Public Relations Tactics

We Can Solve Social Media’s Diversity Problem

December 3, 2013

I love social media. I spend countless hours Liking, sharing, re-tweeting and pinning anything and everything that I can think of.

I represent the 72 percent of women, African-American and urban dwellers using social networking sites, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Though much of my social media use is for personal enjoyment and entertainment, when I do seek information for monetizing, measuring, marketing, promoting or selling through social media, I often find that those experts don’t represent those African-Americans, Latinos and women who use social media most.

Why aren’t those of us who use social media equally represented as thought leaders in the space?

Who owns social media?

One discussion swirling around the social media water cooler is ownership. Before social media, businesses and brands divvied up communications responsibilities among their marketing, advertising, PR, customer service and human resources departments.

Social media often fits into many traditional departmental structures. But public relations often ranks highest on the list when we ask the question, “Who owns social media?”

In a Mashable article from May 2010 titled, “Which Department Owns Social Media?” influencers stated that public relations should own social media because of its ability to craft appropriate messages for a company’s followers. The reason was because social media requires more public-facing customer service interaction.

If many people perceive that public relations owns social media, then we should serve as leaders by ensuring inclusion and diversity.

Social media’s diversity problem

Social media marketing expert Jay Baer agitated the “social media mafia” when he observed that many of those who create social media content nationally are 25-to-39-year-old White men. 

In a blog post, “Blinded by the White: Social Media and Diversity,” Baer states, “If social media is going to be a public face of organizations, and drive kinship with the populace, we have to do more than rely on a bunch of 30-year-old White people to do so.”

This public shaming sparked a flurry of conversation among social media influencers. Some acknowledged that the lack of diversity in social media circles is replicative of traditional media industries — like public relations.

What to do about it

In response to Baer outing the social media illuminati for its lack of diversity, digital media expert and PitchTo founder Wayne Sutton suggested, “We need to stop complaining about the lack of diversity in the tech and Web space and just do something about it.”

I like that idea. With that said, here’s what practitioners of all backgrounds can do to get their heads into the social media game now:

  • Build your personal brand. I recently attended a workshop at The National Press Club by Stacey Miller of Vocus on personal branding for the C-suite. The big takeaway? If you work in the media profession, then you must create a personal brand to be credible.
  • Establish yourself as an expert. Public relations is an umbrella term for the multitude of specializations. Are you a health communications guru? A public affairs expert? Pick your expertise and build on it.
  • Become a thought leader. You produce a lot of content for your client and your organization. Now, it’s time to put your talent to use to promote yourself.

Social media levels the playing field for us all. Stop trying to learn the rules of the game. Instead, create the game.



Dionne C. Clemons, Ph.D.
Dionne C. Clemons, Ph.D., is a strategic communications thought leader and educator. She currently serves as Director of Communications and Community Engagement for the United Planning Organization in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @Drdcclemons.


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