Social media is the new avenue to reach multicultural audiences

Technology is taking over. When you look at today's changing media landscape, online usage is growing at amazing rates.

Technology is taking over. When you look at today's changing media landscape, online usage is growing at amazing rates. And in the multicultural space, the increased use of technology is even more marked as it has become a critically important empowerment tool. Social media has taken the driver's seat in reaching multicultural audiences.

Blogs, online forums, virtual worlds, and social media sites have become important sources of news, entertainment, and information for both the general and multicultural market. And Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace are quickly replacing traditional means for communicating and using technology creatively.

In fact, Florida State University's Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication recently analyzed data on social media behaviors of US ethnic groups and found that ethnic minorities have a higher rate of visiting social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

A recent survey on urban youth lifestyles by MEE Productions revealed 96% of urban youth access the Internet and are extremely connected, technologically smart, and brand loyal. Among all groups, Hispanics are the fastest growing of Internet users, with 18.1 million Hispanics online today, according to comScore Media Metrix. Last year, blacks accounted for 11% of Internet users in the US, according to Harris Interactive. And a nationwide survey by interTrend found that nearly 90% of Asian Americans are online.

As PR pros, we must understand and leverage the power of social media to accomplish our business goals and provide a competitive edge for our organizations.

Practitioners who are seeking to connect with ethnic audiences must move away from creating a “cookie-cutter approach” and create specific cultural relevancy with each ethnic group to strengthen their brand.

Here are a few things to remember when communicating online with multicultural audiences:

• Find sites that connect with your audience. There are a number of online sites that specifically target ethnic audiences.

• Understand what you want to accomplish and communicate.

• Be open, honest, and relevant.

• Dedicate resources to maintain continuous communication and connectivity.

• Speak their language. And I don't just mean English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.

• Be proactive and open to negative feedback.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list; it's a starting point. As you build out your overall communications plan, make sure online and social media strategies and tactics are included. With today's increasing technologically savvy multicultural consumer, social media could give you the edge to connect them with your brands, products, and services.

Lori George Billingsley is the director of community and multicultural communications for Coca-Cola North America. She can be reached at lbillingsley@na.ko.com.

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