Pew: 4% Of Americans Use Location Services (Oh, And There’s That Facebook Places Thing)

Pew Internet, a think tank that regularly publishes research reports about technology, has a new study out today: it says that 4% of online American adults use location-based services. That may sound like a fairly small number given how much attention services like Foursquare receive — especially when it’s a drop of 1% from Pew’s last study in May 2010 — but that stat is actually probably significantly higher now.

You see, Pew had the misfortune of beginning this study August 9 (it ran through September 13). And smack dab in the middle of that was the launch of Facebook Places. Pew’s survey question was worded in a way that could have possibly reflected this launch — it broadly asks if users have used a service that lets them share their location with friends. But it only mentions Foursquare and Gowalla by name, which doubtless had some impact on responses:

Please tell me if you ever use the Internet to do any of the following things. Do you ever use the Internet to…use a service such as Foursquare or Gowalla that allows you to share your location with friends and to find others who are near you? (If Yes, ask:) Did you happen to do this yesterday, or not?

Expect to see a huge jump in both awareness and usage next time Pew runs a similar survey — Facebook prominently features Places on its ubiquitous mobile applications, which were recently upgraded.

Still, Pew’s survey has some interesting observations. The aforementioned 4% stat is for online adults — if you’re using your phone to go online, that number jumps to 7%. Most users are concentrated in the 18-29 demographic, and men are twice as likely to be on these services.

Here are the rest of the report’s key findings:

  • 7% of adults who go online with their mobile phone use a location-based service.
  • 8% of online adults ages 18-29 use location-based services, significantly more than online adults in any other age group.
  • 10% of online Hispanics use these services – significantly more than online whites (3%) or onlineb lacks (5%).
  • 6% of online men use a location-based service such as Foursquare or Gowalla, compared with 3% of online women.