Mozilla CEO Steps Down After Anti-Gay Marriage Controversy

Brendan Eich has stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, a company he cofounded, following significant criticism for his earlier support of a legal measure banning gay marriage.

“Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO,” Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla, wrote in a blog post. “He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Eich, a prominent programmer who previously created Javascript, took over as the non-profit company’s CEO on March 24. Shortly after, a number of Mozilla employees publicly urged Eich to step down from the role, in reaction to a donation he made to the Proposition 8 effort, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008. (Half the company’s board also resigned after his appointment, though Prop 8 was not cited as the reason.)

The tipping point, however, appeared to come on Monday when OkCupid posted a notice to anyone using Firefox, a Mozilla product, urging them to switch browsers. “Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples,” OkCupid wrote in the notice. “We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

In interviews with multiple publications this week, Eich emphasized that his personal beliefs outside the office are not relevant inside the office.

“It may be challenging for a CEO, but everyone in our community can have different beliefs about all sorts of things that may be in conflict,” Eich said in an interview with CNET published on Tuesday. “They leave them at the door when they come to work on the Mozilla mission.”

Just two days later, however, Eich and Mozilla decided otherwise.

“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act,” Mozilla’s Baker wrote in the blog post. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

The full statement from Mozilla is below:

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla.

What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed. We want to be open about where we are in deciding the future of the organization and will have more information next week. However, our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web.

We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved.

Thank you for sticking with us.

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Here Are All The Quantifiable Reasons You Should Hire More Women

If “the right thing to do” wasn’t a compelling enough reason, now there are numbers.

It’s not just about providing equal opportunity: over the past decade, a number of research papers have shown how hiring women is linked to better corporate financial results. But CEOs and other executives rarely have the time or inclination to pore over lengthy papers, and as a result, much of this research remains known only to the academic world. In a new paper, The Case for Investing in Women, The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) succinctly lays out the most compelling recent research findings on women in business, from organizations like McKinsey & Company, Catalyst, Columbia University, and the London School of business.

ABI has long promoted the role of women in technology and tech-oriented companies, but not all business leaders are receptive to their ideas. “If you look at the kind of work we do, there’s no more common question we get than ‘Why do we care if we have more women?” explains Telle Whitney, CEO and president of ABI.

Here are some of the data points highlighted in ABI’s report (specifics on each of these studies can be found within the report itself):

  • Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen their return on invested capital increase by at least 66%, return on sales increase by 42%, and return on equity increase by at least 53%.
  • In a study by Dezsö and Ross of 1,500 U.S. firms in the S&P, female representation in top management improved financial performance for organizations where innovation is a key piece of the business strategy.
  • In 2012, a NCWIT analysis of women’s participation in IT patents found that U.S. patents produced by mixed-gender teams were cited 30% to 40% more than other similar patents. 
  • A study from Professor Anita Woolley, an economist at Carnegie Mellon, revealed that teams with at least one female member have a higher collective IQ than all-male teams. 

     

  • Gallup has found that companies with more diverse teams (including more women) have a 22% lower turnover rate. Organizations with more inclusive cultures also have an easier time with recruiting.

 

Here’s the bottom line: more diverse teams breed more innovative outcomes. “When you form a team tasked with a problem to solve or an opportunity to capitalize on, if you have half a dozen people with the same background in terms of life experience, education, where they grew up–you’ll get a consensus around relatively homogenous solutions,” says Jeanne Hultquist, director of strategic corporate programs and the author of the report. “[With] more diverse team chemistry, you get more perspectives with a larger variety of options to consider, and more chances of having innovative solutions proposed.”

Not every study on women in business has yielded definitively positive outcomes. As the New Yorker points out, it’s possible that studies showing stronger performance for companies with more women on their boards could be the result of financially strong companies being more inclusive (as opposed to more inclusiveness leading to better finances. In one study cited by the New Yorker, researchers found no connection between female board membership and performance in the stock market.

