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.
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.