Twitter Users’ Diversity Becomes an Ad Selling Point

Yoree Koh, Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2014

For most of its rather short life, Twitter Inc. 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.

In 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 Facebook 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.” {snip}

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.

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.

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.


Twitter plays a growing role in Home Depot’s 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.


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.



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  • Why am I not surprised that blacks love a medium where you get to spew Ebonics jibberish into 140 characters? Thankfully, you don’t have to follow any blacks if you don’t want, though at times you’re likely to see an unfortunate retweet.

    • 140 characters seems the natural upper limit for the average black “thought process” (using the term very loosely).

  • Truthseeker

    Twitter in many ways is ghetto-ized. The black users refer to their segment as “black Twitter” and refer to white users as “white Twitter.” It’s a fascinating study of how blacks maintain an “us-and-them” worldview even in cyberspace.

  • dd121

    I think everybody on that site is a Twit.

  • bigone4u

    Let the blacks tweet away if it keeps their pea brains occupied with something other than violence. Unfortunately, Twitter is used to organize and brag about criminal activity perpetrated by these dimwits. Any company advertising to this demographic has lost my business.

    • Erasmus

      Know who hates Twitter? People who own or work at convenience stores, businesses located in shopping malls. Bookstores are safe.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    Well, the need and propensity to continuously ook out meaningless garbage in short outbursts makes twitter the obvious choice for IQ challenged narcissists. Not surprised.

  • Spartacus

    Twitter always seemed like a retarded concept to me. Why the hell limit it to 140 characters ?

    • Tim_in_Indiana

      It has something to do with the upper limit of text messaging systems on older cell phones. I personally consider it long enough only for sharing links.

      • Spartacus

        Do people still text on their phones ? I haven’t done that in years… And I don’t know anyone who still does that either.

        • Triarius

          If I receive a phone call, it is from my parents or an older relative. My friends range from mid twenties to mid thirties with me near the center of the spectrum, they all only text. These are guys, girls, rich, middle class, VPs, directors, manual laborers, etc. (All white people). No one calls amymore, even my boss texts me.

          Edit: I agree, though. It seems dumb and is counter-productive technology, in regards to efficiency. I have no idea why it caught on, then again it doesn’t have to be useful to be popular, just look at the iPad. All it is is a giant iPhone that doesn’t make calls.

        • r j p

          Lots of people still text, especially if working in fields with heavy compliance issues / regulation.

      • MekongDelta69

        Without getting all ‘techie,’ SMS was limited to 160 chars. in it’s 2nd generation.
        I can understand somebody texting for ppl. who are on limited phone plans, when the msg. is short.

        What I can’t understand is why people would ever want to ‘follow’ somebody else (whether LJ, MS, FB, Twitter, ad infinitum.)

        I don’t give a damn when I eat dinner. Why the hell would I care when somebody else eats dinner?


        • I tweet every AR story. And a lot of people wind up retweeting them. It’s a good way of getting our kind of news and subtle advertisement of AR out there.

        • Magician


    • Nathanwartooth

      SMS is limited to 160 characters, so they left 20 characters for the username.

      But honestly that is outdated. On older phones this is still the case but if you have a smartphone your messages can be as long as you want them to be. There is nothing about twitter that requires the limit anymore from what I can tell.

      But I bet if it was longer it would no longer appeal to much of its demographics. As someone who likes to write on message boards, 140 characters is a joke.

  • Tarczan

    It is a tribute to the white brain that it can create something that is so complicated, when the total technology is considered, but yet be user friendly enough to be used by blacks.

    • Brian

      Reminds me of this old chestnut:

  • APaige

    What about the ‘digital divide’ we were warned about? Remember Facebook was for whites and myspace was the ghetto. Where is myspace? Twitter should be careful.

    • ncpride

      You make a good point. Digital White Flight.

      • Jesse James

        and still they follow.

  • Guest

    Speaking of Twitter, I was browsing it just the other night and the first black “tweeter” I scrolled to so typified everything black and all of blackness that I just had to take a screenshot! (Identity obscured to protect the guilty. Proving once again that blacks aren’t stereotyped…blacks ARE a stereotype!

  • r j p

    I am not subscribed to a single black. So I have no idea how many of them use it.
    I can only imagine what black Twitter chat looks like. Jibberish?

    • see above. I can’t even parody it as well as they actually intend it.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    Speaking of Twitter, I was browsing it just the other night and the first black “tweeter” I scrolled to so typified everything black and all of blackness that I just had to take a screenshot! (Identity obscured to protect the guilty. Proving once again that blacks aren’t stereotyped…blacks ARE a stereotype!

    • Was its name “Justice for Trayvon” or something?

    • NeanderthalDNA


      • Brian

        There needs to be an emoticon that expresses ‘flinging feces at my fellow monkeys in excitement/rage’.

        • NeanderthalDNA

          Try chimpout…

    • MekongDelta69

      Yeah but, the all-important question that’s on EVERYBODY’S mind is:

      Can she read cursive?!!

      • Martel

        What is the last word? I can’t read Bold.

    • Erasmus

      Justice is, no doubt, an up-and-coming Jane Austen among Bantus.

      (Never done twitter or facebook and never will.)

  • 2eRep

    It is easier than learning how to play the bongo drums.

  • Martel

    Amren should contact twitter to consult them on racial cues in cultural preferences from a point of view not inhibited by the “awkwardness” and “controversy” in researching such subjects.

  • Brian

    Twitter really is well-suited to the Bantu ‘mind’, with its 140-character limit for expression and the ease of broadcasting inanities and vanities.

  • IstvanIN

    Gotta stop going to Home Depot.

  • IstvanIN

    Blacks walk around all day tweeting. What they have to say that is so important I have no clue, but they do it all day. Twits.

    • Triarius

      Well they are natural sociopaths with an inflated sense of self-importance. To be honest it makes perfect sense so many blacks think others care what they think.

  • MBlanc46

    Just one more reason to not twit. And to reconsider making purchases at Home Depot.

  • WR_the_realist

    Tweets are restricted to 140 characters. So they are within the cognitive capacity of average blacks.

  • bubo

    Twitter is good to monitor for the low down on episodes of spontaneous blackness. Many times they will have the actual stories of black riots and flash mobs before the PC media cleans them up and scrubs them of the racial aspect.

  • Jenny Star

    I’m surprised tumblr isn’t on here – I assure you, it’s even worse.

  • Nathanwartooth

    So Blacks are 18%, just a little bit more overrepresented and suddenly they are the chosen ones? This doesn’t make any sense. I would bet the 40% of whites on Twitter have access to more disposable income than the 18% of Blacks.

  • SaggyGenes


  • Brian

    Rakim is doing a pretty good job making fun of himself, I’d say!