Build A Community Online

Whenever I speak with a client or colleague about developing a social media initiative, I always warn them to "build a community before you need it." This concept is at the heart of successfully using social media as a marketing medium, particularly when focusing on the Hispanic market.

There has been a lot of talk about how social media is changing advertising and how Hispanics over-index in use of social media. For the purposes of this article, I will forgo the laundry list of statistics supporting the assertion that Hispanics are heavy users of social media. I think the jury is in, and the data show that Hispanic social media usage is for real and growing.

Shift Your Approach

Building a Hispanic online community involves shifting how most marketers think about their trade. First, you do not "launch" a social media campaign - you begin a social media effort. The difference sounds subtle, but it's not.

Traditionally, Hispanic marketers buy time or space on fixed media in a controlled context. They know where their ads or messages will appear, what they will look like, how many people will see them (roughly), when they will stop running, and, perhaps most important, in what context they will be seen. With social media, this type of control is not possible or desirable. Instead, marketers need to focus on building a community of Hispanic consumers they will engage in a dialogue.



Where to begin

To build an online Hispanic community, you need to start by doing your research. As with any marketing program, you need to know who you are targeting (demographics), where they are (geography) and what they are thinking (psychographics). Armed with this information, marketers can evaluate social media platforms (my agency has categorized 16 different viable social media platforms as of September 2009, ranging from social networking to widgets).

If you are already involved in social media, audit your current efforts (how big is your community, what conversations have occurred, what were the results in terms of business goals, are you reaching Latinos?). Lastly, make sure to take a look at what your competitors are doing and consider industry best practices.

Build a roadmap

Armed with research, you need to develop a Hispanic social media strategy. The most important step in developing a strategy is prioritizing - your research will provide insight into which platforms are most viable / lucrative for your target. While social media is typically free of the "hard costs" of media placement, it is very resource intensive, particularly when it comes to content. This prioritization is best summarized in a social media roadmap, a temporal plan that details a phased approach of how you will enter social media to strategically engage Hispanics.

Approach and your "story"

With a roadmap in place, it's time to think about how you will build a community and start a dialogue. The first step is determining a framework to guide your overall social media efforts. A framework establishes how you or your client will interact with Hispanic consumers in social media. For example, will you employ a passive model of "listening" to gather intelligence or a more aggressive "hub and spoke" model where you use multiple platforms to disseminate your messages?

Depending on the framework you select, arguably the most important step is establishing a programmatic theme or the "story" you want to tell. As with traditional advertising, there needs to be a creative brief in place that succinctly states your overall message, the tone you will use and visual and branding direction. Just like a good 30-second TV spot, every 140-character Twitter post or YouTube video should be part of a narrative, in the right tone, to engage Hispanics.

Build a "base"

With a sound strategy, framework and creative approach in place, it's time to begin building a community. Start by making sure you have well-thought-out content and / or an editorial plan. If you don't have a community of Hispanics actively discussing your brand, you will need to "seed" initial discussions, and that means content. Where will this content come from, how often, what language? All questions you must address. This initial community will be your foundation.

Start a dialogue with key influencers

Finally, try to identify key "influencers" in the Hispanic community who have some connection to your brand and / or story. If you're in health care, identify prominent Latino health care thought leaders who are active in social media. Personally connect with them and invite them to be involved in your program. Your goal is building a community and facilitating conversations.

You need to be patient, but if you follow this approach, you will start to build a community, reach key influencers and ultimately prepare yourself to win in Hispanic social media.

3 comments about "Build A Community Online ".
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  1. Nina Segovia from AT&T Mobility, October 1, 2009 at 2:18 p.m.

    Very well said Mr. Villa. It is difficult for traditional marketers like me to give up the control of media but fundamentally a necessary in order to succeed in this new medium. I will share your insight with the rest of my team.

  2. Louis Pagan from Hispanicize, October 6, 2009 at 2:39 a.m.

    Some influencers would be those who are doing this already such as Latinos In Social Media (LATISM) & BeingLatino.

  3. Greg Diaz from ReachLocal, October 10, 2009 at 8:15 p.m.

    I would also add how important in building a social media strategy, Hispanic or not, is to have a process in place to constantly monitor and adapt to changes in the community's demographics, geography and and psychographics over time.

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