However, an AOL/RoperASW study found that 56% of all offline Hispanics cite lack of Spanish content as a reason for not going online, while 49% say it is because there aren't enough sites and activities that interest them. So the challenge in reaching this audience is twofold: creating content in Spanish, and making it relevant enough to keep them interested.
At Communispace Corporation, we have recruited thousands of Hispanics of various ages, nationalities, and acculturation levels to participate in Spanish-language brand communities. The goal of these communities is to generate insights for the sponsoring brands, which members do by participating in surveys, discussions, brainstorms, photo galleries, and other activities created both by community managers and by the members themselves.
We recently asked a group of experienced community managers to share their perspectives on the unique challenge of engaging these consumers.
1. Allow members to make it their space
Less-acculturated Hispanics in an intimate forum form especially close bonds, trading advice, opinions, and personal stories. "It gives them a place to connect with others like them," says community manager Catie Schadlick. "This is particularly important given the language barrier with other Americans and their unique situation as immigrants or minorities in the U.S."
Relevance is insured because members are generating much of the content. "The community immediately becomes a place where they can talk about [the brand], as well as other issues, like their children or health problems," says Amelia Wish, another community manager. "They use it as a support system; it becomes their go-to place." Pride is evident as one veteran greets new members: "Welcome to this community -- here we're all more than neighbors...we are a family that's always here to help you and lend a hand."
2. If you're willing to get personal ...
The central importance of family in Hispanic culture is well-documented; marketers would be wise to try to replicate this dynamic in their online endeavors. When community managers model honesty, openness, and self-disclosure, it establishes a safe and trusting environment. The members "thrive on building personal relationships not only with each other but with the managers," says Wish. "As a matter of fact, they often ask us the same questions that we're asking them as a way to get to know [us] better."
This two-way dialogue is what fosters the sense of community necessary to build relationships and gives managers the "right" to ask for personal information in return. "As a team, we're all willing to put a piece of ourselves out there," says Shadlick. "Compared to other communities I've worked on, it was much more important that these members knew who they were talking to."
3. ... you'll get extraordinary results
Once a certain level of closeness is established among the group, members respond by starting and contributing to their own activities in droves. They visit the community frequently -- sometimes multiple times a day -- just to see "what's new." Some particularly vibrant members even act as co-facilitators, compiling birthday lists, running contests, and helping other members through technical difficulties. "For example, one of our most active members had the idea to run a 'beauty contest' in the community," reports Schadlick.
"She laid out everything from start to finish: starting a discussion to propose the contest and its rules, creating the photo gallery, then organizing a vote, and finally declaring the winners. At the end, she even made virtual 'trophies,' not just for the winners but for all contestants. It was one of the most elaborate member-initiated activities I've ever seen, and also provided insight for our client around Hispanic perceptions of beauty."
4. Active facilitation is critical
Community managers will generally need to be more active in these communities than with English-speaking populations. Factor in extra time for support and provide lots of detail about technical issues and site navigation for less tech-savvy users. As important, assure the members that they are being heard. This is vital because Hispanics will quickly become loyal to a brand that enlists them as advisors, elicits their candid opinions, and lets them know that it's listening.
Finally, it's important to let them know that their opinions as Hispanics are valued by your brand. "Be direct in your questioning of the members," advises Lauren Dougherty, director of global operations. "It's okay to say, 'How much do you relate to this concept as a Hispanic?'"
Our experience has shown that one solution to engaging less-acculturated Hispanics -- and generating organic word of mouth among them -- may lie in smaller, more intimate environments, by creating a place where they feel comfortable, accepted, heard, and even challenged -- in short, a place like home.