Latinos and Facebook: The Marketing Gap

Not so long ago, recommending digital marketing to target Latinos was a very uncomfortable conversation to have with a client. Fortunately, those days seem to be over. Supported by strong research, clients are more familiar with the growing importance of digital among Hispanics (social media, mobile, etc). As part of that (now easier) conversation, Hispanics and social media is becoming one of the hottest topics.

And clients are right. In just one year, as the total Latinos online audience grew 16 percent, the number of Latinos on Facebook grew 2.8 times. In March 2011, the amount of Hispanic Facebook users reached almost 22 million. That is, 70.2 percent of all Latinos online are active Facebook users versus 29.1 percent one year before.

We are seeing not only reach but true engagement. Latinos spend more time on Facebook: 52 percent of Hispanics use Facebook at least weekly, spending an average of 29 minutes on social networking versus White Americans who spend 19 minutes.

There’s no doubt that Latinos are into Facebook. My question is, what’s the real opportunity for marketers? Is this growing penetration a powerful marketing tool? Do Latinos engage with brands as actively as they do with other people?

Gap or Opportunity?

According to a recent study published by eMarketer, PR professionals believe that social media is a key tool for reaching Latinos. However, only 45 percent of respondents are actually using social media to reach Hispanics, compared to 92 percent who use it to reach the general population. This discrepancy means there is a huge opportunity for marketers to reach Hispanics via social media.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 most watched TV shows both in English and Spanish. Spanish programs are getting stronger in terms of ratings. Take Reina del Sur that topped CBS, ABD, and NBC in its time slot in adults 18-49. But when it comes to creating social relationships, the story seems to be very different.

spanish-programs

The Latino Benchmark

One of the biggest challenges that we face when starting social media strategies for our clients is setting the right goals. In other words, what does success look like? Especially considering that most of the brands are just getting started.

So I tried to build a benchmark by analyzing what the top 100 brands are doing. Let’s see the key findings.

  1. Finding 100 brands with both a general market and a Hispanic Facebook page was pretty hard.
  2. Almost all the brands use a Spanish language, thus most of the analysis has to be built comparing English versus Spanish pages.
  3. The ratio (Spanish fans over total English fans) was disappointingly low, confirming somehow that there’s a huge gap or opportunity.
  4. Categorizing the brands in terms of ratio performance, I could establish three segments:
    • Successful brands: 8 percent-plus
    • Good performers: 4 to 8 percent
    • Underperformers: less than 4 percent
  5. Almost 80 percent of the brands belonged to the “underperformers” segment (i.e., Pepsiyosumo has only 6,901 fans).
  6. Examples of “successful” brands are: Toyota Latino and American Airlines.
  7. Spanish Facebook pages of brands tend to have a lower engagement than specific Hispanic pages (i.e., those of TV shows), though the latter are also in Spanish.
  8. From a community management perspective, there’s a lot of room to grow. Delays in answering questions (even not answering) were seen across key brands. In many cases, the dialogue with the consumer was pretty basic and anything but inspirational.

Moving the Conversation Forward

My first conclusion is that there’s a huge gap between Latinos’ usage of Facebook and real engagement with brands through their Spanish pages.

Second, considering that most of the Spanish initiatives are new and that many brands are just testing the waters, there’s light at the other end of the tunnel. In order to move the conversation forward, marketers need to change their approach beyond language.

A Hispanic approach to social media should be based on content and engagement, rather than simply language. Once identified, the role of the Latino Facebook page, a bilingual approach, has a bigger potential. Consumers are used to interacting in both languages or in the language of their choice. Bilingualism conversations are richer.

Think holistically: your Latino consumer will certainly interact with both your pages. So consider that overall experience.

Push the envelope: try new things and be willing to take some risks. Simply copying/pasting your general market approach into Spanish could be a lot more risky.

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