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8 Social Media Strategies to Engage Multicultural Consumers 

By Jessica Faye Carter

Recently, more companies than ever have begun using social media to reach multicultural consumers. If you’re wondering what’s behind the trend, it stems (in part) from a recognition of the size and economic clout of multicultural groups — now about 34% of the U.S. population, with an estimated spending power of over $2 trillion.

“I think companies are turning to social media specifically to target ‘multicultural’ consumers because they’re beginning to recognize this audience’s large influence in the social media sphere,” said Christine Huang, Head of Cultural Trends at GlobalHue, a top multicultural advertising agency. She notes that recent research from Pew Internet and Mintel confirm this emerging influence.

For companies, multicultural social media campaigns provide other benefits. They are less expensive than traditional marketing efforts and allow for relative ease in updating and adjusting strategies. They also allow for the micro-targeting of specific co-cultures within diverse communities, so that companies can move beyond strategies targeting Blacks, Asians, Latinos, or Native Americans generally, and specifically engage the co-communities that exist within these groups, such as Africans, Brazilians, South Koreans, Indians, Puerto Ricans, or indigenous peoples.

Companies looking for new sources of revenue might consider that multicultural markets are part of the The Long Tail — the sizeable number of diverse and profitable niche markets often untapped by companies. Nichelle Stephens, editor of, a social networking site for African-American women, sees it this way: “Reaching out to diverse groups is like a remix of the Long Tail Theory… it’s about big brands marketing to niche groups.”

For companies and organizations looking for ways to connect with multicultural consumers, below are eight strategies for engagement that can help you develop and deploy an effective multicultural — or other niche — social media campaign.

1. Include Multicultural in Your Larger Marketing Strategy

Instead of developing multicultural social media campaigns on a one-off basis, make them part of your larger marketing strategy. American Airlines’ launch of, a travel site geared toward Black travelers, is an example of this kind of effort. The decision to launch the site “was directly aligned with our social media and diverse segment marketing strategies,” said Stacey F. Frantz, Director, Corporate Communications for American Airlines.

“At American, we market not only to business passengers, frequent travelers, [and] leisure travelers, but also to what we call diverse segments, which have unique cultural or group dynamics,” explained Frantz. “This DSM [diverse segment marketing] approach includes the African-American, U.S. Hispanic, LGBT and women segments.  BlackAtlas was a bold play into the African-American segment, and one we’re really pleased to have made based on customer feedback.”

An added benefit of adopting this kind of approach is that your company can share niche social media marketing practices across demographics, so that instead of reinventing the wheel for each new targeted campaign, you can adapt existing best practices from your previous efforts and apply them to new campaigns.

2. Engage Across the Cultural Landscape

It’s a good idea to expand your understanding of other cultures beyond language, music, and cuisine. Develop your niche cultural campaign knowing that there is a full cultural landscape from which you can draw inspiration and material for your social media site. Saskia Sorrosa, Senior Director of Marketing at the NBA, described the importance of understanding the cultural groups themselves.

“Cultural relevancy goes beyond language,” noted Sorrosa. “To be effective in reaching your target, you need to first understand who you are trying to reach, their wants and needs, their social environment, and their consumption patterns. Understanding the cultural landscape will allow you to better define what your brand or product needs to look like to appeal to your target.”

Companies should also be aware that consumers often have a certain comfort level toggling between different cultures. As Lynne d Johnson, Senior Vice President of Social Media at The Advertising Research Foundation observed, “Today’s multicultural consumer code- and culture-switches, and brands need to understand that. You can’t speak with consumers in just one voice, or expect to reach groups at various life stages with the same messages,” said Johnson, also noting that generational differences impact how marketing messages are received.

3. Celebrate Culture!


The celebration of the culture and diversity of multicultural communities should be central to your social media campaign. Don’t be afraid to highlight aspects of a particular group’s culture. Honda engages the culture of historically black colleges and universities with its Battle of the Bands site, for example, while State Farm celebrated Bollywood entertainment with its BollyStar competition, sending the two winners to star in a Bollywood movie.

