What Aussie men really want online

John Agnew

For years Aussie men have been represented in advertising as stupid and slobs. John Agnew argues this is actually very far from the truth.

Australian men: for years portrayed as sport-loving, beer-drinking bogans – and more recently, beard-clad, Byron Bay Pale Ale-sipping hipsters. At least, that’s the two-dimensional male persona certain ads being churned out these days would have you believe (to be fair, they’re not entirely wrong). But dig a little deeper into the online habits of men, and you’ll find there’s much more to the average Aussie bloke that advertisers can glean.

It’s something I’ve gained a sort of specialty understanding in, having spent the last five years pumping out content for men around style, sport and (what seems like) several thousand articles on Victoria Beckham’s husband’s hair.

The truth? Most young adult males in Australia are passionate online users who openly express their views, aspire to better themselves and are already clued in on where future content streams are heading. On the flipside, that also makes them one of the most categorically fickle audiences on the Internet.

Men will tell you when they don’t like what you’re selling

Kardashian GQFor one thing, men are incredibly efficient at telling you what they don’t want and don’t like. Whether it’s a piece of content that goes slightly off-brand in the name of grabbing clicks, an article that has passed its repost quota or having your brand associated with one of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, men are quick to comment their disinterest or aversion when they don’t like what you’re pushing.

Statistically, men actually comment online much more than women.

Earlier this year, Dr Fiona Martin from The University of Sydney conducted a study of the comments from more than a dozen major websites to see if there was a gender skew. Turns out, men accounted for nearly 79 per cent of the total comments pool. Add to that the findings of Dave Harte, a media communication specialist at Birmingham City University who in 2014 revealed that shared interest spaces (branded pages, for example) can be rife with negative comments.

“People with shared interests come together,” Harte said, “but often they would disintegrate because the Internet gives people the opportunity to say things that you wouldn’t say face to face”.

While negativity and hypercriticism can create a vexatious environment, it can play as a positive for brands looking for some instant feedback (no doubt men will adopt Facebook’s new ‘dislike’ button with enthusiasm – but for good or evil? Brands will be the first to find out). Taking the hard words on board – coupled with a polished social strategy – can strengthen your brand’s relationship with the audience. Sure, you have to manually separate the crazies and trolls from the genuine fans, but the unflinching candour of men online means you’re guaranteed a dose of constructive criticism, resulting in better and faster content output.

Men seek aspirational content

dicaprio summerLast year, actor Leonardo DiCaprio took a sabbatical year to grow a beard, unwind aboard super-yachts and party like an old school movie star. Trivial news? Probably, yet unsurprisingly mountains of media space was dedicated to reporting on the Leo’s ‘best summer ever’.

During this period, every piece I published about the actor was feverishly shared, liked, clicked and commented by men both inside and out of the key audience circle. Why? Young men aspire to live or at least be associated with a certain heightened lifestyle. And DiCaprio’s lavish do-what-I-want Lothario status is a lifestyle that men are receptive to. They’re only human.

Sure, not every brand can tap Leo as an ambassador but the lesson is: you shouldn’t shy from using aspirational content alongside your more relatable, customer-focused offerings as a hook to reach a wider male audience and drive more traffic to your product.

(It’s worth noting DiCaprio also boldly campaigned for global action on climate change last year – though this received much less attention than him gleefully frolicking with a super-soaker in hand. Go figure).

Men and mobile go hand-in-hand

Currently, 80 per cent of all online adults own a smartphone. So it’s no surprise that men would be using their phones to view, consume and purchase online. Take a recent Business Insider study, which revealed 22% of men made a purchase on their smartphone versus only 18 per cent of women.

In one of my past experiences writing for a male-centric brand, there was a very clear pattern between the target audience and the specific times they viewed content. Men would consume prolifically before and after standard work hours, with traffic spiking between primary commute times. The obvious conclusion?

They’re consuming content and media on their mobile devices.

What’s surprising, then, is the fact only a fraction of brands’ advertising dollars are used to capitalise on mobile – Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report found that only a paltry 8 per cent of American ad spend goes to mobile. It’s no revelation, but mobile is a huge potential market for advertisers looking to reach male audiences.

Men watch video (no, not that kind of video)

Serious amounts of it, in fact. A 2014 Nielsen report found that, while Millennial women consume around 23 hours of traditional TV per week, Millennial men watched only 20 hours – yet log around 2 hours and 15 minutes of online video viewing weekly, significantly more than any other demographic in the study.

Couple that with men’s rising mobile consumption habits and a 70 per cent social media engagement rate and video is fast becoming one of the most promising content streams for the male audience and is where brands should be investing.

Look at it this way; Instagram introduced video capabilities, Snapchat is one of the most widely used apps in the youth market, and vertical video is having a major renaissance. With video content now taking the lion’s share of online traffic and mobile moving up the ladder as the primary way to consume content, you’re looking at a rapidly shifting video model to accommodate what the users want, and where they’re watching.

Aussie men online: fickle? Probably. Opinionated to the point of being brash? All signs point to yes. But two-dimensional they certainly are not. The behaviour and data is undeniable – digital content is what young Australian males want. It’s just about serving it up on their terms.

  • John Agnew is editor at AnalogFolk Sydney and worked previously as online editor at GQ Australia.

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