Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
September 14, 2010

Three Simple Ways to Discover Diverse Audiences Online

As a public relations professional, I am responsible for 3.26 million things. Serving as a travel agent, staffing back-to-back weekend conferences, presenting corporate responsibility presentations from bean bag chairs … I’ve done it all in the name of client service.

Want to know something else I’ve done in the name of client service? Diversify client outreach.

Backlink Diversity

The fact of the matter is that we all should be seeking out diverse audiences whenever we have the opportunity. When we include diverse audiences in our outreach, our messages can go much further much faster, and they have the ability to make their way into networks that we may not be able to access easily.

So how does this all play out online? How can you discover diverse audiences online?

Say it with me: T W I T T E R.

Now, Twitter is not the uber solution when it comes to discovering diversity online, but it is a great place to start!

Here are three simple ways to discover diverse audiences online:

  1. Keep an eye out for interesting trending topics.
    I scan the trending topics from time to time. Occasionally, I’ll see something that really surprises me. To date, there has only been one trending topic that almost knocked me out of my chair: “West Indian.”
    This was special for a few reasons. First, my family is from the West Indies, so I was simply excited. Second, this was a perfect example of a specific cultural group self-identify, and gathering in a space that so often seems so white and Black … or excuse me, “African American.” I break more of my thoughts on the subject of West Indian culture here.
  2. Look beyond trending topics and hashtags for cultural context and additional search terms.
    The West Indian tag was not just valuable for identifying people from that group. It provided insight into the Caribbean culture, but you had to look for the context in order to process it all. If you observed the tweets, you could tell which people were from certain countries, the languages they spoke, popular slang, favorite types of food, music that ties the group together, culture-specific festivals, and the list goes on.
    Those tweets may have been 140 characters, but the context packed into them could fill pages!
  3. Be smart about cultural context and realize that your Twitter search can lead you to several great online resources outside the network.
    When you’re doing research online, sometimes you just have to follow the yellow brick road — in this case, the links. Twitter is a great starting point, but due to its 140 character limit, the meat of the content is often found outside of the network.
    Quick example:
    Essence magazine recently hired a white fashion director and people took to the interwebs to share their thoughts. At the time, I was looking for beauty/fashion bloggers of color for my latest project, Socially Diverse. I thought a search on Essence and the hiring of this director would definitely lead me to the bloggers I was looking for, and it did. My first stop along the trail was a tweet from Afrobella. From there, I arrived at her blog and Afrobella Facebook fan page. With a few clicks, I was surrounded by a community of people of color who cared about fashion and beauty.
    Finding diverse audiences online isn’t anything close to rocket science, but it requires some thought.
    If you follow these three steps, you will be in great shape.

James Walker, founder, PR Prescriptions, is a Gen-Y communications professional interested in public relations, diversity, marketing and social media. Tagged with the nickname “jaywalk,” James is paving his own way through the streets of life, passing up traditional conventions in search of sensible, innovative and effective communication. A blogger, dreamer, plotter, doer, James is interested in all that and most things relating to social media … and in learning your story. Connect with James on LinkedIn and  follow him on Twitter @jaywalk1.

Join James for his Conference session, “Socially Diverse: Engaging With Diverse Communities Online,” at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–19 in Washington, D.C.!

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