Many Latinos are gathering on Twitter via hashtags. How do marketers connect with them?
In an earlier column, we observed that Latinos not only index higher on Twitter than any other ethnic group, but also self-index higher: that is, we tend to self-identify, self-organize, and self-categorize more than other folks. The tool of choice for all of this self-indexing is the Twitter hashtag – select words and phrases preceded by a hashmark (for example, #twitterlandia – an actual hashtag on Twitter) that make individual tweets more searchable. They also make individual tweeps (the people doing the tweeting) more findable, which is the greater opportunity for Latinos – and marketers hoping to engage Latinos – on the vast river of information that is Twitter. Without the hashtag – a simple innovation created by users themselves – Twitter would be unmanageable.
Source: Giovanni Rodriguez
But is there anything special about Latinos and Twitter hashtags? A few things stand out – and I’d like to thank Ana Flores, co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com, for assisting me with this column.
It’s not just about tagging; it’s about belonging. In an early post about the Twitter hashtag, social tech pioneer David Weinberger marveled over the simplicity with which this small innovation has enabled people to add their own metadata to online conversations. Over time, it’s become a lot more than that. For many Twitter diehards today, the hashtag denotes not a thing but a group of people with similar interests. Many Latinos have openly embraced the hashtag for this kind of socialization, without apology or embarrassment (more than a few early adopters have given up on hashtags, or never quite got comfortable with the awkwardness of the form). And while the use of the hashtag at one time may have been confined to a small class of insiders (so much, in fact, that the hand sign became known as the tongue-in-cheek “gang” sign for the new tech elite), it’s now used to openly invite all comers. You, too, can join a Latino “gang” on Twitter. And you don’t have to be Latino.
It’s not about “Twitter storms”; it’s about persistent conversation. In a recent post for The Atlantic Monthly, Alexis Madrigal takes a look at the lifecycle of a wildly popular conversation on Twitter conducted over the hashtag #LessAmbitiousMovies. A graph in that post tracking the lifecycle is certainly worth a look. As GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram has noted, “the really interesting thing is just how random – and short-lived – these Twitter storms can be.” But most Latino hashtags are not like this. They are not storms; they are more persistent, and for some, the weather is almost always interesting. For marketers, the opportunity is to join an ongoing conversation that may have its ebbs and flows, but nevertheless continues after the meme of the day is gone.
It’s not just about conversation; it’s about organization, too. As legend has it, the first Twitter hashtag, #sandiegofires, was used to mobilize action for dealing with the 2007 San Diego fires. Despite forceful arguments to the contrary, Twitter has served as an effective platform for enabling purposeful groups to self-organize. Not all of the hashtags below represent groups of that variety, but a few of them do. For marketers, the challenge is to think of ways that go beyond targeting the people that make groups like this happen. A better approach is to join these groups, if joining in fact makes sense. Not all gangs are alike, and there’s more than one way to support them. More on that in a future post, where we take a look at innovative marketing programs on Twitter.
Here’s a short list of some of the most active hashtags used mostly by online Latinos in the U.S. If you would like to add to this list, let us know in the comments section.
All four of the following hashtags are used by Latino activists and for tweets with a political message. We expect many new political hashtags to arise in 2011. The Latino political conversation on Twitter is getting bigger and more diverse.
#beinglatino: One of the most dynamic Latino groups on Twitter, Being Latino describes itself as a “communication platform designed to educate and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum.” It has an even bigger presence on Facebook.
#hispanicize: A new group on Twitter, it is the organizer of a major marketing conference this spring.
#lasblogueras: Similar to #latinabloggers, but used for blog content in Spanish, mostly by Spanish-speaking bloggers.
#latinabloggers: Started by the growing number of U.S. Latina bloggers as a way to share and promote their content with each other and to stay connected.
#latism: Perhaps the most important of all Latino hashtags because of the role the group has had for the last two years in uniting Latinos under one voice. Its infamous weekly Thursday night Twitter party is the place where most Latino Twitter users get started and find each other. (Disclaimer: I currently sit on the board of LATISM (Latinos in Social Media), the non-profit behind the hashtag.)
#mamastuiteras: This is used by both U.S. Latina moms who tweet in Spanish as well as mamás in Latin America and Spain.
#vivaviernes: An offshoot of the original and very popular #FollowFriday, this hashtag is used every Friday by those who wish to send a shoutout or highlight their favorite tweeps. It’s a great way to find new relevant people to follow on Twitter.
#WepaWednesday: “Wepa” is a word used mostly by Caribbean Latinos as an exclamation with various celebratory uses. This hashtag took off as another friendly way to celebrate fellow Latinos.
#latinolit: Where Latino writers, poets, publishers, and those interested in Latino literature connect.
#comida: Follow this hashtag and find amazing Latin-inspired recipes shared by bloggers and online users.
#hispanic and #latino: Two very broad hashtags used with a wide net to talk about anything relevant to Hispanics.
Ana Flores, who assisted with this column, has over 15 years of experience as a television/entertainment producer and content creator, with a specialty in the U.S. Hispanic industry. She is the co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com, the online community for parents raising bilingual and bicultural kids. Most recently, she founded Latina Bloggers Connect, where she creates strategic digital campaigns connecting brands with bloggers. In just three months of its launch, the company’s client roster includes Sprint, Clorox Company, McDonald’s, and others.