Social, Sure, But Watch Social Media Behavior

If you're like me, you've probably seen innumerable reports and studies stating that Hispanics are more social.

Most of the data backing up this catchy headline focus on social media usage. Hispanics are active users of social media platforms, particularly social networks like Facebook, micromedia such as Twitter, and the reading and writing of blogs. Research firms like Forrester have gone further and looked at what type of social media users Hispanics are by understanding where they fit into their well-respected social technographic ladder ("Inactives" vs. "Creators," etc.). Again, the data paint a positive picture that Hispanics over-index the general market in terms of their engagement level. In plain English -- there are a lot of Hispanic social media users and they are more active.

All of these quantitative data are sound and the conclusion is pretty straightforward: Hispanics use social media as much or more than their general market counterparts. That's great and all, but it doesn't really help a marketer figure out how to use social media to market to Hispanics.



Why not? Aren't the data enough to support most brands and companies investing in Hispanic social media?

Unfortunately, the tools aren't there. Hispanic marketers have only a two-dimensional prism to understand a three-dimensional world. Put another way, all the great data I referenced earlier just confirm that Hispanics are consuming/producing social media, but that isn't enough information to understand how to engage them in this space Why? Because social media activity cannot be simply filtered as Hispanic unless Hispanics behave differently than non-Hispanics in this environment.

The problem lies in the simple premise at the heart of the multibillion-dollar Hispanic marketing industry -- that most Hispanics are culturally and linguistically different from the "general market" and consume different media (i.e., Hispanic media, 90% of which is in Spanish). This premise is the reason that two symbiotic sectors exist:

  • Hispanic advertising and PR agencies that create culturally and linguistically relevant communications for Hispanic consumers
  • Hispanic media that provides Hispanic consumers with linguistically and/or culturally unique content they demand (where Hispanic ad agencies can buy media on and PR firms can "earn" coverage in)

When we talk about reaching Hispanics in social media, the aforementioned premise no longer holds true. Specifically, the second part of the premise breaks down. Hispanics are not consuming different media; they are on the same Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other large scale "connected" platforms as everyone else. That is what makes social media so powerful: you can connect 500 million people on the same network, even though they may be in 100 different countries speaking 150 different languages.

The concept of segmenting one ethnic group -- based on language, culture or media consumption -- becomes fundamentally more complex when everyone is on the same site, network or platform. You can't simply cling to differences in the language of media consumption. You can't look to Facebook "en Español" (ask MySpace how that worked out for it) when the content is no longer asymmetrical because you don't have a single, centralized content producer (think Univision or SBS) being consumed by large scale masses.

The "content-creation-to-content-consumption" continuum is peer-to-peer (with companies/brands mixed in at the same level of peers), so it's very difficult to depend on only contextual relevance.

What we're missing are qualitative data about if, and how, Hispanics use social media differently. Do they consume, comment on, or produce social content that is different than the general market?

Language plays a part, but when you are connecting hundreds of millions of people on the same platform, there is a lot of cross-language media consumption taking place. More simply, do Hispanics exhibit different behavior on social media? Part of this qualitative question is whether they demand -- and therefore consume -- different content. But that's only part of the behavioral equation.

Do they produce different content (e.g., talk about different things)? Do they comment differently (i.e., are they more likely to comment positively than the general market)? Do they exhibit different attitudes towards brands and companies in social media? Do some of the generally accepted models of social media behavior apply "apples-to-apples" to U.S. Hispanic consumers (i.e., does the Hispanic social technographic ladder have different rungs)?

I have anecdotal evidence from client campaigns that they do behave differently, but our industry needs more robust qualitative research and behavioral models to provide the 78% of hesitant marketers (according to Orci) with the intelligence they need to smartly "go to market" with Hispanics in social media.

4 comments about "Social, Sure, But Watch Social Media Behavior ".
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  1. Jennifer Vides from Jennifer Vides, September 3, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    Nice post. I think the answer to "do Hispanics behave differently" is yes and no. The reality is that U.S. Hispanics using social media *tend* to be more acculturated. Which means they're using English and Spanish *and* Spanglish. And they create and consume content that is emblematic of their acculturation level. So while they might love using social media to talk about college football, they're also inclined to talk about food and music that is culturally appealing to them as Hispanics. Fundamentally I don't believe marketers and their agencies really understand what to do with a group this diverse and "confused." So yes, more research is needed. But I think the Hispanic marketing community needs to throw out its old notions of what makes a Hispanic a Hispanic.

  2. Ef Rodriguez from @pugofwar, September 3, 2010 at 3:50 p.m.

    Well put. I'd love more than anecdotal insights on this.

  3. Jose Villa from Sensis, September 3, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.

    Nicely put Jennifer!

  4. Mari Gonzalez-Esparza, October 8, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.

    I hope to present my "qualitative" data on social media use by Latinos/Hispanics soon.
    I'm a graduate student of Intercultural Relations and focusing my research on cross-cultural communication in social-network sites and comparing general market and Latinos/Hispanics.
    Yes, let's move away from the already enough data to the "how"?
    Great article Mr. Villa.
    Mari D. Gonzalez

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