Hultquist believes there’s more research that needs to be done, especially around startups. “I think it would be great if more research was done around entrepreneurial teams–startup organizations that really have the best shot at product innovation,” she says. “I do think there is a dearth of women in startup teams and even fewer in venture-funded startups.”

Nonetheless, the evidence of positive outcomes from having more women represented in companies is already strong enough to take seriously. Check out the full ABI report here.

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Millennials Don’t Care About Owning Cars, And Car Makers Can’t Figure Out Why

Driving numbers are down for younger people and the auto industry hasn’t found a way to respond. It’s because they don’t understand why millennials could possibly not want to drive.

Auto manufacturers today are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the millennial generation has little-to-no interest in owning a car. What car makers are failing to see is that this generation’s interests and priorities have been redefined in the last two decades, pushing cars to the side while must-have personal technology products take up the fast lane.

It’s no secret the percentage of new vehicles sold to 18- to 34-year-olds has significantly dropped over the past few years. Many argue this is the result of a weak economy, that the idea of making a large car investment and getting into more debt on top of college loans is too daunting for them. But that’s not the “driving” factor, especially considering that owning a smartphone or other mobile device, with its monthly fees of network access, data plan, insurance, and app services, is almost comparable to the monthly payments required when leasing a Honda Civic.

What auto manufacturers, along with much of corporate America are missing here is that the vehicles to freedom and personal identity have changed for this generation. The sooner brands get a grip on this reality the sooner they can make adjustments in how they market to and communicate with this core group, which is essential to their long-term success.

 

It used to be that having your own car provided the ultimate sense of freedom for young adults, allowing them a means to get together with friends, establish independence and separate from their parents. It was a critical right of passage to real adulthood to drive your own car, and it was the one place you could blast music without your parents complaining. Popular movies of the later Baby Boomer’s and Gen X’s coming of age, such as Risky Business and Dazed and Confused shaped this generation’s sense of self, portraying images of fancy sports cars as the ultimate young adult possession.

Today however, older teens and young adults don’t need cars to achieve a sense of self and freedom. This generation’s coming of age consisted of graduating from the Internet and CD-ROM computer games to hand-held mobile devices where they’re establishing identities, relationships, and individualism online all day long–as much as, if not more than, in the real world.

With recent studies showing a huge decline in auto sales among the millennial marketplace, it’s no wonder auto manufacturers are in a mild state of panic, realizing they’re missing out on a generation that wields $200 billion in purchasing power. Numbers don’t lie, and over the last few years statistics have shown a significant drop in young people who own cars, as well as those with driver’s licenses–and that decline continues among the youngest millennials, meaning this is not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34, fell almost 30%, and according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just half, 54% are licensed before turning 18. This is a major break with the past, considering how most teens of the two previous generations would race to the DMV for their license or permit on the day of their 16th birthday.

Unlike the Baby Boomers, who gained their independence and individuality from movies, music, cars, and motorcycles, older teens and young adults today are expressing their freedom through social channels–these are their new wheels and they get the keys now starting at about age 9. Marketing to this group demands a different mindset that involves taking the time to understand the neo-millennials.

YOUNGER MILLENNIALS ARE NOT WHO YOU THINK THEY ARE

Exacerbating the issue is the general misperception that millennials are lazy, privileged, and putting off adulthood. This leads many marketers down the wrong road when attempting to connect and engage with this generation. Our latest research shows that these 17-25 year olds are not who most adults think they are. In multiple studies of college millennial consumers (CMCs), our studies reveal a highly motivated, open-minded, passionate, and extremely engaged consumer. They could even be considered more practical than generations before them. For instance, one study of CMCs conducted in May of 2013 showed students using their summer jobs to set them up more securely for early adulthood. Out of more than 1,600 college students surveyed:

  • A full 96% were focused on making money to curtail their tuition and other college expenses.
  • Nearly 30% needed to make $4,000 or more for the summer.
  • Nearly 50% of students were engaging in some form of “paid internship,” in an effort to gain both pay and valuable job experience.

