BY NATALIE BODEN
Principal, BodenPR

Natalie Boden
Natalie Boden

Ever since social media hit the scene, we have all been studying how we can help continue to support innovative, newsworthy and compelling conversations with our clients’ consumers. It’s no different in the U.S Hispanic market, but as we continue to develop campaigns for our clients (targeting either Latina moms, or Latino business owners or Latino youth) we continue to see the vast importance of asking the questions we outline below.

While the numbers are supportive for using online mediums when developing U.S. Hispanic marketing communications campaigns, research has found significant differences in Social Media use across different segments of the U.S. Hispanic population. Such differences include distinct levels of trust and interaction with online communities, the different online news outlets that influence them, preference in Spanish, English or Bilingual formats and reasons as to why they go online.

As a result, when beginning to develop a Social Media and Online News Campaign for your brand, we feel it is important to ask two key questions:

– (1) Which U.S. Hispanic segment am I targeting (Generation Y, Latinas, Baby Boomers?) and (2) Who and what is influencing them today (social media forums, TV shows, bloggers?). The below analysis looks into the different segments of the U.S. Hispanic market online and who and what is influencing their purchasing decisions today.

(1) Which Hispanic segment am I targeting?

Generation Y Hispanics—Tech Savvy and Growing Online

Not only are U.S. Hispanic younger generations online and strong, but they are making their mark in American culture via blogs, forums and chat rooms. Representing 16% of the U.S. teen population and growing six times faster than any other, Hispanic teens are not going unseen in the real world or in the online world. Interestingly, their online behavior is similar to that of American teens, but there are fundamental differences, depending on their level of acculturation. Adding to this segment’s marketing appeal is their remarkable tech-saviness. This young segment values and seeks high tech items which will keep them connected to the online world at all times.

Connected 24-7. Hispanic teens and young adults view online chatting and blogging as‘a way of life.’ Their use of Social Media is mostly for entertainment and social networking. A majority of them turn to sites such as Facebook and Twitter to update their status up to 10 times per day. In fact, among the 88% of U.S. Hispanics cited as having profiles in online networking sites, most are teens and young adults. As noted, a contributing factor to this high percentage is their attention to technology. More than any other minority, Hispanics value communication technology that can easily access online content like the iPhone, Blackberry and other devices with wireless capabilities. According to MultiMedia Intelligence, Hispanic teens ages 12-17 represent 2.5 million wireless subscribers and this is highly because of their attention and participation in online world via Social Networking sites. Hispanic teens want to be “connected 24/7.”

Hispanic-fluentials. Hispanics in their early 20s and 30s value online content like no other segment. While Hispanic teens go online to express themselves and for pop culture, this older segment views online content and Social Networking sites as a practical resource for their everyday lives. They go online for entertainment including music, sports and fashion, but more importantly they turn to online articles and reviews to form opinions about what they are thinking of purchasing. They want to know what everyone else doing, what they’re saying and what’s the latest word on all subjects whether it’s regarding a restaurant or their local governor running for office. Blogs and forums are one of their most important sources of information as they can review other people’s opinions and post their own opinions. This has led some of the Hispanics in this older segment to be coined– Hispanic-fluentials, taken from the term, e-fluentials. E-fluentials are online consumers who use blogs, forums and video and photo sharing sites to comment/review their purchases or experiences. An estimated 20% of Hispanics that are online are considered Hispanic-fluentials spending an average of 30 hours per week interacting online vs 25 hours per week cited by the American population. Hispanic-fluentials routinely pass their review/comments along to family, friends and colleagues and are also more likely to pass on or share negative opinions online with them.

News-savvy. If there is one thing to be said about this segment is that they are online more than any other and they are searching for news and reviews. The ‘Get your news once a day’ mentality does not ring true to them. They need news around the clock via online news outlets, email, blogs, forums or social networking sites. The online world is their point of reference for anything from learning more about their favorite hobbies to purchasing their next car.

Baby Boomers – Online and strong, but are they blogging?

Today’s Hispanic Baby Boomers account for an estimated 10% of the U.S. boomer segment and are extremely brand loyal. What marketers want to know is; are they online? Indeed they are, and at numbers that are surprising. But according to a recent study they are not online to meet friends or follow the latest music and fashion trends. They are online and exposed to Social Media through other points of interest. They go online to access information on the things that are already familiar to them such as particular brands, newspapers in their home towns or country of origin and to keep in touch with family. They are also online to access information that will contribute to their own or their family’s well-being from health to financial issues.

