Perspective

: Listening and learning from Black voices on Twitter

God-is Rivera, global director of culture and community at Twitter, on what we’re hearing from Black voices on Twitter, and what this community is expecting to see from brands.

In the final days of May, there was a switch: Everyone's attention turned to the racial pandemic that has cost the lives of Black and Brown people throughout the world and throughout history.

In the weeks since, brands have taken a stand on social injustice, confronted the unequal scales of Black lives in this country, and come to terms with their own complicitness in racial inequities. For what feels like the first time, the frustration, anger, and pain of an entire community finally seem like they’re being heard and are beginning to receive their long overdue recognition in boardrooms and creative rooms.

My passion and the core focus of my work at Twitter is to make sure the voices of marginalized communities are always heard, that we amplify their perspectives and build a table, mic, and stage for the issues that matter most to them. 

With that ambition in mind, we’re sharing what we’re hearing from Black voices on what this community is expecting and demanding to see from brands going forward.

We hope that by listening to these voices now and forever, we'll all create more work that is not just culturally resonant, but that also makes this community feel heard, valued, and equal.

Here is some guidance from Twitter Next brand strategist Nicole Godreau on how to show up in solidarity with the Black community:

1. This is not a fad or a “moment.”

While it seems like the entire world is paying attention to this fight for equality now, it’s a battle that Black Americans have been fighting for centuries. It’s important to recognize that this movement existed well before the recent protests and will live on long after. This community wants to know that you’ll show up for them even when it’s not popular to do so.

Do: 

  • Express your understanding of how this moment in time is important, yet has also been important and building for centuries. 

  • Recognize that it will take years of concentrated effort and allyship to undo.

  • Make sure that your company continues doing the work to ensure that this is not a trend to jump on, but a commitment to make long-lasting change. 

Don’t: 

  • Reach out or communicate with the intention of capitalizing on what you see as a fleeting moment.

  • Forget the promises you have made to your consumers. People will hold you accountable.

2. Atonement should come before action.

Coming out in support of Black lives is a big deal, but it will fall on deaf ears if your organization has a history of anti-Black experiences and investments.

Do: 

  • Be honest about any company history that goes against your current stance. This requires honest conversations with current, and potentially former, leadership to understand any anti-Black actions or complicitness. 

  • Begin your brand statement or community action with an honest acknowledgement of your history with this community.

Don’t: 

  • Be oblivious to aspects of your product or service that may directly affect and heighten biases toward Black people.  

  • Think your company's history won't be discovered and shared or pretend past hostile or detrimental employee experiences or company decisions don’t exist. If it's negative and has gone unaddressed, it will make any statement on this issue seem hollow.

3. Make a choice in solidarity and take it all the way.

Make key business decisions that align with your company values and that are respectful to/considerate of moments of gravity.

Do: If you’ve made a key business decision or pivot that stands in solidarity, be committed to publicly enforcing and defending it.

Don’t: Miss the opportunity to think through how product launches, events, announcements, etc., may be considered during a time of duress for a specific community.

4. Create real relationships and amplify the voices in the community.

Do: 

  • Be considerate. Think of the real emotion, fear, and anger the community/voices you want to engage with are experiencing. 

  • Be thoughtful about whether it's the right time to reach out or not.

  • Think about how you can support this community even when they aren’t in crisis. How are you showing up and building a relationship with this community over time?

5. When it comes to showing solidarity, people want more than kind words from brands.

Do: Make sure that your message is direct and provides actionable, measurable steps.

Don’t: Shy away from the issue. Be direct and explicit in your language.

6. Open your purse.

Do: Do your part. Give back by donating money to trusted organizations as a show of solidarity.

Don’t: End your actions here.

7. Acknowledge that there’s more work to be done.

Do: Be honest with how much progress your company has made. 

Don’t: Be afraid to admit that your company might not have all the answers right now, but address where you stand on the issue, and how you plan to take action.

8. Stay tuned in to what’s happening on Twitter.

Do: 

  • Keep an eye on the news and the conversation.

  • Diversify your feed: follow and learn from voices from the affected communities.  

  • Engage in uncomfortable conversations. 

  • Take the time to come up with a thoughtful response, if you decide to join the conversation. 

  • Lead the way for others — people respect the brands that are the first to take a stand.

Don’t: 

  • Stay silent. You’ll be leaving it up to consumers to decide where you stand.

  • Leave customers concerns and questions unanswered.

God-is Rivera () is global director of culture and community at Twitter. In her role, God-is is responsible for serving and engaging with marginalized communities on Twitter.

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