SXSW 2012: How Brands Can Reach a Diverse Online Community

Founder/producer of Southern Fried Filmworks and Big Shade Tree Trevite Willis reveals how big-name brands are successfully reaching out to diverse communities and what you can learn from their techniques

Founder/producer of Southern Fried Filmworks and Big Shade Tree Trevite Willis reveals how widely-recognized brands are successfully reaching out to diverse communities (Image: Winston Ford)

The Internet has never been a one-size-fits-all world, and as communities of color find their voice on social media platforms, it’s essential for businesses to reach out and engage these potential consumers. However, with so many dialects, cultural norms and languages, it’s become increasingly difficult for some brands to reach out to diverse communities.

“Mining Diversity: Developing a Community of Color” panelist Trevite Willis asks, “How well do you know your ‘best black freakin’ friend’?” More so, how well do you know the communities of color that you want to reach out to? The SXSW Interactive panel focused on best practices for businesses and organizations to reach out and connect with diverse online communities.

The key is listening to social conversations. In focusing on how communities of color converse and the different nuances among these groups, you can connect with these audiences on an emotional level.

American Airlines has become a leader when it comes to minority engagement on all levels of their business. The air carrier works with minority suppliers and encourages diversity hiring. They have created portals for communities of color such as Black Atlas with Nelson George, and they partner with local community organizations. Proctor and Gamble has successfully targeted African-American women with campaigns such as My Black Is Beautiful to engage that demographic online as well as offline with branded content on cable channels such as BET and Centric.

To better understand their consumers of color, BET and AOL focused on segmentation, zoning on targeted sections of the sphere rather than lumping in the demographic as a whole. Their focus groups went beyond looking at a specific group such as race and age, and instead emphasized buying power and preferences in behavior.

State Farm realized that their previous “one size fits all strategy” of brand marketing was not effectively engaging their Asian community. There are 24 different ethnic groups that classify themselves as “Asian,” and they do not share the same culture and values. To better reach their users, the company targeted specific ethnic groups within the Chinese community by creating different commercials with dialects such as Mandarin and Cantonese.

Acculturation, or the ability to adapt to new cultures, can also serve as an opportunity to better reach a diverse audience. Campaigns can effectively reach 2nd and 3rd generation audiences by mixing in American and native experiences within their campaigns. Sears saw an opportunity to better engage their Puerto Rican communities by creating a bilingual portal for their consumers, since many in the community speak both Spanish and English.

There is no doubt about it. It is essential that your company or brand build its presence and engage communities online. But before any company reaches out to communities of color, they must first employ diversity in their brand ethos and actively engage in the communities they want to target.

Follow BlackEnterprise.com’s coverage of 2012 South by Southwest (SXSW) at blackenterprise.com/technology .

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  • Steve Sallion

    Winston I enjoyed your article, you are exactly on point regarding “our” opportunity to leverage our involvement in social media beyond being users to “monetizing” the various social mediums. I thought you and your readers would have interest in a company I’m on the Board of called CHARGED.fm (www.charged.fm). We seek to be “all things ticketing”, which also includes a robust platform for “social ticketing”, much like Eventbrite. Feel free and take a look, you will see that are technology could be considered more advanced, and offered at a lower cost than our competition.

    Steve Sallion
    Managing Director
    Carthage Capital Group