Social Media… Gays Lead The Way!
|Written by Ian Maloney on September 20 2012|
It comes as no surprise to us here at Hotspots Media that the gay Community leads the way in Social Media usage, just like we are the “avant garde” in fashion and clothing design, interior design, art, music, television and movies. Imagine the fashion world without Versace or TV with no Ellen, Modern Family or Rupaul’s Drag Race! Imagine art without Salvador Dali, Da Vinci or Andy Warhol…Not Even Possible.
When it comes down to it, we gays use social media more than our straight counterparts, and we’re more likely to pay for online dating services. (4% for straights vs.11% for gays) But, before we take a look at the dating sites, let’s take a look at the most popular social media site of all time… Facebook.
Back in 2010 Harris Interactive found that 73% of adult gays used Facebook, whereas only 65% of straight people had a Facebook account. Now as 2012 comes to a close, you would be hard pressed to find a member of the gay community who doesn’t have a Facebook account. (However, since my mother also now has a Facebook account, I suspect that the number has gone up in the straight community as well.)
Gays are much more likely to loyally follow blogs, with 53% of gay blog readers reporting that they visit a gay related blog at least once a week and almost 20% reporting that they read an gay related Blog daily. Surely since 2010 as Twitter usage has grown, these numbers have grown, along with popular blogs by; The Advocate, Queerty, Outsports, JoeMyGod, and Perez Hilton which all have followers in the tens of thousands, with Perez Hilton leading the way with 5.5 million followers on Twitter. Now that’s saying something for a gay boy from Miami, right? (Perez, if you are reading this, we love the new you!)
Now, what all you single guys have been waiting for. Let’s get down to the real reason gays flock to social media by the millions…to find a date. (Kidding, Kidding.) As early as chat rooms appeared in the mid 1990’s, gay people began flocking in record numbers to sites like AOL, Gay.com, adam4adam, and too many others to name. We were searching for kindred spirits, hook ups, and maybe even someone to fall in love with. Although the impact of chat rooms was felt in big cities, it was revolutionary in smaller towns across the country as regional rooms became popular, and for the first time in gay history, men and women could connect with other people who had similar interests. It was no longer necessary to have dangerous encounters in dark parks and rest areas. Instead, gays and lesbians could meet online, chat for a while (or a REALLY LONG TIME) and decide if they wanted to meet for a romantic evening, dinner or just a cup of coffee. I can clearly remember the first time I was in a gay chat room back in my freshman year college, my hands shaking with excitement, nerves, and fear as I realized there were other guys IN MY DORM that were looking to meet like minded guys. I also remember the initial fear of anyone finding out I was gay. (However, that fear was quickly replaced by curiosity, then infatuation, because the guy I met in the chat room was an ice hockey player who lived on the same floor as me…but a gentleman never kisses and tells so we will end this little trip down memory lane right here.) Since the gay community had been relegated to live in the shadows for most of history, it is no surprise that we truly embraced this new technology more so than our straight friends.
Now, in the age of the smart phone, the gay community has taken the chat room to a whole new level. Although they still exist, many gay men are moving away from AOL, gay.com, and most other “old fashioned” chat rooms. Now, “there’s an app for that.” Grindr, scruff, gaycities, and i-date lead the way in social media for LGBT’s (admittedly most cater to gay men… sorry to all the L’s, B’s, and T’s out there, but there are social media dating apps for the rest of the community!) In June 2012 Grindr announced it had surpassed 4 million users worldwide, with the bulk of the traffic coming from the USA; more than 1 million of those users log into the app on a daily basis. Grindr’s own research points out that there are more than 71,000 people logged on to the sight at any given moment.
In Florida, Grindr’s numbers remind us (as if we could forget) that we are not alone. For example, in Miami Dade, there are 100,400 Grindr users. We already know that there are more men in the closet in Miami than in other counties; perhaps Grindr is serving this segment of the gay population better than those of us who are out of the closet? With numbers like that, Grindr has moved to the forefront of dating social media in the gay community. In April of this year, it was announced at an Internet Dating Conference in Florida that Grindr was the winner of the Best New Technology Prize as well as the Best Mobile Dating AP, beating out even the “straight” competition. This was the first time that a gay app won the award.
In the “here today, gone tomorrow” social media market, Grindr has poised itself to remain vibrant and topical. In a new version of the app, due out sometime this fall, the company’s VP of Sales and Marketing Serge Gojkovich was recently quoted as saying “programmers have rebuilt the app from the ground up.” (Buenos Aires Herald) Despite keeping quiet about real “details” about what’s to come in the new version of the app, he did go on to say… “[there are] two new features expected to enhance your navigation experience: “communities” and “filters.” We’re keeping its simplicity, but we’re adding new technology into it that will make it run smoother. And on top of that, it will allow you to find the guy you’re looking for faster. We want you to get a result that is more appropriate for what you want,” I’m sure a lot of Floridian’s will be anxiously awaiting the revamped version of the app which has seem some criticism from users for deleting messages, not delivering messages quickly (or even the same day for that matter) and occasionally crashing. Like all emerging technology, there is work to be done, but it goes without saying that gay men are flocking to Grindr more and more every day, a trend that is sure to continue as more and more men make the upgrade to “smart phones.” In a Community Marketing, Inc. survey from this year, data shows a sharp increase in the number of gay men who own smart phones. In 2011 it was reported that 68% of gay men owned a smart phone, where as in 2012, studies show that 91% now own a smart phone. A 23% jump in one year. (Lesbian ownership also rose sharply, from 60% in 2011 to 82% this year.) As Grindr continues to try to attract a greater share of the gay dating market, I hope they don’t get too commercial and lose the focus of what their app is really about, social networking, and dating. Recently they have started sending political messages to try to further convince gays to vote and get involved in the political issues that affect our community. Recently, they have tried working with local bars and nightclubs to promote their businesses using geo-fencing, with mixed reviews. Often when Grindr users log on to the app, they receive messages about specials happening in the local gay scene. Occasional messages like this are tolerated, however, if the developers lose sight of the original idea of the geo-tracking and social aspect of Grindr, I suspect they may lose their popularity and go the way of some of the older social networking sites and apps. If the new version of Grindr (which I have not seen yet so can only speculate about) tries to move the company in the way of advertising and not about dating and meeting guys, it would become “gay foursquare” and could open up the risk that another company would come in and take over part of their market share.
So, it’s no surprise that the gay community leads the way in the technology race. No matter if it’s Facebook, social media, the blogosphere, on line dating, or buying and using new technology, we are very likely to start the trend, not follow it. Thinking of the GAY community as a niche market, not worthy of advertising dollars or marketing attention could turn out to be a mistake to any company’s bottom line. Hotspots is proud to have a Facebook following of more than double that of any other LGBT media outlet in Florida, as well as a state of the art, constantly updated website that, coupled with our print edition AND our free apps (licensed by Apple, and available for android phones), can reach as many as 100,000 readers per week. Like Facebook, Grindr, and the rest of the social media sites, Hotspots continues planning for the future using technological advances that are cutting edge, in front of the trends, and constantly updated to reach as many people as we can across the state Florida. Through our partnership with the Edge Media Network Hotspots has also tapped into the national LGBT media market, so that we not only plan on the future, we are here now, leading and investing in our community.