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Hispanics Check In

  • October 14 2011

Is the Hispanic culture more social than other U.S. demographics? Gauging the way the Latino market has adopted social media, it would appear to be true.

Consider some recent research that sheds light on how Hispanics are outpacing other segments in the ways they interact on the social web. Hispanics are more likely than other groups to use Twitter (Pew Internet & American Life Project). They engage more with Facebook (BIG Research). They are more likely to use a mobile phone for text messaging (Scarborough Research), and are aggressive adopters of smartphones (BIG Research).

These statistics suggest social media and mobile marketing may be the surest ways to reach U.S. Hispanics. But many brands could be missing out on the opportunity. Interestingly, according to a 2010 survey from Orci cited by eMarketer, 78 percent of companies haven’t used these emerging technologies to connect with the U.S. Latino market.

What’s more, by 2014, U.S. Hispanic consumer purchasing power is expected to exceed $1.3 trillion, forecasts the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

The Latino market is growing faster than other segments. The 2010 Census found that there are 50.5 million Hispanics in the U.S.—one in every six U.S. residents— a 43 percent increase from the 2000 Census. Moreover, the Hispanic population accounted for most of the nation’s growth—56 percent—from 2000 to 2010.  Among children ages 17 and younger, there were 17.1 million Hispanics, or 23.1 percent of this age group.

“The 2010 Census data confirmed what Hispanic marketers have always known: Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States,” says Sonia Sroka, SVP and director of Hispanic marketing of Porter Novelli. “Hispanics constitute a critical component to every brand’s long-term growth.”


Staying connected

While Hispanics are a sizable minority, they have become a dominant force in social media due in large part to their greater use of mobile technology. This stands in contrast to their use of the first wave of Internet technologies—Latinos, for example, are less likely to own a personal computer than the general population, and less likely to have home broadband access, according to the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2010 study on Latinos and digital technology.

So what accounts for this greater use of mobile and social? Industry professionals suggest this may be because being social is a key part of Latino culture and that that cultural phenomenon is now playing out in the online world.

“Hispanics are definitely communicators,” Sroka says. “Staying connected with friends and family is at the heart of the Hispanic culture, and we use the web to keep those relationships alive.”
Marketers must keep in mind that U.S. Hispanics on the mobile web use social media for a lot more than deciding what to buy. Like other groups, they use social media tools to search for jobs, establish community contacts and build their social networks.

“Based on my experience, Hispanics and other multicultural consumer groups place a higher value on social connectivity via personal technologies than general market consumers,” says James Briggs, CEO of Briabe Mobile, Inc., a mobile marketing agency that targets Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American consumer groups. “Before mobile and social media, advertisers struggled to reach Hispanics digitally. The mobile channel is changing all of this, but given the personal nature of the mobile platform, blasting consumers simply will not work. The new challenge is to go beyond the discussions of Hispanics over-indexing on mobile to truly understand how Hispanic consumers care to be engaged on the platform to make buying decisions.”


Growing brand presence

While the majority of marketers are still not using social media to reach U.S. Hispanics, some brands have recently inaugurated high-profile efforts to reach this segment.

Working with Lopez Negrete Communications, Verizon Telecom recently launched Facebook and Twitter elements to its Hispanic online campaign for its FIOS high-speed Internet. The campaign itself has required Verizon to look differently at how it is approaching Hispanics, focusing more on emotional and price/quality messaging. “We uncovered some interesting insights that then led to an approach that admittedly made Verizon a little uncomfortable…that threw acculturation out the window,” says Marisol Cruz, the agency’s executive director of strategic planning.

Oscar Mayer just published a Hispanic-focused custom Facebook app, developed by 360i in partnership with Firstborn, that lets fans build a sandwich using themselves and their friends as ingredients. Once the sandwich is finished, it gets shared on the walls of their friends and families. The Sandwichemos app lives within the Comida Kraft Facebook page. Oscar Mayer also is partnering exclusively with Telemundo to build awareness of the page.

Nissan, which has run a Spanish-language website since 2003, brought out a Nissan en Español Facebook fan page in September. The automaker is supporting it with a promotional campaign—“Todos <3 Nissan”—offering those who become fans of the page a chance to win prizes such as gas cards.


Segmenting the market

Within the social market, brands need to be aware of the different segments of the Hispanic market. Analysts use a range of demographic and psychographic strategies. First-generation immigrants vs. second-generation native-borns. English speakers vs. Spanish speakers vs. Spanglish speakers. Dual-identities vs. Acculturateds. Young trendsetters vs. family influencers.

For many marketers, social media may promise easier access to influencers within these different segments.

Porter Novelli, for example, identifies a segment it calls Mami Blogueras (Mommy Bloggers). It has found that U.S. Hispanic bloggers are overwhelmingly female and focus on sharing brand information, reviewing products and offering advice. Because they frequently communicate in several languages, they often have a solid following of readers who strongly relate to them and actively share their content. As a result, their influence often reaches beyond their blogs as their readers share content with their extended communities.


Separate nationalities

As importantly, marketers need to be aware that the Hispanic community is made up of a range of diverse groups with significant cultural differences. Hispanics of Mexican origin are still the dominant segment, followed by those of Puerto Rican and Cuban origin. Still, other sub-groups—including Salvadorans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians—grew faster. Moreover, Mexicans are not the primary Hispanic segment in some major markets. In Miami, Cubans are the largest group; in Washington, D.C., it is Salvadorans; and New York has more Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.

“‘Hispanic’ is an overarching term that denotes a diverse group of people from many different countries,” Sroka explains. “The Hispanic market comprises individuals from a range of geographies. We create marketing programs specific to country of origin and regional geography when our research mandates that such hyper-targeted programming is warranted. When that’s the case, we take into consideration cultural nuances and colloquial differences to ensure we are relevant to the target.”

Miami-based agency La Comunidad acknowledges both the shared and the distinctive characteristics of the Hispanic market segment. With a name that means “the community,” the agency often focuses on building a dialogue with Hispanic consumers, says Antoinette Zel, president and CEO. “We don’t strive to shape the dialogue within the Hispanic community. We just want to inspire it with refreshing ways to think about brands,” Zel says.

“Why does it matter?” Zel continues. “Simply put, because it’s about marketing to the new majority. Marketers are leaving dollars on the table every day because they don’t trust their instincts and expertise when it comes to Hispanic consumers. Truth is, there’s no secret formula and there’s no different standard of quality. Opportunity abounds.”


Oscar Mayer's Sandwichemos app lets Hispanic facebook users build a virtual sandwich using their friends.