TV, Radio, Print + Online. U.S. Hispanics are considered the most brand loyal population, but among them, the Baby Boomer segment is the most faithful. This fact leads them to regularly access Web sites forums, blogs and other online communities to continue following their brands of choice. Their level of brand loyalty exposes them to Social Media sites including forums and blogs to share or look up information. Brands that blend both a PR and advertising campaigns via traditional media vehicles (including broadcast, radio and print) with an online component are finding mass response from Baby Boomers when including a ‘call to action’ that suggests visiting a particular Web site, especially for sweepstakes, contests or product trials. Baby Boomers, more than any other U.S. Hispanic segment will visit the Web sites recommended to them by their favorite products/brands, making online promotion an effective marketing communications strategy.

Spanish language is key. The majority of Hispanic Baby Boomers online prefer Spanish language content. According to a “Latinos Online” report from the Pew Hispanic Center, 32% of Spanish-dominant U.S. Hispanic adults are online. While this segment is undeniably less internet savvy than their younger counterparts, they highly consider and appreciate such sites when making purchase decisions.

Influenced by news coverage. Another fact that must not go unnoticed when studying this segment is that more than any other, they place considerable trust in their news media – online and offline (TV, Print Papers). An overwhelming majority of them shape their opinions based on what they read and are highly influenced when the communication is in Spanish. Because this segment places high trust in their news media outlets, they tend to become involved in forums and chats with both their English and Spanish language local newspaper of choice. This segment regularly turns to online content for news and the majority that participate in blogs or forums do so via a news media outlet such as their city’s local newspaper or their Spanish language newspaper of choice from their home countries. For example, ElSalvador.com reports that 40% of its online visitors are U.S. Hispanics, most of which are Baby Boomers.

Educating themselves online. In addition to turning to online content and participating in Social Networking sites for issues that affect them directly, Hispanic Baby Boomers go online for insight on many things they do not have any background on. This includes researching topics from finances to health and how to keep in touch with family. Studies have found that Hispanic Baby Boomers commonly turn to online content to look up information dealing with health issues and regularly access their healthcare provider’s Web site to search for medical resources. They also consider the internet as a credible source to research investment information. Leading Baby Boomer online sources such as AARP en Español and others frequently post online articles and opinions regarding investment opportunities targeted towards this segment. If there is an issue that Hispanic Boomers are not familiar with, the internet serves as one of their preferred information tools.

(2) Question 2 – Who/What is influencing them?

If you need to get the word out about your brand to target Hispanics, do so by first catching the attention of U.S. Hispanic press. According to a recent study 78% of Hispanics trust the news delivered by their local and national journalists – be it on Univision’s morning show Despierta America or a trend-spotting blog on holamun2.com. Targeting the press is a sure way to secure feature articles and commentary about your brand in traditional and online news media. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish when to blend traditional news media (TV, Radio, Print) with their online counterparts, while still targeting the bloggers that are not part of the large news organizations.

For example, popular news media outlets such as Telemundo.com or Univision.com are key but there are several other blogs and forums worth reaching out to that influence and shape the opinion of this older segment. Hispanic generations across the board favor such sites because of the wide array of issues covered and the ability to freely comment on the articles.

Major U.S. Hispanic newspapers like LaOpinion, LaRaza and La Prensa have both their online components as well as their blogs on health, food and current events. Hundreds of online subscribers comment on topics that interest them and daily follow the articles posted by their favorite reporters. Getting ‘in’ with one of the blogs backed by these media outlets is sure to gain publicity for your brand while even more importantly– building credibility.

Teens = Entertainment Media. Hundreds of news media outlets are influencing today’s younger Generation Y U.S. Hispanics, and if broken down by segment it’s easy to see the trend. If you want U.S. Hispanic teens to ‘meet’ your brand online, you must have a presence in entertainment news sites that focus on four key areas: music, movies, gaming and fashion. Hispanic teens routinely follow entertainment blogs whether it’s to look up fashion trends by their favorite celebrities or the latest Play Station game out in the market. Hispanic teens also have a strong presence in Social Networking sites. Facebook and Twitter are among the most popular with them as these sites allow them to express themselves via their favorite music, movies, hobbies, etc. while staying tuned to what their friends are commenting or doing.

