Becket Morgan: On Carter Gibson, LGBT Advocacy and Google’s PridePlus Community

Carter Gibson is the firebrand behind the Google Pride Plus LGBT community. Our Becket Morgan reports. — In September 2011, back when Google+ was still in beta and a relative unknown in the social media landscape, college senior Carter Gibson posted a proposal:

For every person who added him to his or her circles, Gibson promised he would donate $0.50 US to the Red Cross Horn of Africa relief fund. By the end of his fundraiser, Google+ users added him to 786 circles and shared his updates more than 450 times. He ultimately donated $393 to the relief fund.

Gibson wasn’t the first to use social media as a fundraising avenue, but this effort is notable because of its extraordinary success. Today Gibson is in the circles of nearly 900,000 Google + members and he is one of the few Google calls on for its G+ initiatives.

My work with Gibson started around our joint passion for advocating for the rights of LGBT individuals. He started the PridePlus community almost immediately after Google rolled out the community feature. Current membership is close to 5,000 Google + users.

When he put out the call for moderators, three other community members and I were selected to help keep conversation on track. I think what most appealed to me is the purpose of the PridePlus LGBT community, which the official G+ page cites as:

for LGBT and allies alike to discuss all topics pertaining to the LGBT community, plan events, and stimulate action to advance equality. What makes us different? Our dedication to promote change. Not your average LGBT page.

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Pride Plus lived up to its mission statement. Combined with his electric personality,Gibson’s passion for LGBT advocacy  is riveting. Spend a few minutes talking with him in a Hangout and you’ll see what I mean. This energy has not gone unnoticed by Google Plus.

When itsd team wanted to set up a series of hangouts around the theme of the SCOTUS reviews of both Prop 8 and DOMA this week, execs approached Gibson and the PridePlus team to help design and implement the immensely successful hangout series.

This week when the Human Rights Campaign posted their red and pink image, the gem of a great idea exploded across the internet. Gibson’s Google Plus post encouraging Plussers to change their profile pic to the red / pink one has currently garnered 471 likes, 357 comments and 196 shares – abundant proof of his significant impact on G+. Here’s a screenshot of his G+ page:

Carter Gibson Google+ Page

“The action those profile photos starts is conversation,” said Gibson. “The conversation doesn’t result in votes in the Supreme Court or donations to nonprofits, but what it does is show people how overwhelming the support really is for marriage equality. When people see their friends with that profile photo they start talking — whether or not they agree — and I think that’s beautiful, especially since knowing someone LGBT overwhelmingly increases the chances of them approving of gay marriage as well.”

I asked Gibson today what the next steps are now that we’ve seen how successful we can be at getting the word out to the community.

“We need to learn more about our community. What states are they in? What’s their biggest concern? On top of that (and we’ve already done a lot of this) we need to work with other organizations in the LGBT community,” Gison replied. “That helps us be a recognized, legitimate force in the LGBT space everywhere and not just on Google+ — which will provide us with more and more opportunities.”

In the time I’ve spent working with Gibson on PridePlus and other Google Plus advocacy initiatives, (did you see any of the #WorldWaterDay2013 posts? That was our advocacy team at work) I’ve learned the value of authenticity and persistence. Using G+ as a vehicle to work together and advance change on a variety of issues is one of the platform’s most powerful potentials. As I watch Carter preparing to launch his brand new nonprofit organization — the Little Big Fund — I realize one thing for certain: With dedication and an engaging spirit, you can accomplish almost anything.

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