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Why is African-Americans’ Use of Twitter Outpacing Other Groups?

The accelerated growth of smartphone owners and the rise in mobile applications and mobile web usage reveals that more and more people desire instantaneous social and cultural connectivity to share ideas, opinions, experiences and information on a global platform.

With social media now out of its infant stage, social networking sites are starting to see large upswings of different demographics and ethnic groups adopting their services. In particular, the popular microblogging social network site Twitter has had one of the largest increases in adoption of services and has seen a steady increase in users of various ethnic backgrounds.

The most notable of these ethnic groups are African-Americans. Despite the rapid growth of social media as a whole, the surge of mobile device usage for accessing social media, and the prevalence of African-Americans on Twitter there has been very little scholarly exploration or descriptive studies to examine why African-Americans are adopting use of these services more than any other ethnicity. Hopefully this article will help provide a better understanding of why African-Americans are using Twitter.

An Upswing of African Americans on Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging social networking site that lets you connect to share stories, ideas and opinions in 140 characters or less. According to Neilsen’s State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012, Twitter has more than 500 million users, with 120 million of those users residing in the United States. The same Nielsen report also shows a significant year-over-year increase from 2011-2012 in personal computer (+13 percent), mobile applications (+34 percent), and mobile web (+140 percent) usage, making Twitter one of the fastest growing social networking sites.

As mentioned, a prominent fixture in this upswing of usage can be attributed to African-Americans. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 28 percent of online African-Americans use Twitter, compared to just 12 percent for whites and 14 percent for Hispanics. From 2010-2012, African-American Twitter usage increased from 13 percent to 28 percent compared to white users who increased by much lower margins—5 percent to 12 percent —in the same timeframe.

So, why is it that African-Americans are increasing their usage at much greater rates than other ethnicities?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, CNN’s Doug Gross, and The Huffington Post’s Bianca Bosker all contend that cellphone usage, smartphones in particular, is more prevalent in African-Americans—who make up 44 percent of smartphone users—and is the prominent device for accessing the Internet; thus making Twitter easily accessible and more likely to be utilized.

This makes sense, because Nielsen maintains that the growth of social media networking, in general, is on the rise largely because more people—46 percent of social media users—are using smartphones to access social media. But is cellphone usage the only explanation as to why African-Americans are using Twitter? Or is it just another piece of the much larger puzzle?

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