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How to engage with black consumers through social media

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, CAA-GBG

High-income African-American consumers are also much more receptive to mobile advertising than high-income white consumers

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, CAA-GBG


Black buying power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to a report from the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. That’s well north of 300% growth since 1990 when black buying power was $320 billion.

There is no question about the impact, value, and role black customers have in shaping and driving the growth of our economy. However, the audience still seems elusive to so many brands. An important question is: How do you engage this audience effectively without turning anyone off, dabbling in misappropriation, or alienating other customers?

The key is social media, which has propelled black consumers into the spotlight and epicenter of culture. And this has been fueled by their dominance online. Here are some foundational tips to most effectively engage this vital demographic.

Identify your key black consumer

Just because someone is black does not mean he or she is your target customer. Trying to draw a bulls-eye on the entire black consumer market is unrealistic and antiquated. Strategize about exactly whom are you trying to reach. Black millennials? Gen Z? Baby boomers? Urban or city dwellers? Hone in on those key attributes, first and foremost.

Black consumers come in many forms and are a multifaceted consumer set. The objective must go deeper than “I want to reach black customers.” Apple bought Beats by Dre to target a specific black customer, one of the 71% of African-American consumers who own a smartphone. P&G’s My Black is Beautiful campaign targets girls and young women. Coca-Cola’s The Kitchen Table seeks to reach black mothers.

How do you do this? Create a social audit and develop robust archetype mapping by customer target.

Know your target consumer’s social footprint

Where is your customer online? What is his or her primary social network? What online content is he or she consuming the most? Focus your marketing dollars where your target is. Activate a social listening campaign to hone in on consumers’ behaviors online and where they show up.

Content is king, but only if it matters

Long form, short form, videos, memes. What’s in your marketing arsenal to target black consumers? Consider this: high-income African-American consumers are also much more receptive to mobile advertising than high-income white consumers.

Nielsen reports that black households making more than $100,000 are significantly more likely than white households with similar incomes to think mobile advertising provides useful information about both new products and bargains. Your content must represent your target customer. Putting a black model that has no relevancy to the product or campaign in an ad for the sake of checking a box doesn’t work.

Sally Beauty leverages an African-American Influencer and licensed cosmetologist, Monica Stevens of Mo Knows Hair, to create content and attend events on its behalf to specifically speak to the needs of their customers with natural hair. The brand’s ads reflect real people, store employees, and influencers to bring a level of authenticity and organic connectivity with their products.

Your content matrix should be equal parts of the right media mix and alignment with the correct visual representation of your customer.

You have to test, measure, and expand your messaging and content across various media formats. Track, listen, and learn what content drives the most engagement and conversion.

A few more helpful things to remember

Presently, African Americans comprise more users on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram than non-Hispanic white consumers. (Pew Research Center)

-55% of black millennials say they spend an hour or more daily on social networking sites. (Nielsen)

-63% of African Americans use Facebook to communicate with family at least one a day and 60% do so with friends, compared with 53% and 54%, respectively, of the entire U.S. population (AdWeek) 

Black consumers will continue to amplify their reach and relevancy across social media. As cultural trendsetters and informed shoppers, their influence and importance in our economy is stronger than ever. As such, brands have to sharpen their strategies to best engage them.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is the chief digital officer at CAA-GBG, the world’s largest licensing and brand-management company. Her team specializes in digital marketing and social media services for global brands. 


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