SAN FRANCISCO: Black Americans make up a large share of Twitter users in the US, but the social network's lack of a demographic targeting facility means commercial opportunities are being lost, according to industry figures.

Marla Skiko, director of digital innovation at SMG Multicultural, a division of Starcom MediaVest Group, told the Financial Times there was "a huge interest in how to reach [ethnic minorities] digitally" but added: "What still remains is how to do that well".

Nor is the problem restricted to digital media. A recent Nielsen study, reported Marketing Charts, found that a disproportionately low share of major media ad spending, at just 3%, was focused on this community, despite it accounting for 14% of the population.

A recent Warc Trends report noted that multicultural marketing was becoming more prominent as demographic changes transformed the US, but added that strategies were still nascent.

The potential role of Twitter was highlighted by recent research from the Pew Research Center which revealed that 26% of Twitter users in the US were black.

But Detavio Samuels, president of GlobalHue's Detroit office, an advertising agency with expertise in culturally focused campaigns, said the openings for marketers were limited by Twitter's failure to offer data which would enable brands to target ads based on race.

As a result, outfits such as GlobalHue and SMG Multicultural have developed workarounds, which can cut Twitter out of the money loop.

GlobalHue, for example, ran a campaign for the HBO show Boardwalk Empire to build buzz among the black community. This involved an exclusive screening to which tweeting celebrities were invited. Their tweets and subsequent retweets raised awareness for the show, but GlobalHue did not buy any promoted tweets.

Skiko said she advised clients to advertise around holidays and events like Black History Month or the Essence Music Festival, which celebrates black culture and music.

Samuels suggested that the marketing community had yet to master Twitter advertising in general. "They're still trying to get general before they get specific and niche," he said.

But there was a suggestion that targeting problems could hamper Twitter's advertising revenues. "It's just going to be slow with people not allocating money there," Samuels concluded.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Marketing Charts; additional content by Warc staff