While they might appear distracted and lazy gazing at their phones, in reality, they are keenly aware of what’s happening around them, perhaps more so than other generations, and focused on their near and long-term opportunities.

GADGETS OVER WHEELS

Because millennials use technology in every facet of their lives–from mobile phones to tablets and laptops–to connect with friends and family and to get work done, the tech gadget is their most prized possession, and has a much higher value to a CMC than transportation or owning a car. Think about it: while CMCs are likely to share a car and a ride, there’s no way they would ever share their phone.

CMCs game together and hang out virtually, they don’t have that same need to physically get together as prior generations. The CMC’s popularity and relationships are defined by their online status, not their “cool ride” and they make all of their connections online. millennials search for jobs online. They prefer to coordinate dating online, and meet people through websites and apps.

SO IS THE ERA OF THE CAR OVER?

Brands looking to target this unique audience need to make adjustments in their communication and engagement, while making sure they appeal to this group’s fundamental interests. Companies like our client ZipCar, for example, are tapping into millennial preferences for practical, accessible, and environmentally friendly modes of transportation that neither attempt to define or detract from these young adults’ online connections and freedom. Through an innovative, successful marketing campaign, Zipcar took their messaging and experiential peer-to-peer program to over 45 college campuses nationwide, resulting in 39% YOY growth in applications, 9.9 million impressions, and 6,200+ new applications.

Although they can’t expect to match millennials’ preference for technology, automotive manufacturers and dealers can promote merchandise and features that meet this generation’s interests, such as tech-enabled cars with voice-activated communications and entertainment system and in-car connectivity as an extension of their phones. The first generation Ford SYNC system features voice-activated calling, music, text messaging, as well as the ability to allow drivers to connect to news, business, and real-time traffic. We’ll be seeing even more versions of the connected car in the upcoming year.

Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity that this next generation of consumers doesn’t feel the need to define themselves by their cars, but instead more by what they say, share, capture, and create. But what auto manufacturers and other consumer brand companies need to be thinking is, “How can I help them say, share, capture, and create more?” They can start by gaining a better understanding of the millennial consumer, their interests and behaviors, to fully engage with them in their world. This will help identify and/or create situations and niche opportunities where car use and ownership is an advantage. Then they can extend the dialogue to younger millennials in particular, reaching them to create a new definition of freedom and empowerment for a new generation.

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Apple Planning to Add More Diversity to Emoji Character Set

Apple has plans to expand its emoji set to include emojis that are non-caucasian, according to Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, Katie Cotton, who spoke to MTV Act (via The Verge). The company says it is working with the Unicode Consortium to add more characters to its emoji offerings.

“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

After originating in Japan, emoji were incorporated into Unicode, which allowed them to be used on multiple platforms. The character set has largely featured caucasian icons, however, which Apple aims to change.

Apple’s last change to emojis came with iOS 6, when the company added additional characters and made emoji accessible to all users. Previously, special apps were required to access emoji on iOS. iOS 7, released in late 2013, did not include any new emoji, but it is possible Apple could make some changes to the characters with iOS 8 later this year.

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Meet the 54 Year-Old Woman who is Changing the Future of Porn

What does it take to get to the top — without losing your center? Our “Making It Work” series profiles successful, dynamic women who are standouts in their fields, peeling back the “hows” of their work and their life, taking away lessons we can all apply to our own.

Cindy Gallop began our interview by telling me she liked to “blow sh*t up.”

The 54-year-old former chairman of the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) left the corporate world in 2005 and currently juggles a number of titles including consultant, public speaker, and founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn.tvand If We Ran The World.

Make Love Not Porn, a phrase introduced in Gallop’s 2009 TED Talk, first took theform of a website that “lists the myths of hardcore porn and balances them with the reality.” In 2012 Gallop launched an accompanying video-sharing website,MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, aimed at making “#realworldsex socially acceptable and shareable.” Couples can upload their own pornographic videos to the site (earning 50 percent of the profit from paying viewers), and rent or purchase other couples’ videos. “The core value proposition of MakeLoveNotPornTV resides in the fact that everybody wants to know what everybody else is really doing in bed and nobody does,” Gallop said in a February 2013 interview with HuffPost.

