Forget the digital divide when it comes to mobile and social media. While Hispanic and African-Americans have fewer laptop and desktop devices than do white and Asian Americans, they over-index for mobile devices like smartphones (52% versus 58%).
A panel examining cultural determinants in social media from a marketing perspective took a look at some of the stats as a conversational springboard.
Reginald Osborne, cultural expert on black and LGBT consumer markets at Walton Isaacson, says there is still a fundamental digital divide that, while it may not affect marketing strategy, affects education.
"The digital divide still exists; the use of smartphones by multicultural consumers does overindex, but I think the consequences is are that when you look at overall penetration of high-speed Internet, African-Americans are [less represented], and since the smartphone becomes the on-ramp to the Internet — because it's affordable and accessible — the downside is they acquire fewer computer literacy skills, from an educational standpoint that's bad," he says. "Because today, so many classroom assignments are on computer. One can't get Internet service below $30 per month, so the poverty-line situation also hurts."
But for marketers, it is not such bad news, since the focus is mobile. Mark Lopez, head of US hispanic audience at Google, says that's where Google is focused.
"From a marketing standpoint, if you are a CMO from a Fortune 50 company you have to be mobile-enabled,” he says. “That will be growth going forward." He said the challenge today is companies are not.
Sheila Marmon, CEO and founder of Mirror digital, argued that the very meaning of computer literacy has changed because of migration of Internet to other screens.
"In terms of what people are doing online, whether accessing social media or other, multi-cultural audiences overindex for all areas of engagement,” she says. “But [marketers are] still challenged by the past."
The panel was moderated by Kendra King, group director of account planning at Razorfish's Atlanta office, so the event served to reveal data from a Razorfish study on multicultural versus white Internet behavior.
The study found that 23% percent of multicultural consumers connect with family and friends on social, versus 17% of Caucasians, for example. And 9% of both white and African American and Hispanic consumers are "culturally connected" on social.
Marmon discussed the role social played in a cultural-connection program her firm handled for General Motors around Fashion Week to promote the Chevy Cruze. "The goal was to help African American women fall in love with the brand by connecting around a passion point," she said.
The program brought in Essence on a first-ever "Street Style" awards program, which took place in the Dumbo waterfront neighborhood of Brooklyn during Fashion Week.
"We amplified it in social by having some top multicultural fashion bloggers involved." She said the program was a conversation starter. "These were fashion bloggers with credibility and a massive following." The campaign tied to the hashtag #ChevyChic, with a call to action dangling a chance to win tickets to awards shows. "We got thousands of entries and millions of impressions by using the brand equity of fashion bloggers in a relevant way."
The Razorfish study also looked at differences in use of specific social media channels: 35% of whites polled favor Facebook versus 24% of multiculturals; but for Instagram, 14% of African American and HIspanics favored that channel versus 4% of whites, while Twitter skews white by five percentage points (13% white, 8% multicultural).
And among college students who were asked what platform they see becoming dominant, Instagram challenges Facebook, with 49% of multiculturals saying the former is dominant. Fifty-three said Snapchat, followed by LinkedIn at 30%. Then comes Twitter, Yik Yak, and Vine and Facebook.