Emerging Media: Invisible Media

The beautiful thing about social networks is their invisible walls.

The ugly thing about social networks is their invisible walls.

While many of us are thrilled to live where we live and engage in high-level intellectual sparring with individuals across the globe, some of us still don’t seem to get out of our own ego-centric way to embrace the engagement.

Some embrace these invisible walls, stretching their hands and minds across continents.  And, some, well, they just seem to drop their trousers and press their cheeks against it.

This week in IMC 619, aka Emerging Media & the Market, our class continued our discussion about emerging media and the multiple market segments each medium serves.  We specifically analyzed Fortune 500 Web sites and their ability, or inability, to connect with minority customer segments.  We quickly concluded that while some organizations had made considerable leaps forward in their ability to connect with minorities, many were putting no more effort into the process than a mere language translation (often only offered in Spanish) of their Web site.

Why?  Aren’t we living in a highly diverse country?  Don’t we value our customers?  Haven’t we “come a long way baby”?

After all, this great melting pot we call the U.S. is not only melting, but melting at an accelerated rate. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hispanics now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million. They are the majority minority, ahead of Census projections.

So, beyond statistics, why does this matter?  It matters because many English-speaking, U.S. based companies, are still missing opportunities to effectively connect with viable customer segments.  And, while for years we have discussed lack of knowledge about the cultures as a barrier for effective marketing (which is still by and large true), the reality is that many companies are afraid to market to minority customers due to retribution from Anglo-Americans (for lack of a better term).

Jennifer, one of my fellow students, shared a blog post written in 2011 in response to a Facebook accident that shows this short-sightedness in real life. For those of you not familiar with the incident, Coca-Cola, due to a coding glitch, accidentally posted on Facebook in Portuguese to an English-speaking audience.  And because Facebook is one of those social networks with invisible walls, this error allowed many to show their ugly faces and display their xenophobia.

Side note: I had not heard the word xenophobia before it was used in class this week. And now that SOPA is stalled (and hopefully dead), I was able to find it on Wikipedia.    

So, I would remind English-speaking Anglos that when we make assumptions about “our social media” and assume that everything is us, not them, we might want to not be so bold to assume.  In his post, Creamer points to an interesting ComScore factoid sharing that “An estimated 80% of Facebook’s active users are outside the U.S., with (Portuguese-speaking) Brazil and India growing at a rate of 23% and 11%, respectively, between February and May 2011, according to ComScore.” And, being the good grad school student, I found another quick link or two that may be of interest to you as you think about these invisible walls:

Facebook stats: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

Facebook users as a percentage of country population: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/top-10-countries-in-facebook-adoption-december-2011/6836

You Tube views by non-English speaking audience:http://socialtimes.com/youtube-views-non-english-speaking-audience_b83277

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