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Social Data Gives Us the Inside Poop on What HBO Shows the fans of Girls Like (or Don’t)

Jun 3, 2016 | Insights

Because our art director had never seen the show before, we gave him what we thought was a simple, straightforward description. We were certain it would result in a satisfactory graphic. We really cannot fathom what he was thinking when he came up with this.

At some point the world seemed to get a little more used to Lena Dunham. There’s still a flap now and again, but the days of perpetual scandal and resulting think pieces seem far more rare (“Could a Chubby Girl Get Patrick Wilson in Real Life?”).

This isn’t to say she still can’t get the media all a-flutter, it’s just that it’s much more of an occasional thing.

For the purposes of this piece we are taking the most radical of opinions when it comes to Dunham. Not positivity, negativity, nor even objectivity, but pure ambivalence. She can come and go and say and do as, and wear or not wear what she darned well pleases and frankly we are unconcerned.

This entry — — in terms of its MEAT, its StatSocial content — repeats a theme we introduced in our Bill Simmons entry.

As a recap for the first time visitor, you have found yourself reading the blog of StatSocial. A company that concerns itself with the demographics, behaviors, likes, dislikes, personalities, and all other discernible facets of social audiences. What is a social audience? Any group of people you can imagine lumping together in a social media setting.

Sometimes they’ll voluntarily lump themselves together as fans of a singer, say, but we can group them on our own. “Mets fans from Kansas, ages 54 and up”? We can tell you all about them, What cereals they eat. Who their favorite opera singers are. What kind of cars they drive.

So, with that in mind, what do the fans of HBO’s other top programs think of Ms. Dunham, Kylo Ren, David Mamet’s daughter, the blonde British one whose character is supposed to be really flighty and enigmatic, and Allison Williams, the head-cheerleader pretty daughter of veracity-challenged journalist Brian Williams. Oh, and the other guy whose character’s slightly older and whose schtick is that he’s seen it all and he’s really cynical.

But both because there are very few jokes left to make about this show, and we refuse to resort to either buying into Dunham’s baiting or resorting to the same lazy old critiques, we’ll get right into it.

We are New Yorkers, but I will say to some of my fellow townspeople who detest this show — and believe me it is hardly beyond reproach — its characters are intended to be figures of fun. Lena Dunham’s character is not meant to be heroic, she’s meant to be a vain, comic grotesque. The show is satirical, like it or not, it is not a celebration of the so-called “hipster” lifestyle.

That tiny defense of what I believe to be Ms. Dunham’s intent out of the way…

Our first chart tells us what the viewers of HBO’s other programming think of Girls. Using the average social media user for our baseline — meaning this is the percentage of the fans of these shows who identify as fans of Girls, when compared to the average social media user. Things shake out predictably enough given the programs being studied.

One extraordinary demographic fact about the Girls’ audience must be revealed before we take one step further.

Dudes don’t watch the show in huge numbers, or at least not numbers even approaching those of the program’s female viewership, and this mathematical and sociological reality no doubt influences all the show’s other statistics profoundly.

But even with this reality of the program’s overwhelmingly biased audience, the score for our lowest ranked show seemed far, far too low. Honestly, lower than Ballers?

Not only do I — and many other StatSocial staffers — personally know many, many women who love Game of Thrones, we even know those who throw Thrones parties every Sunday, and so forth.

And personally, I also happen to know that a significant number of these women also watch Girls, as I — a male, it should be clarified — enthusiastically discuss Ms. Dunham’s creation with them come Monday morning.

This perplexing statistical result, regarding a categorical disinterest in the residents of Bushwick among those concerned with the subjects of Westeros and Essos, provided an excellent opportunity for us to show off the capabilities of StatSocial to not just share demographics, raw numbers, and percentages for the obvious, the popular, and the frequently analyzed. We can get WAY more specific and if you’re in the mood, even downright weird.

Among our many and most useful capabilities are those of flexibility, granularity, and specificity.

StatSocial really digs in, and tells you exactly who your fans are (or the fans of your competition, or your friends, or perhaps a networker whose social networking you admire, or any audience that piques your curiosity for any reason… We can give you a full biography on every audience we analyze).

SO WHAT DID WE DO?

We ran a report specifically on female American fans of Games of Thrones, narrowed down to the so-called millennials, exclusively. Admittedly, the women in our anecdotal argument against this Thrones statistic are of that demographic.

While not their favorite show, this group did include Girls among their top 40 TV shows (granted, number 39), with a fondness quantified as 2.66% above the average U.S. social media user. Perhaps even more impressive sounding, this group is 6.22 times more likely to be fans of Girls than the average U.S. user.

And that IS StatSocial doing its job. It acknowledges and answers anomalies, and if you ask it the right questions, it will always have the right answers.

The fact that this blog entry’s author happens to find Jemima Kirke especially attractive is irrelevant to this picture’s inclusion here. She is one of the show’s stars, and therefore this picture is perfectly relevant.

As we move onto our next chart we get to tell you about one of our favorite and one-of-a-kind statistics. The “multiple” metric. The metric that tells you the likelihood of the member of one social audience also being the member of another social audience.

A favorite example we use to illustrate what it tells the user is that when we recently analyzed fans of Netflix’s Fuller House we learned its fans were 131 times more likely to be fans of Dave Coulier than the average social media user.

