When it comes to minorities, will Google+ be to Facebook what Facebook was to MySpace?
My latest piece on Politic365:
For all the talk about US Blacks and Hispanics being the most active users of Twitter and having a substantial membership on Facebook, it seems they may not be quickly migrating to and taking advantage of Google’s latest attempt at breaking into the social media sphere, the Google + project.
It is still quite early in the Google+ roll out, but according to a recent analysis, membership on that site has grown 350% since it launched to members of the tech community on an invite-only basis on June 28. Today, there are reports that over 10 million people have already joined Google +. But scan the profile images of some of the 940,000 users listed on the website Find People on Plus and you may notice the dearth of brown and black faces among users. And even among those who managed to get an early invite, they are like many of the later adopters who do not necessarily “get” the new platform yet and have simply set up a basic profile and have not used it since. Much of the buzz of the site had to do with the fact that so few people were allowed on in its earliest Beta testing stages. The curious all wanted a golden ticket.
The site is used most actively now by the crowd of adventurous tech aficionados who are anxious to see Google finally get the social media thing right. Google’s previous experiments with Buzz, Orkut, and Wave all failed to take off. Google+ is slowly creating a new category of user addicts because it is cleaner, so far Ad-Free, and is touted as not being riddled with the same privacy concerns as Facebook, neither is it saddled with applications that litter users streams with gaming updates, for example. Many Google+ users spend their time sharing ideas and tips on how to navigate the site. They also lament how much better it is than Facebook in that it allows them more control over with whom they share information and interact, and how much easier it is to filter out those who they want to limit access to certain updates or photos.
Who is on Google+ now?
It still may be too soon to be taking a critical look at users of a 3-week old site, but since it launched, several articles have examined every aspect of the site including the fact that at one point, only 10% of its users were female. Because more and more studies reveal that Hispanics and Blacks have higher than average mobile phone ownership and are accessing broadband through their mobile devices, it is not too presumptuous to think those groups would have been early adopters of Google+. The “digital elite” , the interconnected web of popular bloggers, technical experts and early adopters to the newest technologies, made up the earliest invitees. This elite group is quite monolithic and for the most part includes middle to upper middle class professional whites and Asians. In America anyway, most socialize in racially segregated circles so when Google allowed those on the site to invite their friends, it should come as no surprise then why the second wave of users mirrored the racial make up of the first wave. Members of the black Technoratti who work with and associate with the general population of tech experts have a healthy representation on Google+ now as well. Perhaps, as they began to invite their circle of friends, they helped diversify the site.
But beyond these audacious early users, many are still skeptical about adopting yet another social media platform, and especially one that is not necessarily intuitive. Google + requires people to categorize their network of family, friends, and colleagues into neat circles and enables users to participate in simultaneous video chat and explore articles categorized by interest.