Entertainment online news media outlets are another favorite among Hispanic teens. Sites such as holamun2.com and terra.comfeature a wide mix of content on music, fashion and sports among others. These sites allow teens not only to learn more about what interests them, but they have incorporated blogs and highly interactive features within them, granting teens the opportunity to post comments about what they want to see more of. More importantly, these sites mix a strong Hispanic theme alongside entertainment news they find highly relevant. This means that to get noticed among this highly energetic and young segment, your brand must be centered on one of the entertainment components sought after by Hispanic teens. Doing so will undoubtedly catch the eye of blog and entertainment news journalists that will put your brand in the spotlight.

While Hispanic teens turn to sites like holamun2.com and terra.com which offer culturally relevant material, it’s just as important to them to follow sites such as mtv.com and teenvouge.com intended for American teens. Hispanic, like American, teens want to be in the know about all things entertainment. This means revving up your brand if necessary to become more appealing to this growing segment. Incorporate an entertainment theme or angle that compliments your brand or product and online press will quickly want to learn more about you regardless of whether their media outlet is Spanish or English language based. The key is to get the entertainment press to notice you.

Generation Y = Traditional News Media, but online. The older Generation Y Hispanics follow a wide array of media that influences their decisions and lifestyle. Because they need around the clock news it’s not uncommon for them to sign-up with blogs, news alerts from their local paper or TV affiliate and forums of interest so that they may receive several news alerts a day. Similar to Hispanic teens, this segment is heavily influenced by mainstream online media as well as outlets that strongly tie in a Hispanic theme. It’s not uncommon for them to follow CNN.com during the day via forums and then turn to Univision.com during the evening to find out what is going on with other Hispanics across the U.S. or in their respective countries.

Web sites like TodoChido.com and VivirLatino.com where content is almost completely in English are popular among older Generation Y Hispanics. These sites quench their need for updated and evolving news around the clock while embracing their Hispanic culture. VivirLatino.com attracts an estimated 80,000 unique visitors per month and has more than 6,000 returning visitors per month. It’s no wonder companies such as Clairol and Sprint advertise with them.

Influencing the opinions of this segment is incredibly valuable to marketers because a vast majority of them are considered Hispanic-fluentials, which are influencing the opinion of their family, friends and colleagues via email, blogs and forums. This segment routinely checks blogs that are specific to their needs and interests such as thatsfit.com for fitness, engadget.com for news on tech items or general interest blogs including lifehacker.com and andrewsullivan.com for the Daily Dish. If it seems like this segment is into not one but many blogs, that assumption could not be any truer. These Gen Y Hispanics are constantly on the lookout for more sources of information that they may review.

While they are clearly more in tune with Social Media news outlets like TodoChido.com and traditional news outlets like CNN.com, many of them of them continue to follow their city’s leading newspaper only they do so via online. Following or valuing traditional news media, particularly broadcast is not the way to go if this is your brand’s target market. To influence these GenYers you must ‘get in’ via the online news world and that means positioning yourself in the correct avenue of Social Media and online news whether it’s through a hard news source like CNN or an interest or lifestyle blog.

Baby Boomers = Brand Web sites + Traditional News Media. If you are looking to catch the attention of U.S. Hispanic Baby Boomers make sure to understand who or what online media outlets influence them. We already know that while online they pay particular attention to issues they are familiar with including brands, but what do you do when your brand has not yet been introduced to this segment? Yes, it’s true that traditional marketing methods work well with Hispanic Baby Boomers, but to get noticed and create buzz for your brand you must implement an online component to your marketing strategy. Getting news coverage on site such as LaOpinion.com and Univision.com via Public Relations strategies will position your brand as ‘top of mind’ among this segment. News media outlets like these highly influence Hispanic Baby Boomers, creating incredible value and credibility for your brand. This is especially the case with this segment because they lead all Hispanic segments when it comes placing trust on news media. As noted previously, their online experience is also less saturated with marketing messages, meaning exposure to your brand through a credible news media outlet will create a lasting and positive impact.