If there is one thing that the recent standing-room-only BlogHer conference in Chicago should make clear, it's that women bloggers are not a target demographic.
They are actually many distinct demographics. The contradictions within the group of more than 1,000 women attending BlogHer illustrated this diversity: mommy bloggers versus women bloggers with other interests; bloggers who wanted to monetize versus bloggers who wanted to socialize; those who blog about social change versus those who blog about midlife change or accumulating spare change.
The agenda catered to diverse interests, but when attendees felt a session or a company's promotional item wasn't right for them, they did what bloggers do—they broadcast their feedback. They posted, they tweeted, they told two friends. One area where this divide is most evident is in the range of bloggers' attitudes and experience with consumer technology and social media. Panel discussions and hallway chats demonstrated that spectrum, from those who are well-versed in the merits of TypePad versus WordPress and how much video compression is enough, to the time-pressed who just want to know what works and what to buy.
Do communicators and marketers know how to target these many sub-communities? A survey of BlogHer attendees conducted by Ketchum says there's still room for improvement. When respondents were asked what they ask marketers to know before contacting them, a common theme was to know that they are “more than their blog” —they have other roles in addition to being a mom or a blogger. And the most common mistake that companies make when marketing consumer tech products to women, say survey respondents, is to use patronizing language (33%) or employ stereotypes (28%).
The BlogHer conference shows that targeting consumers by gender is a starting point, but that's all it is. One of the other standard demographics, age, can also yield unpredictable results when trying to segment online behavior, a point noted by Northwestern University sociologist Eszter Hargittai in BlogHer's closing keynote. New approaches, such as segmenting by level of involvement with social media, are emerging, but this area is a work in progress.
If effectively categorizing women who blog is uncharted territory, the overall landscape of how businesses relate to bloggers is still the Wild West. Yet one law of the land is universal: stereotype at your own risk.
Chris Ditner is VP, Marketing & Innovation for Ketchum's Global Technology Practice.