Images of Women Get More Facebook Likes, Men Get More Shares

by Mark Kelley on Sep 04, 2013

facebook-content-tipsRetail brand Facebook followers “like” images of women but “share” men.

In a recent study of Facebook images published by nine leading retail brands, we found that Facebook users liked brand images of women 41% more than images of men, but they shared images of men 19% more than images of women.

Here’s how we made the discovery, and here’s what it means.

We used the Taggs’ visual content marketing software to index 1,103 brand images from the Facebook pages of nine US retail brands. Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Forever21, H&M, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Old Navy, Target, and Wal-Mart.

For each image, we collected Facebook likes, shares, and comments, and then we classified the images as showing men, women, or both.

Here’s What We Found

Given the female orientation of the retail brands, it’s not surprising that we discovered well over half of the brand images (63%) show women only.

3genderfrequency

But how does the Facebook audience engage with these image categories? Take a look.

3genderengagement

We found, as expected, that brand images showing only women have the highest Facebook engagement, about 41% higher than images of men and 29% higher than images showing only both men and women.

However, most of the overall engagement is dominated by the always abundant post likes…Facebook shares tell a different story!

3sharesgender

When we analyze shares, we found that brand images showing only men earned the highest shares on average, 19% more than images of women.

Why did retail audiences like images of women but share images of men?

Here’s a theory.

Likes are the “lightest” Facebook engagement, requiring the least amount of user effort and endorsement. Most brand images of women show women wearing products. Here are examples of the most liked content (and most frequent content of women).

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Screenshot of brand images from the Taggs app. Images are owned by the brands.

The images are well designed and the women attractive, but the content focuses on product and has little authentic meaning. They appeal to women’s commercial and superficial desires, and therefore these images get likes, the lightest engagement response. Granted, they do get a lot of them!

Sharing requires more investment from the user, and so the content needs to motivate users. Shareable content elicits emotion beyond superficial wants or otherwise provides some value to the user. Here are three of the most shared images of women.

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Screenshot of brand images from the Taggs app. Images are owned by the brands.

The more shared content has meaning, conveying authentic messages like patriotism, celebration, and self-expression.

This same principle helps explain the high shares we observed for brand images of men. Here are a few examples of the most shared images of men.

markarticle1
Screenshot of brand images from the Taggs app. Images are owned by the brands.

These images conjure feelings of sympathy, nostalgia, human compassion, and sexual desire. (Note: The first two images lack brand, which I generally don’t recommend.)

The retail brands in our study post images of women most often, and quantity costs them quality and the overall shareability of the brand content is diluted.

Brands post images of men less often, only 20% of the time. Presumably they post images of men only when they actually have something meaningful to convey. As a result, these more compelling images of men earn more shares on average than images of women.

Key Takeaways for Visual Content Marketing on Facebook

Marketers should keep these takeaways in mind when crafting a compelling visual content strategy for Facebook.

  1. Content that evokes an emotional response from your audience will drive shares for the brand. Product-oriented content, like a model wearing a dress, can certainly engage an audience, but expect lighter engagement (likes) in return for this content.
  2. Improved shareability of image content does not mean removing products from images, but instead giving the images more meaning.Don’t remove products to boost the shareability. Instead keep the products and brand in the image, and add elements that make the content more meaningful to your target audience. Weave products into a visual story with themes like sex, compassion, joy, and patriotism.
  3. Brand images of course don’t always have to include people. In past research at Taggs, we discovered that retail brand images without people earned 22% more Facebook engagement than brand images with people. We suggested that marketers limit the use of people in product images because people inhibit a users ability to visualize having a product or lifestyle.Combining that research with this case, when marketers do include people in images, the data suggests they should utilize people in images when that person helps the brand make deeper connections with followers. Otherwise, a person shouldn’t be in the image, as a person may reduce engagement.

Do you have any key takeaways from these findings? Share in the comments!

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Research methodology: The retail brands analyzed are all in the top 100 most followed brands on Facebook, and we analyzed all of their brand images published to the global Timeline between January 1 and June 31 2013. We identified 1,103 brand images showing adult people, and we classified each image as having only women, only men, or at least one of each. Engagement as a percent of fans is calculated as ((likes + shares + comments)/fan page likes)*1000 (a multiplier to make decimals in graphs more digestible).

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Post Author

Mark Kelley is the co-founder and CEO at Taggs, the pioneer in visual content marketing analytics. Taggs serves some of the world’s largest consumer brands and agencies. Mark founded Taggs with the vision of helping marketers measure and optimize...

  • http://www.thesocialmediahandyman.com Paul Chaney

    Mark, excellent research and interpretation of the findings. In this case, instead of “content is king,” I guess the message is “context is king.”

  • Arron George

    Very interesting results. We have found that using the product only in posts has resulted in higher engagement than using people in the image.

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    You will definitely see this in some industries. What product is it?

    In other industries, product shots get high click throughs but low conversion, while customer/needs focused images will get more engagement.

    All depends on the audience of course.

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    I think context has always been king. Or maybe context is the king’s adviser who cleverly runs the show from behind the scenes? Analogy lost. =)

  • TAGGS

    Paul, nice play. No down that content relevant to your audience on multiple levels will rule.

  • Kristen King

    This is very interesting!