Black spending is growing faster than that of any other segment and to reach this crucial demographic your brand needs to engage the black community.
Few online communities are as influential or perplexing to brands as Black Twitter.
When Nike produced a collection of sneakers commemorating influential athletes and coaches for Black History Month, the Twitterverse responded with outrage. Despite the fact that Nike donated a portion of the proceeds to the Ever Higher Fund, the black community thought Nike was exploiting black culture and labeled the collection "ill-conceived and tasteless."
Although Nike bounced back from its cultural gaffe, the lampooning it received just shows how difficult it is for brands to engage with the black community in an authentic way.
If you aren't active on social media, you may not have heard of Black Twitter, but it's taken the Internet by storm. Black Twitter, simply put, is a group of highly connected users who discuss issues affecting the black community. In many ways, it's an extension of the black experience--a source of news, entertainment, social commentary, and inside jokes.
"Understanding the ethos of Black Twitter can be a high bar to clear if you've never socialized significantly with black people," writes Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Washington Post.
But staying out of the conversation isn't an option, either. African-Americans make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, and black spending is growing faster than that of any other segment. To reach this crucial demographic, your brand needs to engage the black community, and getting active on Black Twitter is a great place to start.
Here are a few tips for engaging with users on Black Twitter:
1. Appoint a brand ambassador. Designate a brand ambassador who's already a well-respected member of the black community. Hair care brand Creme of Nature, for instance, appointed model, singer, and actress Africa Miranda as its brand ambassador. The former star of "The New Atlanta" has been outspoken about her transition from relaxed to natural hair and is now a respected hair personality.
2. Contribute to the community. The worst thing you can do is aggressively jump into the conversation without giving back first. The Home Depot has made a commendable effort on Twitter with its "Retool Your School" campaign, which awards renovation grants to historically black colleges.
3. Make your brand a champion for positive change. Engage in authentic conversations with users, and become an advocate for the community. Just be prepared: Black Twitter is a major sounding board for sociopolitical change. You must be ready to immerse your brand in the issues or risk being seen as a fly-by-night company.
Allstate has dived in boldly on Twitter with its "Give It Up For Good" campaign, which celebrates people making a positive difference in the black community with inspirational quotes, videos, and relevant news stories.
4. Use hashtags. Sometimes referred to as "blacktags" in the African-American community, hashtags are central to Black Twitter. Because more than a quarter of Twitter users are black (and some posts garner millions of retweets), these hashtags are able to gain an enormous amount of visibility online.
Just be careful. Hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter are often tied to controversial topics like the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and engaging in these debates can be toxic for brands.
5. Be part of the solution. Sponsor events, panel discussions, and conferences to advance the conversation with influential African-Americans and the world at large. Make your logo and presence prominent to show that your brand is genuinely interested in the community and committed to helping.
To be taken seriously on Black Twitter, your brand's posts must be authentic, compassionate, and attuned to the community. You don't want to come off as opportunistic, so you must be genuinely interested in giving back and bringing about positive change. If you engage with users the right way, you won't just endear people to your brand--you'll become an advocate for equality and unite people around values that transcend race.