The Original Black Twitter: African-American Women Talk Movies, Music and TV at the Salon

Is your entertainment brand working on its social-media strategy? Consider connecting in urban salons first.

Women of every race know that a day at the salon will involve conversations with their hairdresser and other patrons. For African-American women, this dynamic is underscored by a history steeped in hair identity and community activism, which makes them more receptive to giving and receiving information at the salon than women of other cultures.

A key reason black hair—and the hairdressers who care for it—holds so much meaning for African-American women is the racial identity at its roots. In the U.S., how African-American women choose to style their hair has historically been as much a political statement as a personal one.

Many a debate has raged over whether black women should straighten their hair or embrace their natural looks, because either choice can be seen as a statement on cultural pride. Black women begin navigating such cultural/political landmines from a young age, and they put a lot of thought into how they care for their hair, making salons next only to church on their list of weekly destinations.

Furthermore, styling and shaping black hair require special skill sets, so black women must have deep trust in the men and women they allow to do it. Never, ever would they walk into a salon without a recommendation (or five), and they are much more likely than women of other races to be loyal to one salon once they have reached a level of comfort.

These relationships—the relationship between black women and their hair and black women with their hairdressers— are compounded by an even deeper historical fact. As early as the 1930’s, American hair salons were on the front lines of civil rights activism. Women used salons as a safe place to talk about issues of importance and even to gather supporters for political campaigns.

For many African-American women, a salon chair represents a place at the table; a way to stay informed and share opinions. In many ways, salons were the first black Twitter.

Once you understand the major role salons play in the lives of African-American women, it’s not hard to see why marketers who want to reach them should be there, too. Entertainment marketing may not be as pressing as civil rights issues, but movies, music & TV are hot topics in urban salons, and hairdressers are integral to the exchanges that occur there.

As mentioned before, black salon owners and hairdressers are highly trusted by the women they serve, and so are their recommendations. Savvy marketers can earn credibility by providing local stylists and barber social media influencers with marketing materials for films, TV show or new music, and then letting them get the word out through one of the most robust social media tools that ever existed: the African-American beauty salon. 

Photo by Yucel Moran on Unsplash

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