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Date: 17 June 2009 

Facing the truth about what men and women want

Do you poke, play or simply ignore? According to a new study by Queensland University of Technology, the popularity of a Facebook application will largely depend on whether you are male or female, and if it meets the criteria of being "cool".

Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett and Dr Larry Neale, from QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, studied the value of applications such as 'Scrabble', 'Mousehunt' and 'Superpoke', which allow people to interact with social networking sites and other users.

Dr Russell-Bennett said when it came to uncovering what made social networking applications successful, it seemed women wanted to express themselves, while men enjoyed the thrill of social competition.

"Facebook users want to possess and share cool applications that enhance their standing within their network of friends," Professor Russell-Bennett said. "For women this is about self-expression, for men it is about who is the best."

The results of the study titled, "What value do users derive from social networking applications?" will be presented at the UK Academy of Marketing conference in Leeds later this month.

Dr Russell-Bennett said the study was important because from a commercial view, organisations were struggling to understand how to develop a cool application and identify the features that would encourage people to recommend cool applications to friends.

"Popular applications can attract tens of millions of views and uses per month, and given that applications are relatively cheap to develop and are distributed virtually cost-free, this makes them an attractive substitute to traditional advertising," she said.

But she said the goal for application developers was to get social networking site members to pass them on to their friends, and this only occurred when the application was considered to have "value".

"The study found value is measured for women according to the ability of the application to facilitate self-expression of interests, values or personality, and for men according to the ability to facilitate competition and comparison. Both want novelty and rarity," she said.

Professor Russell-Bennett said applications were also considered cool when they allowed self-categorisation such as discovering which movie star you are, applications which change daily or regularly, applications which allow high levels of interactivity such as scrabble or bowling, and applications which were exclusive and rare.

"Anecdotally we know that companies are spending a lot of money on applications but they aren't necessarily working."

She said now that they were armed with the knowledge of what motivated people to use and recommend applications, companies could better tap into the social networking market.

Media contact:
Sandra Hutchinson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2994, s3.hutchinson@qut.edu.au
** A high resolution photo is available for media use


Dr Larry Neale and Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett study the value of facebook applications.