Multicultural is the anti-thesis of the become like us phenomena. It turns assimilation on its head, upside down.
Multicultural: According to Webster of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures.
Diverse: According to Webster, the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially * : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.
By its very definition Multicultural Social Media looks at difference and acknowledges, we are not all the same. There are cultural, linguistic and identity politics that drive us. They inform our purchasing behaviors and preference. They have an impact on how we relate to each other and the world.
In a few hours, I'm going to be joining some amazing folks at Social Media Atlanta in what promises to be a fascinating conversation about Multicultural Social Media.
There are so many layers to this conversation, I almost don't know where to begin. So, I've decided to begin at the beginning (like Julio Iglesias says) with three reasons why folks should care about multicultural social media.
In May of 2009, money.CNN.com published a piece called Minority Populations on the Rise.
"The nation is becoming even more diverse: More than one third of its population belongs to a minority group, and Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday that the minority population reached an estimated 104.6 million - or 34% of the nation's total population - on July 1, 2008, compared to 31% when the Census was taken in 2000. Nearly one in six residents, or 46.9 million people, are Hispanic, the agency reported."
According to that report, the break down of the U.S. population was as follows: Hispanics 15.4%, Blacks 13.5%, Asians 5%.
These were the numbers in 2008. A few months ago we just completed the 2010 census. Although the results of the census are not yet tabulated, many anticipate that the results will show an even greater increase in the minority population.
#2- Money: The second reason that you should care about multicultural social media is money. The demographics alone are striking. However, add to that the estimated spending power for these groups and you have a very compelling case that any brand would be foolish to ignore. According to a post in Mashable by Jessica Faye Carter earlier this year, that 34% has an estimated spending power of over $2 trillion. That's nothing to scoff at. It represents a tremendous economy opportunity for brands.
#3- Future: If the present state analysis is not enough for you, then consider the third reason you should care about multicultural social media - this is the future. As I previously mentioned, the demographics of the minority populations in the United States continues to grow. This trend is not going to stop. Projections for 2050 show the white population in the U.S. at just slightly more than 50%.
Two years ago the Washington Post ran an article highlighting that according to the census, nearly 25 percent of children younger than 5 are Latino. That was two years ago. That cohort is moving up through the age distribution making each group that it passes through more Hispanic. Moreover, this is not just a blip on the screen. According to Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center "Hispanics have both a larger proportion of people in their child-bearing years and tend to have slightly more children." Passel is co-author of a Pew study that predicts that the Hispanic population will represent 30 percent of the total US population by 2050.
Our society is continuing to grow more and more multicultural.
3 Tips for Multicultural Social Media Success:
I promised you three tips for multicultural social media success, so here they are.
#1- Engage in the communities that are being created.
For a long time there was a myth that pervaded the social media space. Many people believed that multicultural communities were just not online, that the digital divide kept these communities from engaging in this space. The research and case studies that we have seen over the last two years have truly dispelled that myth. It has become clear that multicultural communities exist in social media and in fact in many instances engage at higher rates in this space than their white counterparts. Brands that are not engaging these communities in social media are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Go find the influencers. Go have conversations where these communities exist.
#2- Honor and respect the communities, be careful of stereotypes and be mindful of the value exchange.
One of the most important things that brands in the private, government and non-profit sector can do when trying to engage folks in this space is to honor and respect the communities and their respective traditions and values. A person does not have to come from that community to engage with the community in social media. However, there are several pit falls that someone who is not from the community should be wary of, first and foremost among them replication of negative power dynamics that exist in the real world.
a- Do not expect that the messages that you have crafted for other audiences will resonate in this space. Remember multicultural social media looks at difference and acknowledges, we are not all the same. Therefore, the way to engage these communities will not be the same cookie cutter approach that is used with other audiences.
b- Ensure that there is a value exchange. It is important that brands who come into these communities do not come to just ask for things from the community but that these brands are ready to invest and ensure that there is a value exchange.
#3- Keep it real and be sincere.
Multicultural social media is an exciting, tough and complex conversation to engage in. There are several brands that are leading the charge and investing in multicultural social media and there are several success stories to point to.
However, there is still a very real back lash to contend with. There are some folks who still see multicultural as a dirty word, despite the tremendous opportunity it represents and this is not lost to those of us who work in one capacity or another in multicultural social media. When engaging multicultural communities in social media, brands should be ready to have honest conversations about this.
This is not about pigeonholing. This is not about creating ghettos in cyberspace.
This is about:
1- acknowledging the fact that there are cultural, linguistic and identity politics that drive us as human beings
2- understanding that the growing "minority" populations are creating communities that celebrate those preferences online with or without you
3- brands realizing that there is a tremendous opportunity in reaching out to those multicultural communities and influencers online
We are more than just the sum of our parts and we are more than just a part, but this is definitely a part of the conversation that presents a tremendous opportunity for engagement.