Gallop’s second startup, If We Ran The World, is a web platform designed to turn human and corporate “good intentions” into actions by allowing users to brainstorm and carry out various steps or “microactions” related to their common goal.

I met with Gallop recently at The Huffington Post’s Manhattan office. She was sporting both a Facebook “like” pendant and a silver necklace that read “@CindyGallop.”

Why do you do the work that you do?

Nothing in my life has ever been planned, and I never set out to do anything that I’m currently doing . I’m naturally a very action-oriented person. When I come across something I feel strongly about, I do something about it. That’s what drove both my startups. Everything I do is fundamentally geared towards the same two goals: to help redefine the future of business, and to help redefine the future of sex.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I haven’t the faintest idea.

What inspired you to start Make Love Not Porn and If I Ran The World?

I left advertising when I turned 45. I’d always thought one’s 45th birthday was a moment to pause, take stock, review, ask “Where have I been?” and “Where am I going?” so I did that. And I thought, “Maybe it’s time to do something different.” I took a massive leap into the unknown. I resigned as chairman of BBH without a job to go to, and it was the best bloody thing I ever did because I couldn’t be happier doing what I’m doing now. I’m reinventing myself in every possible way.

Do you have a role model?

My mother. She is an amazing woman and it’s a huge shame that she was born and grew up in an era where women — particularly Chinese women — did not go to university or into business. If she’d had those opportunities, she would be a tycoon running a global empire. I talk to her about what I’m doing, and she always has really excellent advice.

read the entire interview here

Why Major Creative Breakthroughs Happen in Your Late Thirties

James Murphy, the former frontman of the band LCD Soundsystem, made what he called the biggest mistake of his life at 21, when he turned down a writing job on a sitcom that was about to launch. 

The sitcom’s name was Seinfeld.

 Instead, he lurched around, working as a bouncer and later a DJ before finally releasing the first LCD Soundsystem album at the not-so-tender age of 35.

Murphy might have been older than some of his dance-rock peers, but his experience is fairly common among people who experience major creative breakthroughs, according to a new paper from NBER.

The authors examined the high points of the careers of both great inventors and Nobel-Prize winning scientists, and they found that the late 30s were the sweet spot for strokes of genius:
Innovators have been peaking slightly later in life as the 20th century has progressed, in part because today’s scientists have more to learn than their predecessors did:

What’s more, people who excel in abstract fields, like art or physics, tend to be younger than those who win prizes in fields that require more context, like history or medicine. Another 1977 study found that physics Nobel winners were 36 on average when they did their prize-winning work, while chemists were 39 and medical doctors were 41.

So why the late 30s? The most obvious factor is education: Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees. Then a few years of learning on the job, and presto! You dig up an uncertainty principle. Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant.

There’s evidence from the humanities, though, that genius doesn’t decline with age at all. Over 40% of both Robert Frost’s and William Carlos Williams’ best poems were written after the poets turned 50. Paul Cézanne’s highest-priced paintings were made the year he died.

The NBER paper found that scientists who are theoretical (coming up with new ways of thinking) tend to peak earlier than those who are experimental (coming up with answers based on existing knowledge) by about 4.6 years.

This happens for two reasons: First, theoretical scientists don’t necessarily have to wait for a bunch of experiments to get completed and published. Second, and perhaps more importantly, being relatively new to their fields allows them to see the holes and fissures that veterans might not.
Here’s how the study’s authors explain it:
The most important conceptual work typically involve radical departures from existing paradigms, and the ability to identify and appreciate these radical departures may be greatest shortly after initial exposure to a paradigm, before it has been fully assimilated.

