Last week, the mainstream social media world seemed shocked to read the latest statistics which demonstrated the power of Black and Latino presence and behaviour patterns across social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. In case you were under a rock and missed it: “Social Media Today” reported that research from the well-respected Forrester company and a few others essentially demonstrated that the frequency of social network access by Blacks and Latinos is far out-pacing that of non-Hispanic whites.
Just part of many “surprising” facts, read the headline.
Then, after the stats, one found a few superficial nano-thoughts/reasons from cyber-reporters — which seemed to be written in mid-head scratch with mouth still ajar.
The funny thing is, most of us who are digital entrepreneurs of colour were not shocked. In fact, the only thing that was unusual for us is that these statistics are finally starting to be reported in more widely-read media outlets.
Such info has been “underground” precisely for the same reason that many in the social media world were surprised about these stats: there is simply not enough diversity neither in the newsroom, nor in the ad agency, nor in the social media power house to ensure that behaviour by this demographic is consistently brought to the forefront, discussed, and respected.
Even if an individual in the industry had read only one recent study released by Florida State University, all this behaviour would have been not only apparent but very, very exciting. In fact, anyone who specialises in digital media overall would have been remiss to both not know these statistics and not understand the behaviour behind them.
Because, as business moves at a faster clip — resting more and more on the integration of “experiential” marketing, digital platforms, revolutionary U.S. census forecasts, and branding all for the sake of revenue increases — the consideration for demographics once considered niche and the immediate hiring of hip consultants from diverse backgrounds, slick digital multi-culti agencies and savvy diverse staffs will become increasingly important for companies interested in competitive leverage.
In fact, if Kristi VandenBosch, CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney, is correct in her speech at the Ad:Tech convention where she noted that ad agencies need to partner with digital experts for today’s market, then even more attention is needed in securing partners with both digital and diverse sensibilities in order to win.
This is not a time for discovering “surprising” facts in business. One needs to know exactly what is up. The most important thing one can take away from this speed bump is that one-size does not fit all. That’s the beauty of new media in comparison with the broad reach of legacy media.
And one has to really know this diverse market, if no other, for they are the leaders. Not only over-indexing in mobile usage and frequency of social media but also those who are more brand sensitive, spend more at film box office, out-index in consumer electronics; the list goes on. And they are influencers of the coveted 18-34 market. Always have been. Even if you think back to earlier hip hop: who was the first to give close-ups to cell phones and pagers in music videos? Who has the slogan “family first”? Whose population skews younger in our country in relation to numbers? It’s Blacks and Latinos who by and large, though not all, are a communicating, sharing, interacting, trend-setting bunch. I know. I am one of them.
Some have theorized that the “collectivist values” that supposedly exist within this group — rather than the supposed, by and large, individualist spirit of non-Hispanic whites — are the main reason behind such behaviour. But if that is the case, from where do these values originally arise?
It might not seem far-fetched to say that those who have been traditionally marginalized in society tend to huddle even closer, more frequently.
When, say, faces such as yours are not on the covers of say “Vanity Fair’s” Hollywood issue, do you rely more on each other for conversation about movies? Rap legend Chuck D may have said it best back in the day: “Hip Hop is our CNN”. Could it be now that that power has expanded exponentially with the advent of social media? Perhaps. But the real question is, how will it be used next and how can businesses learn and benefit from it?
Clearly, I’m not going to give away all the keys to the kingdom in this piece, but one thing I do know is that it’s time for both greater and consistent discussion on this topic. It will be important to ensure not only that this valuable demographic not be exploited as social media blends with money and ads, but also that digital entrepreneurs of colour who represent this all-important demographic are included at the boardroom table so that successful strategy is implemented going forward.
Lauren Coleman is the President and Founder of Punch Media Group.
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