Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Black" Internet Marketing

Next week is “Black Family Technology Awareness Week” – a much too long way of saying, pay attention, race is a part of the internet. The week is promoted as a way to “provide Black families with technology access and training, and to promote the importance and value of technology in the educational and career preparation of Black youth.” It is a recognition of the vast economic influence of black youth, particularly in a time when Hip Hop and African-American trends are gold in media and advertising, but also of the fact that overall, Black Americans trail whites in Internet usage and access.

Internet use by the Black community trails that of non-Hispanic Whites by nearly 20 percent, and those who do have access are less likely to have broadband – something to keep in mind if you are developing a site which targets these consumers.

There are several portals and directories which are focused on African-Americans – most of which simply offer up Google results wrapped in African colors, but some of which, like the small searchblack.com, have independent results and focus on black owned and operated websites. On this site, the most popular search is for hair salons – people looking for places that specifically work on black hair. Sites like this, whether for Blacks or Hispanics or other ethnic groups, are a useful niche for websites which offer something that is truly targeting a need of that community, but not as useful for general sites trying to capitalize on a possible overlap. One of the most well-developed directories is BOBO Business, which lists black owned and operated businesses online. They strengthen their own presence by writing press releases for members.

Another way to leverage ethnicity on the Internet, is to keep in mind that you have a culture yearning for a voice online. Sites like MySpace allow independent musicians can get their work in front of potential fans. Blogs create a political, and marketing, sphere of their own. After hurricane Katrina, the dissatisfaction with the governments response, and the feeling that prejudice played a factor, was expressed in blogs and chain e-mails all over the net. One popular post included many photos, and a song, and a message of support – saying the government may not care, but we do. Viral marketing may operate in a similar manner – a musician can have a MySpace profile, and a website, and encourage fans to e-mail others about them. If the message is passionate and exciting – that e-mail may end up being circulated for months. Just the other day, I got one forwarded to me that was originally an April Fool’s Day prank last year – and it included a link to a post on a website.

If your client provides a service that targets African-Americans, or any ethnic community, remember that there are ways to specifically market to that group on the internet – from specialty search portals and directories to blogs to targeted e-mail campaigns. No, this is not something that applies only to Black websites, but to any business. Race and ethnicity are a factor on the Internet. Remember that, and find the resources that you can use to your benefit.


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