They quote Sigmund Freud in Civilization and its Discontents as writing, “The conceptions I have summarized here I first put forward only tentatively, but in the course of time they have won such a hold over me that I can no longer think in any other way.”

Genius, it seems, happens when a seasoned mind sees a problem with fresh eyes.

What To Watch: Instafame Documentary

Ever wonder what the effects of being “instgram famous” are on teenagers? Instafame aims to explore that question is this thoughtful short.

Instafame is an exploration of a teenager’s relationship with fame through the lens of instagram. The documentary centers around Shawn Megira, a teenager from Long Island who had 81K instagram followers, and asks questions related to the nature of fame and why so many young people see it as the ultimate measure of success.

The doc was created by Sylvain Labs, a strategic planning consultancy in New York, with the help of Greencard Pictures.

Watch the 11 minute documentary here.

INSTAFAME DOCUMENTARY from Sylvain Labs on Vimeo.

Facebook Adds New Gender Identity Options for Users

Facebook has always pushed users to reveal their true identities on the service, and on Thursday, it took that commitment to a new level.

The social network now allows users to select a “custom gender” for their profiles, meaning users who do not identify as male or female can select a neutral gender identity.

 

Until Thursday, users could only select their gender as female (“she” and “her”), or male (“he” and “his”). Now, users in the United States can choose gender neutral (“they” or “their”).

“While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email. “We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity.”

When a male user celebrates a birthday, friends may be alerted with a message that reads, “Write on Matt’s wall for HIS birthday.” If a user elects to identify as gender neutral, the Facebook message would change to, “Write on Matt’s wall for THEIR birthday.”

FB-Screen-Grab

 

Facebook announced the change on the company’s Diversity page, and says that it worked with “a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations” to compile a list of gender options. Users can change their gender settings by clicking “About” and selecting the edit icon in the upper-right hand corner of the “Basic Information” tab.

There, users can set their genders to “Custom” and then select from a long list of specific gender options. New option include transgender, bigender, cis, and gender questioning, among many others. (Cis, or cisgender, refers to those who identify as the same gender that they were assigned at birth.)

It’s unclear how many Facebook users self-identify as gender neutral, and a spokesperson did not provide numbers.

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Did Racism in Gaming Culture Drive Flappy Bird Offline?

Was the creator of the biggest game of 2014 hounded off the Web because of racism?

If a game made by a white American or European developer was earning $50,000 a day, regardless of how maddening the contents might be, it would have been hailed as a sweeping, perhaps even groundbreaking success rather than a freakish oddity of gaming culture. It might even have been a rags-to-riches story of the triumph of capitalism.

Instead, Flappy Bird saw the media level a number of unfounded and baffling criticisms at the game and its creator, Dong Nguyen. Not content withslamming it as “an ad-riddled mess,” Kotaku accused Nguyen of plagiarizing Nintendo. Others followed suit, accusing him of cribbing Flappy Bird’s gameplay from other titles. Developers accused him of artificially inflating the rankings of his game on the App Store using bots.

But Nguyen was adamant that he hadn’t stolen his game elements. Nintendo agreed. Others pointed out all the ways Nguyen’s game design was distinct from its predecessors. And after a careful analysis of the data from Flappy Bird’s App Store listing, Mashable could find no evidence that the game had come by its No. 1 ranking dishonestly.

Yet despite Nguyen’s having been vindicated as a developer, the insults persisted. BuzzFeed called the game “borderline crappy.” NDTV wrote that the game’s success “leaves experts baffled.” CNet added dismissively, “We’ll do anything for a quick fix these days.”

“Not only is the visual language of Flappy Bird almost entirely re-appropriated from early NES games, but it seems to be engineered and designed by someone still learning how to create games,” Polygon wrote.

Except Nguyen is a programmer with 10 years of experience, four of those spent developing games, all of which have been carefully tailored to do exactly what Flappy Bird does.

