Black Millennial Consumers Taking the Lead in Digital Technology

The title of a new Nielsen report says it all: “Young, Connected and Black: African-American Millennials Are Driving Social Change and Leading Digital Advancement.”

This latest release is the sixth installment focused on black consumers in the Nielsen Diverse Intelligence Series, and paints a picture of a rapidly evolving and influential demographic. Black millennials make up 14% of the entire millennial population today, and 25% of the black population in the United States overall. Compared to their Baby Boomer elders, black millennials are 12% more likely to have completed high school and 4% more likely to hold an associate’s degree or higher.

Furthermore, black economic influence is also on the rise. The total spending power of black millennials is projected to hit $1.4 trillion by 2020, and network TV advertising dollars targeted at black audiences has increased 255% since 2011.

But it’s the digital world where black millennials are truly taking the lead, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies and platforms. In a society where 50% of mobile phone owners use their phones as a primary Internet source, 91% of blacks report owning smartphones, the second-highest prevalence among any ethnic group (Asian-Americans reported 94% smartphone ownership).

Furthermore, black millennials are 25% more likely than others in their age group to say they’re the first among their friends to try out new technologies. They’re also more active on Twitter, WhatsApp, and Google+, often engaging with social media platforms in a way that raises awareness of black issues with hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #oscarssowhite. These pooled efforts are important in an age where 93% of all Internet experiences start with a search engine query, and digital networks can offer a far-reaching media platform to historically underrepresented groups.

“We have entered a new era whereby technology has become a great equalizer,” said Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of the U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement. “Black millennials are leading the way in their use of technology to impact change and get their voices heard.”

Black millennials are also devoting more time to their social media efforts than other populations. Over half of young African-Americans report spending an hour or more on social networking sites every day, and 29% report spending three hours or more a day. That’s 44% more time than the average millennial population as a whole.

Yet again, that extra effort may derive from a sense of purpose and meaning, according to Nielsen External Advisory Councilmember Deborah Gray-Young. “African-American millennials are blazing trails to the center of the debate over matters that are paramount to their future success and safety — all as their influence over mainstream consumers grows,” she said.

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