That, while a real statistic is more a fun one, and one that conforms to expectation. But sometimes “multiples” can reveal affinities, alliances, interests, dislikes, etc. of which you’d never be aware otherwise. Sometimes they can rewrite the whole story.

This article here illustrates precisely how a marketer should never make assumptions about an audience without first regarding them through the “multiple” metric lens.

You need raw numbers. How many fans do you have? How many of those fans are also fans of this other thing? These number are vital and essential. But the “multiple”is just as essential. Everyone likes Beyoncé after all. But if your audience is 45 times more likely to be a fan of Land o’ Lakes butter than the average social media user, then you’ve got a piece of data in front of you you may have no choice but to deal with.

The multiple alters the vantage point from which you consider your audience, as it gets you inside of them. You get to the heart of the things unique to them and them alone. It can really speak volumes of a product or brand’s truest appeal, and arm a marketer as never before to communicate to an audience directly.

So, with that — relevant background to this next section — let’s look at the show topping all these charts, Togetherness. One of countless creations by indie-cinema’s/media’s extraordinarily prolific Duplass brothers.

The show, now canceled, premiered in January of 2015, and made it through two seasons before ending this spring.

The Duplass siblings, Mark and Jay, the program’s creative forces, are usually credited as the chief pioneers of a cinema style — popular in indie circles in the late-00s — the media came to half-derisively describe as “mumblecore.”

Films in this non-genre were of a similar low-budget filmmaking aesthetic. They were, I suppose, distinguished by being shot in a loosey-goosey, handheld, quasi-documentary style, and having a sort of ad-libbed feel. Also, they often featured Greta Gerwig in the cast (that is claimed more often than it’s true, like saying that Steve Buscemi is in every 90s indie movie).

So-called “mumblecore” films aspired to a certain realism, with plots where the stakes were seldom super high, and not really a lot happened..

While this sort of thing seems to appeal to a certain kind of precious, college educated, white, middle-class, middlebrow audience — perhaps the sort StatSocial’s reporting, as well as your own commonsense, suggests watches Girls — younger Duplass brother Mark may be best recognized for his role on the decidedly, indeed proudly crass and lowbrow FX comedy, The League. The gleefully juvenile sitcom ran for seven seasons until December of 2015.

But — Mark’s association with that proudly crude show aside — the Duplass siblings sort of built a mini-empire out of the recognition of their soft and mumbly indie fare, and the comedy-drama Togetherness — a show about two thirty-something couples, living together for some reason, while being ponderous in a way that presumably attempted to be humorous — is one of the many products their prolific collaboration has produced. It’s our understanding Togetherness was consistent with the general aesthetic that made the Duplass brothers names among people who like that kind of stuff in the first place.

The above referenced sort of white, college educated, middle class demographic you would very much prejudicially judge as a Duplass fan would as we say — to a lot of those guessing — look an awful lot like a Girls fan.

Among the countless things we record, analyze and rank are social influencers; meaning people on social media with sizable followings and active presences, whose content is frequently shared and commented on, etc. The top ten influencers among fans of Girls conform to expectation.

(Well done, Jonah Hill!) With that context established, we will now add that Mark Duplass is the 256th ranked influencer. When you understand that we have thousands and thousands of influencers indexed, that’s actually a not insignificant ranking.

So our next chart, calculated by “multiple,” which frankly looks an awful lot like the first chart in a lot of ways. Its conclusions were come to applying our formulas to a baseline of exclusively American social media users,

For us the greatest surprise is that both in the list above, broken out by percentage, and on this list, the crossover of Girls fans and fans of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver isn’t much stronger. Both shows cater to the perhaps reductive, but statistically backed up type of person we’ve now described a couple of times during this entry.

Proudly, we’ve managed to write about Girls without really addressing any of the standard Lena Dunham debates or hijinks. But we have one final list (well, two, as we sneak a “bonus list” in… but act surprised when you get there), Again, sorted by “multiple” because it’s frankly more interesting.

This time the baseline we used was the combined audiences of all the shows being looked at (including Girls). To this writers’ eyes it’s interesting to what a dramatic degree interest in all of the shows dwindles, and interest in Games of Thrones is statistically essentially non-existent.

We leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but you’ve seen here only the tip of the iceberg of what kind of stats StatSocial provides, and the many different ways it allows you to view them, break them down, interpret, and combine them, and further employ StatSocial to better understand them.

And here, for fits, giggles, and actual insight which might enlighten and educate, we’re providing one more bonus chart.

While a small population, comparatively, we knew the male voice would be distinct. Of the top shows of the 13% of Girls fans who identify as male, only a handful of the shows being examined made their lists at all.

Of the few that did, you will notice some radical differences in the numbers.

Fans of Silicon Valley, possibly (in our humble opinion) the best show on HBO right now, be they male or female, just don’t seem to have much in the way of time for Ms. Dunham and the misadventures of her struggling 20-somethings.

To learn much more about StatSocial, the curious are encouraged to visit the StatSocial site itself, where you’ll find all sorts of stuff including sample reports.

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If you like what you’ve read, please take a few minutes to watch this overview of StatSocial’s data:

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