Wednesday 25 April 2018

Friday Five: Multicultural Engagement in a Digital Space: African-American Youth Culture

I am a 21 year old female African-American. I listen to Common and watch VH1’s Single Ladies. As you might imagine, my perspectives and ideologies have been influenced over the years by pop culture and media. I am, of course, not alone. Generally, based on research, and personal experience, we know that African-American youth navigate the digital space in a unique and communal way. The result is a clearly established multicultural presence in the digital community that replicates offline cultural trends. While companies target specific demographic groups, including young African-Americans like me, many lack an understanding of how to build relationships and establish a brand presence in the African-American digital community.

This week’s Friday5 explores how young African-Americans are engaging with digital media – both online and via mobile – and things companies need to consider in order to engage relevantly:

1. African-American Teenagers on Facebook

With the most recent changes to Facebook, young, tech-savvy and digitally-minded individuals are leveraging the personalized and customizable features on the site. One group in particular, African-American teenagers, use Facebook as a way to establish a visible presence and voice amongst their peers. As with the majority of youth culture, building a customized Facebook profile allows multicultural youth to reinvent and establish themselves as individual leaders within their own communities. Facebook’s new topical atmosphere provides black youth a platform to socially engage and interact in their respective environments through rich content and personalized pages.

2. Twenty-Five Percent of African-Americans Use Twitter

According to The Nielsen Company’s recent study on social media, “the African-American demographic is more represented on Twitter than any other social network.” It’s no surprise that 25 percent of online African-Americans now use Twitter, compared to nine percent of the white population online. According to a USA Today article, “Many of Twitter’s trending topics have been fueled by black tweets.”For example, the BET Hip Hop Awards aired on Tuesday. One of the show’s signature features is the integration of rap cyphers (a freestyle form of rapping) during the live broadcast. A day after the awards show aired, this concept of a cypher was implemented on Twitter as a trending topic, #Twittercypher. These tweets stemmed from the African-American community’s engagement online and integration across various media.

3. Mobile Emancipates African-American Youth

“If you want to make an impact with digitally connected African-American consumers, try targeting them on their mobile phones,” states a recent study by Google. Compared with white cell phone owners, blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to use their mobile devices to text message (70 percent all African-American and English-speaking Latinos use text messaging versus just over half of whites according to the study), use the Internet, use social networking sites, and record and watch videos. Regarding black youth, S. Craig Watkins, an associate professor of media studies at University of Texas at Austin, states, “What mobile has done is enable them to assert a greater degree of control over their engagement and participation in the digital media world. It gives them a space to occupy, absent adult intervention and with greater emancipation from adult control. They are drawn to that. They can create a space that is really for them.” Young African-Americans have the ability to take full advantage of resources and opportunities on the Internet through a single device that provides access to numerous digital channels.

4. YouTube is Where African-American Youth Share Stories

According to a report by the Pew Internet and Life Project, “Blacks and Hispanics are the most active video consumers online with 76 percent African-American and 81 percent of Hispanics saying they used video sharing sites.” For black youth, YouTube is seen as an alternative to the limited number of cable channels devoted to programming targeted to African-Americans. In addition, it provides a space for groups to create and view content that is tailored to their community, their interests and other topics unrepresented in mainstream media. Online video sharing sites give them an opportunity to share and archive their stories, history and communities.

5. African-American Communities Unite Online and Off

Participation is important when connecting and interacting with African-American youth. They want to identify with an interest or group and create a sense of community within that digital space. When targeting young African-Americans, make sure you establish a presence that allows the brand and the member of that particular community to engage and interact with one another – two-way relevant dialogue, not push marketing. Think about the purpose of your campaign or product and how that fits into the African-American community.

Be careful of the language and visual content you use in your campaign, some content can be seen as playing to stereotype or offensive. Monitor the trends of young African-Americans to see where they are and how they are using the digital space – this will help tailor your campaign specifically to them. Research campaigns that are targeted to African-Americans see what was successful and unsuccessful about those campaigns.

Image credit: AMagill

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