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msnbc.com
updated 7/28/2010 12:57:26 PM ET 2010-07-28T16:57:26

Social networking sites are reaching a higher percentage of women than men worldwide, with 75.8 percent of all women online visiting such sites in May, versus 69.7 percent of men, according to a new report from comScore.

And it's not just Facebook or Twitter that holds the global appeal. In South Korea, it's CyWorld. In Russia, it's Vkontakte. In Germany, StudiVZ. In Japan, Mixi. In all, women spend 30 percent more time on social networking sites than men, averaging 5.5 hours a month on them compared to 4 hours for men.

The findings, in a report on "Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet," run "counter to expectations," said comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman. "That women now drive a solid majority of Internet usage represents a significant change in behavior from the early days of the Internet."

Much of that shift, he said, can be attributed to the "emergence of social media and online communications channels, in which women are more likely to engage."

It's also "somewhat surprising to see how critical women are in driving e-commerce sales," Lipsman said. "There is perhaps a misconception that women prefer to do more of their shopping in-store while men prefer the instant gratification of online shopping, but in fact that’s simply not the case."

No, indeed not. Women are also "actively engaged in areas that are typically associated with males, such as adult content and gambling," comScore said. "Engaging in online vices is no longer the exclusive territory of men."

The findings are based on 2 million "opt-in Internet users who allow us to passively observe their online behavior," Lipsman said.

Social networking sites need to be considered more seriously by advertisers, comScore suggested. In the United States, many advertisers "still believe that women’s magazines, celebrity gossip and baby sites are the best places to reach women online. While these sites are effective in reaching women, they are by no means the only game in town. Women are actually more engaged than men on the Internet, and they chart their own course. You just have to know where to look."

Women "are embracing social networking in a way that men are not," comScore said. "Furthermore, the rise of social networking has prompted women of all ages to engage in a host of associated online activities, such as photo sharing, gaming, video viewing and instant messaging. All of these activities have benefited from their linkage with social networking sites."

Among other findings from comScore:

  • Sports, automotive, and online trading websites "remain male strongholds online." However, women are "just as likely to manage their money online, and moms and grandmothers have emerged as online gamers along with high school and college-aged boys."
  • Photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr and Picasa, are "most popular among younger women, but women of all ages have embraced it as a key component of the social networking experience."
  • Women tend to "consume less video overall than men, but show more of a propensity for YouTube."
  • Women generate a "smaller share of online activity" via mobile, but that's because they are "less likely to own a smart phone or have an unlimited data plan, both key drivers of mobile Internet usage."
  • When it comes to Twitter, which limits posts to 140 characters, usage is "marginally higher" by women than men. "Men are far more likely to post their own tweets than women," comScore said. "Meanwhile, a larger percentage of female Twitter users say they use the site to find deals and promotions. Women are also more likely to
    use the service as a conversation medium and to follow celebrities."

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