Take your cue from the NBA, which combines its entertainment offerings with a celebration of culture on one of its newest sites geared toward Hispanic and Latino fans: éne•bé•a (the Spanish pronunciation of NBA). According to Sorrosa, “Éne•bé•a further allows [the NBA] to deliver the excitement of the world’s most dynamic game in a way that celebrates our fans’ cultural identity and the diversity of our players and fans.”

4. Just Say “No” to Stereotyping

It’s common practice to “fill in the blanks” when you have an incomplete understanding of a subject, but when dealing with cultural issues, a lack of understanding can be disastrous. Avoid relying on stereotypes when developing your campaign. Instead, base your understanding of cultural matters on consumer research (see #6 below), focus groups (see #7 below), and your internal marketing resources.

Avoiding stereotypes can be difficult. “Online as well as off, all brands speaking to diverse audiences face the challenge of developing culture-based strategies that aren’t rooted in stereotypes or staid notions of ‘general’ vs ‘multicultural marketing’,” observed Huang. “They’re charged with the none-too-easy task of creating messaging that is relevant to their disparate and evolving audiences — which requires more than a cursory understanding of their generalized heritages and identities.” Understanding multicultural consumers takes work, and there is no shortcut for gaining a thorough understanding of the diverse groups your company is trying to reach. Your efforts in this area will increase consumer appreciation and raise the level of trust in your organization.

5. Second That Emotion

Finding an emotional connection with multicultural consumers is essential to the success of your social media efforts. The NBA understands this, and supports this kind of connection on their éne•bé•a site. Said Sorrosa: “We know, for example, that our Hispanic fans have a strong emotional connection with our Latino NBA players. That said, our content across our éne•bé•a digital assets has a special focus on these players, including interviews, online chats, statistics, photo galleries… more so than you would find on our general NBA content pages.”

Along the same lines, if your company has a track record of involvement with the community you are trying to reach, highlight that relationship somewhere on the site. It’s a great way to build trust while demonstrating your commitment to the community, particularly if your engagement has spanned a lengthy period of time. Communities appreciate organizations that have invested in them over the years. Why not tap into the reservoir of goodwill that you’ve already developed?

6. Research Your Audience

Because culture is often a sensitive issue with people, it is important to do your homework on the audience you want to connect with. When developing their site, American Airlines put considerable effort into research. “Our consumer research indicated that a digital offering like would fill a void for African-American travelers who were searching for relevant travel tips, destinations and insights from experts and people just like them,” said Frantz.

And whatever you do, don’t assume. “It’s important to conduct research before just going out on a limb and assuming you know who your customer is,” said Johnson.

7. Test Your Assumptions

As you’re developing ideas for the site, test them out on employee and consumer focus groups. Frantz notes that American Airlines conducted extensive testing on its site. “The concept of the site was tested in focus groups, at several stages,” said Frantz. She also mentioned that it was “previewed by employees of American Airlines who provided a strong endorsement for its relevance among African-Americans.”

It can be easy for companies to get caught up in “groupthink” and rely on the opinions of marketing experts when developing culturally-relevant campaigns. Frantz advises companies to trust their audience: “[C]hallenge your organization to trust people who live as minorities, value their input into the site and don’t try to make it appeal to everyone.  Delivering culturally-relevant, fresh content is central to your success.”

8. Work the Networks


To get a better understanding of the communities you are trying to reach, visit social networking sites, microsites, or blogs geared toward multicultural groups. Spend time on larger sites like TheGrio and MySpace Latino, as well as emerging sites such as or CitySaheli, a social networking site for South Asian women. These sites will give you a sense of the range of viewpoints, communication styles, popular topics, and current issues facing members of the various communities. You may also find these sites to be fertile advertising ground when the time comes to promote your new campaign.


Multicultural social media is more than just a passing fad — it’s an opportunity for companies and multicultural consumers to connect around ideas, products, and services. Companies are using niche cultural campaigns to increase their brand awareness among multicultural consumers — many of whom enjoy participating in these culturally relevant online experiences.

Isn’t that what social media is all about? As Huang notes: “Companies who have the capacity to truly understand the cultural nuances of their audience and use that insight to seed their messages in the right places to effectively speak with — not just to — them, are the ones that are using social media the way it is meant to be used; as a tool for organic conversation, not scattershot blasting.”

 Jessica Faye Carter is an award-winning author and columnist. She blogs at Technicultr.

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