Hispanic + Social = $$

  |  April 21, 2011   |  Comments

Brands need to embrace social media to build community and engagement with the U.S. Hispanic population.

I've spent the last few weeks in several 2012 client planning meetings and a couple of key observations have emerged. First and foremost, social media continues to be the hot topic – dominating both strategic and tactical conversations around how brands can best acquire and retain key customers and prospects. Brainstorming sessions are filled with innovative ideas on how Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and YouTube can be leveraged to engage and educate key influencers and amplify key messaging and/or product differentiation. Additionally, recent reports from the media detailing the surges in the Hispanic population have also got many brands thinking about the importance of building multicultural communities to fuel future growth.

According to The Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population surged 43 percent to over 50 million in 2010 and Latinos now account for 16 percent of the nation's total population of 308.7 million. While the media continues to report how this shift will have an important impact on political, business, and economic issues, many marketers are also beginning to map out a plan to integrate multicultural communities into their overall marketing and social media mix.

While many brands have embraced the Hispanic community by building dedicated advertising programs and website destinations, far too few have embraced social media to build community and engagement. But a deeper, yet somewhat limited look into some of the numbers around how Hispanics use social media uncovers why building multicultural communities might be a great recipe for future success. Specially, consider the following.

Hispanics are:

  • Socially active: Forty-eight percent of all Hispanics online have a profile on a social network, 55 percent higher than the general population; more than 2.3 million people in the U.S. use Facebook in Spanish.
  • Highly influential: Online Hispanic power users are highly influential within their communities. A recent study by AOL found that 91 percent of Hispanic power users spread the word about deals to their followers.
  • Big spenders: According to the U.S. Packaged Facts, the buying power of Hispanics has surpassed $1 trillion in 2010 and is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2015.

However, building a Hispanic community takes more than just a language toggle. To do it right, marketers should keep in mind the following:

1. The Hispanic community is diverse. While language preferences vary based on background and life stage, Hispanics seek out the most relevant experiences. As a result, your Spanish community efforts should go beyond straight translation and include targeted visual and cultural references that take into account ties to their home country. Take the time to understand who your customer and target is and then build the team and resources necessary to be authentic and believable to that community.

2. Audit existing efforts and market intelligence. If you have a Spanish website or advertising program, spend some time reviewing the research, metrics, and traffic patterns to help you understand the needs and interests of your target audience. A recent review of a client's website in Spanish uncovered critical insights about usage and served as the catalyst for launching a dedicated Facebook and Twitter effort. Specifically, our review uncovered key differences across several engagement metrics such as time spent, navigation patterns, and product interests, which prompted the company to add new services.

3. Create unique content that meets your audience's needs. Building a Hispanic community isn't about translating existing communities into Spanish; it's about taking the time to research and understand the interests and shared passion your brand may have with that audience. For one client that meant conducting some proprietary customer research that uncovered a key interest area that led to a sports sponsorship. This sponsorship now serves as the company's foundation for community engagement and discussions.

4. Hire a Spanish speaking community manager. Google Translate is helpful, but in order to be taken seriously you need to be authentic. Hire a community manager who's Hispanic and can relate to the Hispanic culture and community. This is critical in keeping the conversation authentic, real, and respectful.

For many brands embarking on similar marketing program planning and brainstorming discussions for 2012 and beyond, I encourage you to add a session dedicated to multicultural marketing. You may not think you need it today, but with the U.S. melting pot growing even more diverse, it's a worthwhile discussion to have. In fact, you may find proper planning around this topic today will create additional opportunities and competitive advantages for you and your brand for many years to come.

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Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.

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