The release of the 2010 Census has re-ignited the debate about which language is best for reaching U.S. Hispanics. With U.S. born Hispanics now outnumbering foreign born Hispanics, the voices of proponents of using English are growing louder. Where do I stand in this debate? Well, it’s quite simple: Figure out the language preference of your target audience and use that language, be it English or Spanish.

When it comes to the Hispanic online market, most studies indicate that half of the 31 million Hispanics online prefer English while the other half prefers Spanish or are bilingual. Using common sense and some quantitative data from comScore, I came up with five reasons for using Spanish to reach online Hispanics.

1. Strong Market Dynamics While the U.S. online market has reached maturity, Spanish preferring and bilingual Hispanics are driving the growth in the U.S. Hispanic online market. New Internet users represent an attractive target for marketers looking to make a good first impression. Take a look:

Growth by segment April 2010 – April 2011

  • U.S. Online Market: (1.13%)
  • U.S. Hispanic Online Market: 12.78%
  • U.S. Hispanic Online Market (English): 10.20%
  • U.S. Hispanic Online Market (Bilingual): 13.42%
  • U.S. Hispanic Online Market (Spanish): 19.23%

2. Less Competition Today there are relatively few marketers proactively targeting the 14.6 million online Hispanics that prefer Spanish or are bilingual. Less competition means not only lower advertising costs on platforms such as Google and Facebook, but also higher engagement with a consumer that is not as bombarded by online advertising.

3. Favorable Demographics When compared to English preferring online Hispanics, Hispanics who prefer Spanish or are bilingual fall into a sweet spot for marketers looking to reach consumers who are young, make more money and have a family:

Online Hispanics Less Than 34 Years Old

  • English preferring: 55%
  • Spanish preferring & Bilingual: 65%

Online Hispanics Who Earn More Than $40,000

  • English preferring: 57%
  • Spanish preferring & Bilingual: 59%

Online Hispanics Who Have Children

  • English preferring: 60%
  • Spanish preferring & Bilingual: 66%

4. Low Expectations As I theorized in a previous post, most Hispanics expect Spanish-language online experiences to be poor. Marketers who provide high quality Spanish language online experiences will exceed expectations and make a favorable impression on this segment.

5. Using English is More Challenging Targeting English preferring Hispanics online is more difficult and expensive than targeting Spanish speaking online Hispanics. In addition, marketers already investing in general market online campaigns are likely reaching English preferring online Hispanics.

At the end of the day, marketers looking to reach all online Hispanics need to use both English and Spanish. But if you had to choose between the two, I would start with Spanish. It just makes sense.

¿No crees?

SOURCE Lee Vann/MediaPost

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons For Using Spanish To Reach Hispanics Online”
  1. Hola!

    Okay, I think statistics are a tricky thing. And although it’s the US Census, which sure, asks a lot of people, in this case perhaps there are not enough questions.

    How often are they online? What are they doing online? What social media platforms do they use how often? What language WHAT PERCENT OF THE TIME? (They may be saying bilingual, but if like many Hispanics I know, they are actually only using the occasional word or phrase.)

    For example, probably 95% of my own Twitter use is in English – but that last part talks about “comida”, “abuela”. and comments on Spanish tweets coming out of Cuba. And because of those words and those topics and how they touch my Latin heritage, I would certainly have replied I am a “bilingual” user. But if you want to market to me – you’re better off just throwing in the word “Abuela” and then mentioning your Bustelo or Guava yogurt rather than completely tweeting in Spanish.

    My dad, a Latin American emigrant, who speaks Spanish at home and almost all day – everyday – in Miami, gets on and tweets in English too. His television? 90% Spanish.

    So that’s why I’m not inclined to agree with you.

    And I take the same statistics that you have looked at and say that the numbers you show “aren’t fair.” You see, I would take the bilingual stats and put them in with the English stats – since you are touching both readers that way (the complete flip of your argument.)

    I think it does take some extra work yes. 1) You don’t have the bonus of the market being pleasantly surprised by your sophisticated marketing and 2) You do have to think probably a little harder because it’s not enough that your speaking in Spanish. But then you don’t lose all those Hispanics which may have been raised in the US to be English dominant in reading and writing.

    And that I think is something we have to think about. Most of those new Latins (New Latins?) being born in the US are going to school here and are being taught to be English dominant in their reading and writing – no matter what quantities of “bromas” told to your “amigos”, or “chistes” told “a las viejas” will change that important fact.

    If you are marketing via the written word I believe you are best served by making an effort to reach Hispanics with cultural accuracy while recognizing that in the US at least, many are more comfortable in English.

    But wait – let me say – because this is a complex issue – videos in Spanish? Sure. I can’t get enough of “Sweet Home Hialeah” by Manny Larry for the La Kalle 98.3 Enrique Y Joe Morning Show. Bet hey, there’s some Spanglish there too!

    Maybe the trick for marketing to Latins / Hispanics in the US is realizing that our culture can’t be pigeon-holed by even those two words and the experience of people of Spanish Language heritage in this country leaves us with a multifaceted perspective which yes, is different from our Anglo only English speaking friends.

    Bueno – ya basta!

  2. Hi Madeline – Thanks for the great, well thought out response!

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