August 31, 2017

Black Twitter: Our new Democracy

Our revolution will not be televised; it will be liked, shared and retweeted. The signs of our times are written on our Facebook walls and Twitter has become the credible source for the news we consume. 

The notion of the Internet as the information highway has never been so vividly accurate. Our global community has become cyber-journalistic and the scoops are found in everyday life. This collective consciousness has turned itself into a relentless reporter, reporting news into our feeds and timelines, in real-time. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Black Twitter.

US based The Atlantic explains: Black Twitter is a force. It's also not particularly well understood by those who aren't a part of it. The term is used to describe a large network of black Twitter users and their loosely coordinated interactions, many of which accumulate into trending topics due to the network's size, interconnectedness, and unique activity.

Back in South Africa, the voice is humorous, sometimes daringly unapologetic and crude with each post interaction. Yet this very same force has exposed some of the harshest home-grown truths. From gripping beach race rows, homophobic religious organisations, to some of the most frightening gender based violence our country has ever known have all been sparked or influenced by social media. Some of these issues have allowed us to have meaningful thought-provoking conversations.

Our audiences trust Black Twitter more than established news providers and for the most part, online news vendors are also turning to the new 'pillar of truth' for their headlines.

Social Media has been used to challenge the political status quo, uproot government corruption, and mobilize a movement towards free education. Sometimes, it's even used to report crime - we can safely say that this voice certainly cannot be ignored.

But to whom do these voices belong? This collective consciousness is none other than our country's majority as the Black in the name acutely puts it. The soapbox platform that turns opinion into thought-leadership is Twitter and Facebook respectively. It is amplified by human truths and insight; all funnelled and channelled using one digital stream.

Marketers turn to it in search of insight to best communicate to this rich territory that's virtually impenetrable because, they too, are looking for 'NO-BS' attached offerings that best represent them. This begs the bigger question: how do you market to them?

Let's begin at what not to do: don't patronize them by pretending to be a part of a movement that you never graced with your digital footprint before. The Kylie Jenner commercial is a prime example where a fairly serious movement like Black Lives Matter was trivialized with the idea that the end of societal strife and conflict could be resolved with a refreshing beverage. The TV commercial found itself online and was banned in a couple of hours. Our digital caped crusaders unravelled a brand-destroying message that made a mockery of a serious, socio-political outcry.

Don't exclude them by sugar coating a perfect reality that doesn't include the black narrative. Separating yourself as a brand from this is a red flag that shows your brand as having a lack of understanding as to what our socio-economy celebrates and struggles with every day. OUTsurance's Father's Day campaign was the perfect example. The online ad depicted fatherly joy as an emotion and quality reserved for middle to upper-class white males - another example of a misinformed status quo that played comfortably to the claws of Black Twitter.

Always focus on and communicate human truths that resonate with the market you're trying to reach out to. Identify your core market strength and attach it to a truth that is not only best suited for your brand but is sincere, original and relatable to the people you're trying to offer it to. The best litmus test to avoid any mistakes is to remember, if you personally wouldn't rush into a store or an e-commerce site after engaging with your piece of brand communication, then there's clearly something missing from it. It could be offensive or insincere no matter how appealing your strategy document makes it out to be. Use this as an opportunity to reshape your strategic approach and possibly the way you find your human truths.

Some of the best brands to manifest this approach are brands like Nando's that will take what people are thinking and translate it into rich content that is understood by the majority of South Africa, and in most cases applauded.

Their approach is simple: no one knows South Africans like a South African chicken brand and their work is a testament to that. Instead of always looking for the next trend to latch on and destroy the Internet over, they speak from the heart. Their heart is flamed-grilled chicken with a bit of heat, as uncannily shown in almost all of their advertising.

Even with ingenuity and extensive knowledge of the South African populous, it still doesn't guarantee you a seat at the Black Twitter table. The truth, well according to me at least, is that our social and social media environment is an ever-changing current; we just need to be there and be brave enough to ride the wave.