SXSW 2012: ‘Social Media Sharecropping’ Encourages African Americans to Monetize Digital Content

SXSW 2012: ‘Social Media Sharecropping’ Encourages African Americans to Monetize Digital Content

Does the rate at which people of color use social media tools directly correlate to the history of sharecropping 200 years ago? Blogging While Brown founder Gina McCauley thinks so. Her panel, “Social Media Sharecropping: Black Tech Adoption” takes a look at the failures to translate black social media adoption into greater monetary opportunities for people of color, and what we can do about it.

The African-American community makes up a sizable amount of the Twitter user base. The numbers show African Americans are more likely than their white and Latino counterparts to engage with social media. Each day we put massive amounts of labor into updating our Facebook profiles and posting up-to-the-minute information on Twitter, yet it seems that entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg seem to be the only ones getting rich.

The current discussion surrounding the “digital divide” only focuses on consumption and engagement. Millions of dollars have been spent to close the gap in technology accessibility, but one has to bring forth a new question: How can African-American involvement in platforms transform into employment and wealth-building opportunities for this demographic?

The digital age presents sizeable opportunities for blacks not only to control and define their own images, but to establish ownership as well. The barriers to producing content have fallen, and now more than ever blacks can take advantage of media and content production.

The panel focused on creating an online business plan signature to your identity and introduced various tools to help expand your brand. Creating a website might not be enough to pay the bills, but it can act as a gateway to monetizing creative endeavors. Blogs such as Black and Married with Kids have leveraged their brand to create a feature-length documentary, and used open tools such as Eventbrite to sell tickets to screenings and events. The panel encouraged content creators to think “beyond the blog” to create a sustainable business. Some other topics and ideas expressed include penning a book and speaking engagements.

The panel also focused on knowledge transfer. Successful bloggers and entrepreneurs were encouraged to focus on working to educate up-and-coming content creators about digital tools such as Eventbrite and Kickstarter. More work should be done to shift the conversation away from the “analog media” centers such as New York and Los Angeles to more homegrown markets such as Austin, Cleveland and Atlanta. The encouraged shift is a reminder there are no geographical barriers in digital content creation.

There is a wealth of opportunity for communities of color to be empowered through technology and for the first time Black Americans have the opportunity to define their own world.

Follow’s coverage of 2012 South by Southwest (SXSW) at