Best For:

  1. Finding out about new products = 51%
  2. Helping me make a purchase decision = 47%
  3. Entertaining me = 31%
  4. Keeping up with friends and family = 10%

Social Networks are Best For:

  1. Keeping up with friends and family = 74%
  2. Entertaining me = 57%
  3. Finding out about new products = 21%
  4. Helping me make a purchase decision = 16%

As you can see from the results above, women view niche online communities and forums very differently from social networks, and they visit and participate in online communities and forums for very different reasons than they visit and participate on social networks.  In fact, their reasons for visiting and using online communities and forums are almost exactly the opposite of the reasons why they use social networks.

Bottom-line, if you’re not searching for online communities and forums (particularly niche online communities and forums related to your products and services) where your brand’s target female audience spends time, you’re missing a significant opportunity to raise brand awareness, develop relationships and trust, build brand loyalists and advocates, and grow your brand and business.  In other words, online communities and forums are where women are already talking about products, brands and services.  They’re engaged and open to learning on these sites.  As long as you provide useful, meaningful information and avoid self-promotion and marketing messages, you can indirectly build your brand on these valuable niche sites.

Image: stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.