Mary Kay Learns "What Women Want" - Part 9

06-10-2009 10:20 AM

I bet you're wondering where I've been for the last several days, since I haven't posted anything new since last Thursday.  Well, I've been out of the office, and as Murphy would have it, couldn't get the wireless device on my laptop to work.  Thank goodness for the super folks back at corporate who quickly ordered me another wireless card and had it overnighted. I got it last night, so we're back in business!

When we set out to learn from women around the world what they wanted out of life today, one of the topics that we knew we wanted to explore with them was the role of technology in their lives.  In every single case, no matter which country we were in, the women brought up the topic long before we planned to start talking about it.  Very early in the conversations, the women were eager to talk about how they used the Internet and technology to manage the social aspects of their lives, as an enhancement to their face-to-face relationships with family and friends.  This is one of the areas where the commonality across the world is that all the women are using technology-enhanced social networks, but there are some differences across cultures, age groups and life stages as to why and how they are using them.

For example, in Latin America, social media are crucial for stay-at-home moms to stay connected to the outside world without leaving their children.  For the Korean women we talked with, they primarily use their mobile phones for texting to coordinate a mobile lifestyle.  You see, the vast majority of young women in Korea live at home with their parents until they marry, and their goal is to stay out every day until bedtime.  Mobile technology allows them to stay connected to their social circle without ever having to be "home".  Chinese women are also prolific texters, and the Internet is very important to them as well.  One woman put it this way, "The Internet is like rice.  I can't live without it."

Eastern European women from Russia and Ukraine are frequent users of social networks on the Internet.  The married women and the single women, however, use them for very different reasons.  The married women use the social networks to gossip with their friends, away from prying eyes and ears.  The single women primarily use social networks to find the perfect man.  For young women in the United States, they use different tools for different things.  For them, the Internet is for seeking information, connecting with others outside of the "close social circle", blogging and shopping.  Their mobile phones are primarily for texting, surfing the Internet when away from home, and as an alarm clock.  (I'm certain that one day very soon, these devices will no longer be called cell "phones", as actually talking on them is becoming much less frequent.)  Don't think that it's just the youngest among us who are driving these social networks.  I'm told that the fastest growing group of users on Facebook are the 55+ year-olds.  It seems that connecting on Facebook with adult children and grandchildren who may live miles away has become the most convenient and rich experience they can find.  Where else could they see in real-time everything that is going on in their families lives, complete with the photos to support it.

Next month, I'll have the opportunity to attend a conference focused solely on women's use of social technology, the BlogHer conference.  I'm looking forward to meeting some of the most respected and experienced women in the world in the area of blogging and social media.  I'm certain that I will learn a great deal that we can apply to enhance the social experience for Mary Kay brand lovers everywhere.  I'll let you know what I learn.

The key takeaway from this is clear. Social networking, as far as women are concerned, is BIG all around the world.  Anyone who today wants to connect with women had better be doing so in that realm.  It's one of the basic ways in which women are communicating today, and communicating well is a crucial part of a woman demonstrating her success and self-realization.  It's so important that women will even sacrifice time with their children to "chat" with a girlfriend.

The fast rise of technology-based social networks is no surprise, as the majority of users are female, and we've been "doing" social networks since the dawn of time (they just weren't supported by these incredible technology tools that we have today).  In fact, when you think about it, the Mary Kay business model, created by Mary Kay Ash in 1963, is based on social networking.  The only difference today is how large that network can be, and the many choices that technology allows us about how we develop, grow and share our circle of friendships.

What role is technology-enabled social media playing in your life today?