In 2013, Siye Walter Yu suggested new ways that policy makers can engage the Asian immigrants population in Alhambra. One was to implement alternative social media to keep up with the city’s shifting demographics. Shortly after the article's publication, the Alhambra Police Department started an account with Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, which Yu described as an “unprecendented” success. “Within 24 hours, it had over 1500 followers, exceeding its Facebook counterpart’s followers at the time,” wrote Yu. “Since its launch, many police departments from American and Canada followed Alhambra’s step.” In 2015 the APD was the first polce department in the country to join WeChat, a Chinese instant messaging service in which residents could contact the department directly. Police Chief Mark Yokoyama told Annenberg Agenda that residents were receptive of the service. “It tells me people have some sense of trust in at least asking the question of the police. That’s the outcome that I’ve most enjoyed.”
The San Gabriel Valley is home to a growing number of Chinese immigrants. Monterey Park is now more than two-thirds Chinese along with more than half of San Gabriel, Alhambra, and San Marino, China Press reports. But while the Asian population continues to grow nationwide — it’s the fastest growing ethnic group in the country according to the Pew Research Center —a new study from Brown University shows that the community is still just as segregated from whites in Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas as they were 20 years ago.
I believe this segregation is a problem, especially for social and health organizations in the San Gabriel Valley that are trying to reach the Chinese community. The word “outreach” is a combination of the words “out” and “reach.” To engage new immigrants, we must go “out” and “reach” them in their comfort zone.
As an immigrant myself who works closely and cross-culturally with immigrants as a court interpreter, I pay close attention to how Chinese and Asian immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley consume media. Here are five ways policy makers and community organizations can better connect with them.
1. Jump on to China’s social mediaThere are no Twitter or Facebook feeds in China due to the country’s censorship laws, but Chinese versions of these sites do exist. Take Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. With more than 500 million users, the microblogging site has attracted Asian residents and immigrants alike who use the site to communicate with friends, exchange news, and stay connected. Follow the conversation!
2. Go mobileWith the rise of mobile technology, many Southern California residents have a smartphone these days, including new immigrants. In fact, since they often have to move from place to place, new immigrants may rely on their smartphone as their primary way of accessing the internet. Making your information mobile-compatible is a smart way of ensuring they will be able to reach it. Try creating a mobile site or smartphone app.
3. Chat it upMost smartphone users in China are sending instant messages to their friends and family on WeChat. The mobile chat application is also very popular with Chinese immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley. WeChat’s most distinguishing feature is its ability to search for nearby users. You can run a search anywhere in San Gabriel Valley and find hundreds of WeChat users in the area. WeChat also offers a “channel” feature to broadcast to thousands of young immigrants in the community at once.
4. Get some face timeWhile online engagement is important, don’t forget about the impact of in-person interactions. Try heading to local ethnic supermarkets and shopping centers during the evenings or weekends to talk to immigrants out for some shopping or dining. Check out 99 Ranch Supermarket in San Gabriel or the Yogurtland plaza in Alhambra to start.
5. Learn some ChineseOr at least have a translator on hand. You don’t want important ideas getting lost in translation. Nothing ruins an outreach campaign more than looking unprepared, or worse, disrespectful. If you’re working on a social or health issue, try reaching out to local Chinese or Asian organizations for help.
With a combination of these strategies, you can reach new immigrants, both young and old, rich and poor.