Slate got it right by noting that all of these dismissive approaches to the game carried the underlying assumption that it must be a bad one. “On the contrary,” Slate argued: “Flappy Bird is an outstanding game.” Vice likewise called the game “unflappably brilliant,” after consulting with gaming strategists who pointed out that despite its simplicity, the game nonetheless delivered all the essentials of addictive gaming.

Why, then, was a game this successful, this brilliant, so maligned?

Flappy Bird is a game where the user has only one job to do, with an infuriatingly low success rate. It might be simply that this kind of game is easily dismissed by reviewers.

But other, similar games, have fared much better. Adult Swim’s popular flash-based game Robot Unicorn Attack, is a comparably simplistic game that involves leaping over things until the user crashes and dies. Like Flappy Bird, the user must dodge obstacles, and like Flappy Bird, without constant attention and repetitive jumps to keep the unicorn in the air, the player falls and loses.

“The aesthetic is a good gag for a few minutes, but the game itself is addictive enough to last much, much longer,” wrote UGO of Robot Unicorn Attack. “I can’t wait to press Z to chase my dreams again,” gushed ABC Australia. “This feels like a game you’ll put on your phone, then pull out to play again and again,” cooed CNN. So it’s not Flappy Bird’s gameplay that’s the issue. Not really.

But this might be. Creator Nguyen is a developer from Vietnam who told TechCrunch that his one-man game development company in Hanoi didn’t have the resources to do any maintenance on the game. In an essay titled “Our Flappy Dystopia,” game developer and critic Mattie Brice argues convincingly that Nguyen positioned himself opposite a powerful Westernized success narrative: “The standard success story of someone in the games media is a person who can afford to keep up with the newest products and has the resources to write for free or low-wage for about two years,” she wrote.

The idea of success outside the conventional method of capitalism, which is intersectional in its effects, is met with contempt … Dong is considered an outsider. Who is he? From Vietnam? Oh, that explains this ‘knock-off’ rhetoric people are using. Indie creators are notoriously capitalizing on the nostalgia of the late 80s and 90s gaming culture, with difficult puzzle platformers and action side scrollers as far as the Steam library can go. No one is accusing these devs as stealing from Nintendo and Sega, despite the lineage being extremely clear and borrowed as homage. It’s because the gaming community set up a success narrative for certain indie, mostly white, mostly men, mostly from English-speaking countries, developers who strive to make smaller games competitive with the big dogs.

Read the rest of the article here.

Twitter Users’ Diversity Becomes an Ad Selling Point

For most of its rather short life, Twitter Inc. TWTR +0.53% rarely mentioned that its user base is more racially diverse than U.S. Internet users as a whole. Now, as a newly minted public company needing to generate revenue, it is moving to capitalize on its demographics.

n November, Twitter hired marketing veteran Nuria Santamaria to a new position as multicultural strategist, leading its effort to target black, Hispanic and Asian-American users.

Together, those groups account for 41% of Twitter’s 54 million U.S. users, compared with 34% of the users of rival FacebookFB -0.04% and 33% of all U.S. Internet users, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Ms. Santamaria says advertisers want to know more about racial and ethnic minorities on Twitter, from basic numbers to the languages in which they tweet. Last month, Twitter began showing ad agencies data from a coming report saying that Hispanics tweet more often than other users and activity among them rises when the conversation is about technology.

Marla Skiko, executive vice president and director of digital advertising at Starcom Media-vest Group’s multicultural division, says some advertisers are surprised to learn the demographics of Twitter users. She says Ms. Santamaria’s hiring will help Twitter attract advertisers that appeal to racial and ethnic groups. Until now, she says, “there hasn’t been a champion internally.” Starcom Mediavest Group is owned by Publicis Groupe SAPUB.FR +0.52% .

Ms. Santamaria is starting with Hispanics. Twitter’s share of Hispanic users roughly parallels the U.S. online population, but it is a fast-growing, increasingly affluent ethnic group.

Hispanics are also more easily identified because of their language. Twitter doesn’t ask users about race or ethnicity but categorizes them into “interests” based on their tweets and whom they follow. A user who follows a Telemundo show or tweets in Spanish would be considered interested in Hispanic culture even if the user isn’t Hispanic.

