The Challenging Language of Social Media

Hispanic marketing ain’t what it used to be. Spanish language media is no longer the exclusive territory of a consumer that now straddles across media and language. Long gone are the days where Latino consumers could be put into a box. And social media is the most vivid example of how Latinos put content preferences first and language second.

What Clients Want

When it comes to how to target Latinos via social media, there’s not a clear approach. And many times, brands fall into the temptation to put Latinos into a box.

These temptations normally come in one of these forms:

  1. Draw a language barrier: target Latinos only in Spanish (i.e., “put your brand here” in Español).
  2. Create a Latino sub-component within their mainstream platform (i.e., a Spanish/Hispanic tab on their mainstream Facebook page).
  3. Add some postings in Spanish, from time to time, on the mainstream wall .

Unfortunately, this is not aligned with consumers’ expectations. Latinos want to be part of the overall conversation and not isolated. No one wants to go to a big party (your brand’s main Facebook page) and have to be segregated (the Hispanic tab).

Also, these approaches can create negative reactions from your non-Latino visitors as you can see in the example below.

facebook-sears-latino

In the Beginning It Was the Strategy

Here are some thoughts for brands that want to leverage social media to target Latinos.

  1. Don’t approach it as an “extension” of what you are doing in the general market. It’s about building a specific/relevant Hispanic effort, not a Spanish one.
  2. The Latino social media strategy should be aligned with your overall Hispanic strategy. Initial planning should be based on what the Hispanic opportunity for your business is and how social media can contribute to it.
  3. Your Latino social media platform should complement and supplement your general market one. Most Latinos might stop interacting with both.
  4. Use a bilingual approach: plan to generate conversations in both English and Spanish, within your Hispanic social media platform, in order to not alienate consumers.

An interesting example is “Madres y Comadres,” a miniseries developed by Kmart that focuses on the challenges that Latino moms face raising a family in America. The webisodes are styled to resemble a mock telenovela and are in Spanish. Yet the interaction on Twitter happens in both languages. Kmart also has a Hispanic presence on Facebook with the Smart Latina fan page. In this case, the conversation is basically in English.

Latino Social Tips

Social media is still a new discipline. We are all learning on a daily basis. And this is even truer for using social media to target Latinos. The following are some learnings from working with different brands.

  • Facebook has proven to be very effective for reaching Latinos. I encourage every brand to start building their Latino fan page if they haven’t already.
  • When naming your page, avoid the Español (Spanish) name, even if your approach is to go Spanish only. Consumers expect an experience beyond language.
  • For most brands, I recommend a bilingual approach. It’s inclusive and has shown lots of positive reactions by understanding the reality of Latinos.
  • If you go bilingual, think in terms of search when naming your page. For our client Valvoline, we created Garage Valvoline. The word garage not only is related to the nature of the community, but also has the same meaning in both English and Spanish.
  • Do bilingual postings: post simultaneously in both languages. It’s becoming a well-received practice. Also, it’s interesting to note that the same person might be reacting to both Spanish and English posts as you can see below. This is the true bilingual spirit.

    garage-valvoline

  • When planning your communication calendar, exchange ideas and content between the Latino and general market platforms.
  • Create a Latino YouTube channel. Even if it’s going to be mainly in Spanish, you can make it more inclusive by having tags in both languages and adding English subtitles to the content.
  • Twitter is a great tool to tap into Latino influencers. Latino hashtags are getting more and more traction.
  • Language is still a barrier. Accents and other non-Latin, alpha-numeric characters in hashtags break the link, limiting the use of some common Spanish words, as you can see below.

    hispana

  • Twitter tends to be more effective with English-dominant Latinos. We normally see more reactions (RT, mentions, etc.) from English-speaking Latinos. We recommend following the bilingual rule, but in this case with a higher share of English tweets.
  • When posting in English, many brands include several words in Spanish, inviting responses from both languages.
  • Posting in English can trigger responses in English, Spanish, or Spanglish. Posting in Spanish usually triggers responses in Spanish.

At the end of the day, what’s important is not alienating anyone from the conversation and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to engage with the brand. The language of social media doesn’t understand the need to put consumers into a box.

This column was originally published on Sept. 27, 2011 on ClickZ.

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