African-Americans flock to Twitter
In many ways, Saran Kaba Jones fits the characteristics of a heavy Twitter user.
Jones, 27, has more than 5,600 followers on the social-networking website. She dispatches at least a dozen daily tweets, or messages of 140 characters or less. She is also an African-American.
“As long as I am able to get some type of cellphone signal, I am able to Twitter,’’ said Jones, a native of Liberia who uses Twitter to connect with friends and raise money for her nonprofit that helps communities in Africa.
Twitter is disproportionately more popular among African-Americans such as Jones than it is for other racial groups. They make up only 13 percent of the US population, but represent almost a quarter of the 17 million Americans tweeting, according to a study by Edison Research, a New Jersey marketing-research firm. A big reason for this is that African-Americans tend to use Twitter updates more like regular text messages than some other groups, said those who research Twitter use.
Carolyn Penner of Twitter said the site attracts a wide demographic: “We think that speaks to its universal appeal.’’
Danah Boyd, a research associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said African-Americans’ Twitter use has developed since they were first exposed to it through celebrities who interact with their fans over the website, including talk show host Oprah Winfrey and basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.
“Quickly, they started using it to engage with people they knew,’’ she said.
Another possible reason for Twitter’s popularity among African-Americans is the site’s format, which is easy to use on a cellphone. African-Americans spend 22 hours a month talking or texting on their cellphones; whites, by contrast, spend about half that, according to Nielsen Co.
Additionally, Twitter is most popular among younger adults between the ages of 25 and 34. The median age for African-Americans is 30 compared with 38 for US whites, according to the 2000 Census.
“The younger, more technologically savvy population are the kids under 30,’’ said Colette Phillips, a Boston publicist who specializes in multicultural marketing.
Phillips, who said the numbers represent a marketing opportunity for companies, recalls an event at Wheelock College in Boston where the black actor Hill Harper was a speaker. Most of the 500 guests were African-Americans; many tweeted about the event.
“Twitter is how they communicate,’’ she said.