By Jeannine Hunter, News Producer, Washington Post
Jessica Faye Carter is the founder and chief executive officer of Heta Corporation, a professional services firm that advises corporations and small businesses on social technologies and cultural and gender diversity. She is a frequent speaker on these issues and the author of Double Outsiders: How Women of Color Can Succeed in Corporate America, an award-winning practical guide for professional multicultural women.
The former corporate lawyer has a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Duke University and a B.A. from Spelman College. In 2010, she established a new organization and website, Black Social Media Professionals. During an engaging conversation, Carter explained why she developed BSMP and the importance of branding, marketing and staying on top of innovations.
“The goal of Black Social Media Professionals is to provide resources for Black professionals and entrepreneurs in the social media industry, and to make social media resources and information available to non-profit and community organizations,” Carter said.
The growing site features a blog, a directory of professionals, and an area showcasing members’ sites and projects. Sections for social media resources/tools and job listings will be added soon.
She wanted to create a way to spotlight what people of African descent are doing with social technologies because there is “so much cool stuff people are working on.” She recently started to add videos to the BSMP YouTube channel, which features members offering tips and sharing their own stories about how they got started in social media.
BSMP is also a space where individuals with similar interests can learn about one another and engage online or “in real life” as they attend events such as the recent Austin, Texas-based South by Southwest, one of the world’s largest media conferences. “In the future,” said Carter, “we hope to offer informal get-togethers in the context of the larger technology conferences.”
Providing a place where prospective employers and conference organizers, etc., can diversify their pool of job candidates and speakers is a knock-off benefit of the site. “It’s important for conferences to be aware that there are Black professionals using social technologies in business, education, politics, journalism, and philanthropy,” Carter said, adding that some of them are top-flight professionals who reinvented themselves via social media tools.
Retooling one’s skills and branding are essential as careers, industries, and activities become increasingly shaped by evolving technologies and tools.
“Many people don’t realize that social technologies are changing everything from the way we do business to how we interact with our local government officials,” Carter said. “We’ve moved beyond socializing online to managing important parts of our lives with technology. That’s part of the reason that it’s really important to understand and leverage social tools and not get left behind.”
In the last decade, “the proportion of Internet users who are black or Latino has nearly doubled – from 11 percent to 21 percent,” wrote Aaron Smith, senior research specialist for the Pew Internet and American Life Project, last fall about trends in technology among people of color. “At the same time, African Americans remain somewhat less likely than whites to go online.”
“Similarly, African Americans have made up substantial ground in the last year when it comes to home broadband adoption. However, even with these gains they continue to trail whites in broadband use at home,” wrote Smith, who also noted that blacks are also less likely to own a desktop computer yet are on par in laptop ownership (as are Latinos) and more likely, as are Latinos, to use mobile devices (report here).
This fall, Carter hopes BSMP will have a volunteer day where members could help non-profits and community groups develop or refine their online identities. Members would be able to use their talents to help others demystify the Internet and get online, an especially valuable service in communities where people may be unconnected to the Internet, lack the appropriate tools to get online, or are generally unfamiliar with the benefits social media affords.