Social media is filled with opinions and debate around countless issues. As a result, South Africa’s ‘Black Twitter’ has become one of the most influential communities whose impact has the power to sway public opinion across the social web.
The curiosity of managing director of WordStart, Mongezi Mtati, lies behind the decision to launch a survey to research what makes the local Black Twitter community influential.
While the research is ongoing, early insights already reveal a “picture of a community that is driven by various thought leaders – from legal minds, celebrities, journalists to social media influencers – who built their reputations online with little to no mainstream media”, he says.
The initial survey insights show that Black Twitter is more than just about popular TV shows and celebrity news; there is also a narrative of what and how brands can engage with socially-savvy and connected black professionals, Mtati says.
“These are the people whose views contribute to shaping media narratives and turn the tide in how brands communicate in a way that is not tone-deaf. They command some of South Africa’s most sought-after spending power and have a positive contribution to how we consider our diversity as a society,” he adds.
From brands being more sensitive and considerate of people’s differences, because of possible backlash and positive engagement that adds towards revenue, to people losing their jobs because of offensive and racist social media banter, Black Twitter in South Africa is “positioned as a microcosm of the temperature of the country”.
Mtati says the ongoing survey debunks the myth that Black Twitter is only focused on entertainment, celebrity news and calling out certain individuals. While important, research also shows that “politics, how politicians can be instrumental to societal change and the government take centre-stage”, he says.
Between 1 January 2017 and 1 December 2019, the research shows over 16-million Black Twitter associated posts were shared on Twitter. June 2018 was by far the most active month with posts about Cassper Nyovest going to the BET Awards; Bonang Matheba’s reality show (Being Bonang); and rapper, AKA’s album release – on 15 June 2018, were among leading topics throughout the month. June 2018 shows that over 300 000 posts were shared.
Mtati says many brands have stayed away from Black Twitter for fear of coming under fire, and yet the survey reveals that early respondents think brands should interact with the community.
“When asked whether brands should target Black Twitter with their marketing, 73% think brands should engage with the community. Most people cited authenticity and being aware of what is happening in the community as being significant when engaging with Black Twitter. Some also believe that if brands pay attention from a distance, they are more likely to have positive human interactions outside of social media,” Mtati reckons.
“The maturity of social media in South Africa has led to people to curate their experiences, media consumption and interaction with news stories around their lives and Twitter timelines,” Mtati explains. “This makes shining a lens on communities and their resultant sub-cultures evermore significant in for both brands and society as a whole. Some brands understand this and engage courageously while others fall behind.”
“We would love to get your opinions on Black Twitter in South Africa, which will give you early access to the summary of our findings and ensure that your views form part of the report,” Mtati says.
And he promises: “When the report is launched, you will also be the first to be notified. To participate, please click here.”
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