Do's & Don'ts of Black Twitter Engagement and Marketing

5 min read
January 19, 2018

Black Twitter.jpg
One of the first rules of marketing is to "meet them where they are."  This term suggest that there is a place where your customers congregate and build and if positioned accordingly, your messaging will resonate.  If ever there were a place for a marketer to engage the influential Black Millennial where they are, its "Black Twitter." Contrary to other twitter trivial monikers, there is some legitimacy behind the tangible existence of the group.  According to Pew Research, 28 percent of African Americans who use the internet use Twitter, compared to 20 percent of whites.  What's more, 11% of African-Americans on Twitter use it daily compared to only 3% of white users.  


A University of Iowa report dates the first published references of, (then Black People Twitter) to 2008 when the branded hashtag #YouKnowYoureBlackWhen started trending.  What originally only sought to mine black users for creative viral comedic memes galvanized a community.  In fact, the profound creativity of Black Twitter has always been a mainstay since day one.  What was once a group of users joined together by a hashtag is now a viable political and economic engine.  


The cultural phenomenon that is Black Twitter has been researched and some trace ties to the communication amongst slaves.  Feminista Jones, a reknown Black American Culture expert and author,  equates the evolution of black twitter to the spirituals sung by slaves in the South as a grassroots means of organization and communication.  With little more than an avatar and short profile description, Black Twitter users have carved out their niche and staked their presence by leveraging creativity in the form of 140 characters.  


So ready to jump in the pool?  Before you do, I suggest you craft a strategy. Here are my Do's and Don'ts of Black Twitter Engagement and Marketing.


Do listen first, talk later.

When getting started with engaging black twitter I suggest the double-dutch approach.  Before you jump in, you gotta get the timing and rhythm.  Move your body to the cadence of the rope before you launch.  Its the same thing with Black Twitter.  The best way to get started with building a following is to speak their language. Its important to remember across all social media platforms and the various enclave groups that its never about you, but rather the culture and the community.  Either you're a part of it or likely a target.  Find a place for your to contribute value to the already existing discussion before you jump in.


Do be authentic.

By now, this should go without saying but its worth mentioning again.   Authenticity in voice is essential, especially with Black Twitter.  As with Twitter at large, its very easy to spot an impostor or fraud, however with Black Twitter, the stakes are higher and the consequences greater.  Once you've been exposed, you're a pariah and the members are so protective of the community they're likely to make it their life's duty to make your social experience a living hell.  

Gone are the days of entrusting an intern to run your social media.  Its now too important to your brand image to not be invested in its success.  If you're not prepared to dedicate human resources towards a cohesive and sustained presence and voice, don't bother and don't even think about engaging Black Twitter.  


Do be yourself, not your brand.

This rule is rather universal but you're not going to get anywhere profiling as a brand.  People speak to people not brands.  Engage and communicate with your personal profile.  Most clients I've consulted with don't understand the impact here.  They think, their personal profile should be for private interactions and not for marketing.  I agree, but they can both both be true.  The more real you appear and more vulnerable, well-rounded and willing to add value you are on Twitter, the more likely you are going to have success with Black Twitter.  


Use the same rules of communication offline that you would online as Black Twitter consumers often value their twitter interactions more than verbal.  For them a tweet isn't just a throw away, its a covenant.  Breaking through is hard enough.  Give yourself the best chance to be successful and use a personal profile.  


Do remember the internet is forever and Black Twitter will remind you of it.

One of the easiest ways to embarrass yourself is to get sloppy on Twitter.  While you can't edit a tweet, you do have the ability to delete one.  However, Black Twitter lives in the space, often more than they do in the real world.  So by the time a mistake is posted, however honest, assume its been screenshot and saved somewhere in for future ammunition if not used already.  Never delete the tweet.  Instead do your best to apologize and if an honest or innocent mistake, explain why and how it could have happened as soon as possible.


This is particularly important when navigating topics of race.  With limited characters and lack of context, its easy for a tweet to turn into a firestorm.  While some might argue it good for business, its never an easy time.  The best practice is to understand you will not win arguing.  Admit fault, apologize and move on.  You might make yourself on someones boycott list or petition but this is why its important to remain authentic and personal with your communication.  It provides the full context and gives users an opportunity to see the full measure of an individual.  


Do show love when sharing.

There's a lot of data published on Twitter and its cool to share it with others but important to give attribution.  Give credit when it’s due by retweeting other tweets and “@” mentioning others in yours. 


Do use the 10/4/1 model.

Posting regularly is a must but don't just post, check your feed and respond to those that are discussing topics of interest.  This is a great way to build relationships.  This is networking 101 here.  Some people follow a 80/20 rule which suggest for every 4 entertaining or informative tweets, you can post one promotional tweet.  As marketers, it requires a little more nuance.  We subscribe to the 10/4/1 model.   Twitter is about engaging with your community, not spamming.  So for every 15 posts, 10 should be value (entertaining or informative) from your network, 4 should be value you're adding from your blog or content cache and one should be promotional.


Don't subtweet. It's annoying.

When engaging in direct and specific banter with someone, @ them.  Remember all of your followers will see it if not.  Black Twitterati loves to take sides and pile on.  Consider also sending a direct message (DM). 


Don't over do it with hashtags. 

#You #Do #Not #Need #25 #Hashtags #Per #Tweet Remember, hashtags were only created to help catalog keywords.  Use them to add value and allow your readers to clickthrough to see other related discussions on the topic ie: #BlackTwitterMarketing.  


If you can't tweet it in around 140 characters, don't tweet it at all.

Look, I now Twitter now has expanded the character limit on Tweets but understand that what initally appealed to early adopters, of which, Black Twitter is largely comprised is the brevity of the platform and creativity necessary to make your point withing 140 characters.  Use the expanded limit sparingly.  There are plenty of other social media sites, chat platforms that let you post unlimited characters.


Don't cross Black Twitter.

If your goal is to make friends, this should be rule number one.  While its welcoming of varied opinions, don't assume logic will prevail.  While being authentic, its important not to let your passions get the best of you.  Remember, while these are real interactions and build relationships, they're paper or in this case "tweet" thin.  Find a balance is important.  


Multicultural Social Media Prospecting

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