 Facebook says its Hispanic users upload more photos and videos, make more comments, and “like” more posts than other users

Other social networks are pursuing similar strategies. Facebook Inc. in November hired an executive from Spanish-language TV network Univision Communications Inc. Facebook is also telling advertisers more details about its 23 million users who have shown an interest in Hispanic culture and making it easier for advertisers to target them. For example, Facebook says its Hispanic users upload more photos and videos, make more comments, and “like” more posts than other users. Hispanics account for 14% of Facebook’s U.S. users, according to Pew, making them the social network’s largest minority group.

Roughly 18% of Twitter’s U.S. users are black, according to Pew

Twitter’s strength is among blacks. Roughly 18% of Twitter’s U.S. users are black, according to Pew. That’s nearly twice the 10% of U.S. Internet users who are black and significantly more than the 11% of Facebook users who are black, Pew says. (Facebook has more black users because it has more than three times as many U.S. users as Twitter.)

Among young adults, the disparity is striking. According to a September Pew survey, 40% of black Internet users aged 18-29 use Twitter, compared with 28% of whites in that age group.

millennials

Some advertisers have long taken note. To connect with blacks on social media, “we chose to really what I would say ‘major in Twitter,’ ” says Georgina Flores, director of multicultural marketing at Allstate Corp.ALL -0.42% For a recent campaign called “Give It Up For Good,” part of an ongoing effort to reach black consumers, Allstate created a dedicated Twitter handle and a Twitter-centric website, and it placed advertisements on Twitter. The campaign’s aim is to encourage blacks to share positive and uplifting stories about the community.

Twitter plays a growing role in Home Depot‘s HD -0.67% four-year-old “Retool Your School” campaign, which gives grants to historically black colleges for building or renovation, says Monique Nelson, CEO of UniWorld Group, the creative ad agency for Home Depot’s multicultural advertising. For a recent grant, winners were determined partly by the number of mentions of a school on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There were 143,000 relevant mentions on Twitter, more than 10 times as many as on Facebook or Instagram.

To generate buzz for the movie “12 Years a Slave,” Cornerstone Agency hosted small screenings to which it invited “influencers” with big Twitter followings, says Jon Cohen, Cornerstone’s co-chief executive. Guests included hip-hop artist and producer Pharrell Williams, who boasts 2.5 million Twitter followers, and Michael Skolnik, the editor in chief of Global Grind, a pop-culture news site.

“The hope was that people see the film and they feel compelled to talk about it, and Twitter is usually that medium, especially among the African-American target” audience, says Mr. Cohen.

Twitter has long been known for its popularity among blacks, giving rise to a cultural phenomenon known as “Black Twitter.” Racially tinged hashtags such as #IfSantaWasBlack and #PaulasBestDishes have risen to the top of Twitter’s trending lists. The latter referred to chef and cookbook-writer Paula Deen‘s admission last June that she had used racist language.

 

Meredith Clark, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is studying “Black Twitter,” says blacks flocked to Twitter because it is used primarily on phones, and smartphones are the primary Internet device used by many blacks. She says some young blacks use Twitter in place of text messages, encouraging their friends to join the service as well.

Genie Lauren, a 29-year-old New Yorker who works in higher education, organized a Twitter protest last July against a book planned by a juror in the George Zimmerman trial. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black Florida teenager. The shooting and trial sparked much interest on Twitter, with five million tweets sent in the first 26 hours after the verdict.

Ms. Lauren tweeted the name and contact information of the juror’s book agent and asked her then roughly 2,000 followers to urge the agent to drop the project. She says she chose Twitter because she saw that the Twitter users she follows—three-fourths of whom she estimates are black—were upset by the verdict.

She also says she sensed that the combination of Twitter’s immediacy and the mood among those users could “get a lot of people to behave in one way at a critical time.” The agent dropped the book the next day.

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