Facebook's membership growing more diverse

22 December 2009

PALO ALTO, California: The US membership of Facebook, the social networking website, is becoming increasingly diverse in make-up, new figures from the company show.

In a recent blog post, the Web 2.0 pioneer revealed the results of a sample study conducted among the "large and diverse population" in its home market.

More specifically, it compared the surnames of users of its portal with similar data collated by the US Census Bureau regarding the 150,000 most commonly-held last names in America, with some appropriate statistical adjustments.

"This data set allows us to predict what a person's race is based solely on his or her surname. While these predictions will be often be wrong, in aggregate they will be correct," Facebook's blog stated.

Using this methodology, an assessment of 100 million users of the Palo Alto-based service from January 2006 and the same month in each of the next three years found that the panel more closely mirrored the make-up of the US internet audience as a whole over time.

For example, black consumers contributed 7% of Facebook's membership in the first month of 2006, some 2.5% below this cohort's position in the online population as a whole.

However, by January 2009, 11% of all visitors to the social network were drawn from this group, roughly equivalent with broader demographic trends on the web.

Hispanic netizens were similarly found to be responsible for 3.5% of all Facebook registrations at the start of the period under review, compared with a 4.5% share of the online audience in its entirety.

While this segment now represents only 4% of the total number of Americans accessing the internet, it is marginally over-represented on Facebook, at 6% in all.

Overall, the number of people with an Asian or Pacific Island background using Facebook has actually declined from around 7% to just over 6%, while the comparative online figure has remained largely static, at slightly over 4%.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal/Facebook; additional content by Warc staff