Multicultural Social Media: Reaching to Diverse Communities

Written on
Apr 23, 2012 
Chanin Ballance  |

ADOTAS - There is a growing number of ethnic communities that use social media to obtain information and share experiences on topics that directly affect their buying decisions and lives – from purchasing a car to making health care choices. In fact, a recent survey put out by the Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication indicates that emerging minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites.

Connect,Not Project: Adapting Culturally

Providing virtual access to your organization in a way that facilitates social exchange and interaction will go a long way to fostering trust and credibility. Look for ways to adapt your content in meaningful, authentic ways that connect to the values of the culture.

Many ethnic minorities tend to be drawn to collective values vs. individualistic values, and often look to one another to help guide decisions and opinions. Latinos, for example, are a very experiential culture. They are driven by emotion and direct experience and less so by data. Chinese-Americans, as a general rule, are reserved and humble. Harmony is prized over confrontation, and there remains a great respect for elders and a love for children.

Giving careful thought to your key messages and how your words, meanings and actions are interpreted by ethnic communities is key. Culturally adapted messages, when done well, go a long way to building an authentic and real online environment.

Tips for Bonding with Multicultural Communities:

Know Your Audience

There are a number of great tools to help you learn what is important to your targeted community and how they are communicating and searching for information. Many of them allow you to “listen” down to the ZIP code level.

Great tools that help determine how people are searching nationally and in your area:
Google Insights for Search
Twitter Advanced Search
Create RSS feeds based on key words

Understanding key terms searched and what is top-of-mind will help you design better education and outreach programs and to create useful content and tips on your own website or Facebook page, or even serve as Tweet/blog fodder. You may also find the information helps you monitor community issues, and/or learn what your customers or potential customers are looking for.

Engage Your Audience

Social media opens up the opportunity to engage multicultural audiences in a two-way conversation. Creating timely and relevant content that stimulates feedback and sharing will go a long way in reaching these groups. For example, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has gone directly to their ethnic community through Facebook. They have done an excellent job of providing a forum for patients and their families to interact and ask questions, and to share photos and stories. A large contributing factor to the success of their Facebook community is the interaction of St. Jude staff. A designated staff member not only monitors the community but actively participates in discussions and answers questions.

When people find others that have had an experience with your organization, they will have a much higher level of trust.

Getting Your (Web) House in Order

However, before you start social networking and directing people back to your own website, make sure it is in order. Start by asking the following:

What are you communicating? To whom? Why?
Are key pages and downloads available in multiple languages on your site?
What the specific goal — are you launching a new product or promoting goodwill?
Are there photos of staff on your staff pages?
Can you link to their blog? Or to papers they’ve published? Or to news about them?
Is your site easy to navigate and search for information?

The cost to have a few high-use pages translated is often less than most people think. Adding .pdfs of already translated education brochures and flyers is another low-cost way to share information. As social media grows, so will the traffic to your website. Never before has your website had the power of such a strong first impression.

Keep in mind that people need to see information in three to five different places and from more than one source before they believe it. Marketers who build a social media presence that factor this in are building more than their brand — they’re building trust and ensuring their information reaches their entire audience.

Chanin Ballance co-founded viaLanguage in 2000 and served as Chief Operating Officer and head of marketing before becoming CEO in 2003. She has multiple years of technology, language, business management and marketing experience. Under her leadership viaLanguage has grown to be one of the largest women-owned multilingual solutions companies in the country. She has led the growth of the company across several industries, including corporate marketing, healthcare, wireless, legal and online training. She is constantly breaking ground on new technological landscapes, from mobile training solutions, machine and hybrid translation to customized multilingual product launches in 32 countries. Notable clients include Microsoft, Cisco, Disney, Intel, Walmart, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente.

Ms. Ballance is the recipient of the Portland Business Journal’s prestigious leadership award “40 Under Forty” and was recently selected for membership in AT&T Women Entrepreneurs’ Forum. She frequently speaks about global training solutions, multicultural marketing and multilingual solutions at venues such as American Marketing Association, the TAHIT Symposium on Language Access, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development and many local entrepreneurial groups. She has also been published in prominent industry publications like iMedia Connection, Chief Marketer, MarketingProfs, Inside Healthcare, Healthcare Market Advisor, Marketing Healthcare Leaders, Inc. Magazine, World Trade Magazine, Oregon Business and more.

Previous to viaLanguage, Ms. Ballance co-founded The Language Company, a language and cross-cultural training school and translation service, where she was responsible for general management and finance and before successfully selling the school to Berlitz. Ms. Ballance earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social science from Marylhurst College and completed graduate work in Biochemistry at Portland State University. Additionally, she has completed executive management studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She has studied five foreign languages and has sat on the board of the American Marketing Association and Starve Ups, a non-profit entrepreneur group.

Reader Comments.

Chanin, you make a great point about using social media to connect with ethnic communities. Some businesses make their biggest mistake by not doing any research on the communities they want to work with. Just as they would conduct research for segments of the female population and try to understand their habits, those businesses need to do the same if they want to engage members of ethnic communities.

Posted by Maranda | 11:13 am on April 27, 2012.

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