Commentary

Why Spanish Will Always Be Critical For Reaching This Demographic Online

  • by , Columnist, June 13, 2013

Back in 2011, I wrote a piece outlining “5 Reasons for Using Spanish to Reach Hispanics Online” and thought I would revisit the topic after reading this post that argues that digital marketers should “de-emphasize” the use of Spanish for reaching Hispanics online.

While the latter post makes sound recommendations to focus on key passion points for Hispanics, the Spanish language remains the ultimate passion point for all Hispanics.

Spanish Is Really Important for Hispanics

Regardless of language preference, for Hispanics there is nothing more culturally relevant than Spanish. The degree to which they use it —and the way they use it— might evolve as they become more acculturated and embrace technology, but research shows Spanish will remain central to their identity. 

A 2012 Experian study found that “three-quarters of Hispanic adults prefer to speak at least some Spanish.”  The study looked at language usage by generation and confirmed that 45% of third-generation Hispanics say they prefer to speak Spanish at least some of the time. 

A more recent study by AHAA and Nielsen also found that 75% of upscale Hispanics speak some Spanish and that the percentage of upscale Hispanics that are Spanish-dominant grew 18% between 2010 and 2012.

Spanish is not only important for Hispanics today, but will also be important tomorrow.  A 2012 report by the Pew Research Hispanic Center found that “95% of Hispanics believe it is very important for future generations of Hispanics in the U.S. to be able to speak Spanish.”

Hispanic Digital Growth Is Being Fueled by Spanish Speakers

Savvy marketers need to look at target markets today and into the future in order to identify opportunities.   A recent study by the Pew Research Hispanic Center highlights a clear opportunity in the Spanish-language digital market.

The following tables take data from the Pew Study and compute Internet penetration in 2012 and growth from 2010 – 2012 by segment: 

Language

  • English Dominant – 89% penetration, 2% growth
  • Bilingual – 83% penetration, 7% growth
  • Spanish Dominant – 63% penetration, 27% growth 

Foreign or U.S. Born

  • U.S. Born– 89% penetration, 4% growth
  • Foreign Born 69% penetration, 18% growth

True, Internet penetration is lowest among Spanish Dominant and Foreign born segments, but the strong growth rates within these segments point to a clear opportunity to use Spanish online.

Marketers Should Adapt to Evolving Use of Spanish

My 2011 post argued that marketers should figure out the language preference of their target audience and use that language, whether it's English or Spanish. Today I would make the same argument and add that Spanglish be considered for certain segments.

That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that Spanish is here to stay. Even English dominant Hispanics have emotional ties to Spanish, and that won’t change for generations to come.

¿No crees?

3 comments about "Why Spanish Will Always Be Critical For Reaching This Demographic Online".
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  1. Vincent Montero from Phunware Inc. , June 14, 2013 at 5:28 p.m.

    Great article! Those are very important numbers to note when reviewing Spanish and online marketing. Equally important is the growth of the Hispanic market in mobile. Hispanics outpace all ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and pictures and in number of texts messages sent and received.

    As a fellow Latino, I am proud of my companies work to promote the lives of Hispanics online via our entertainment series "Ideas de Cambio" focused on Latina Bloggers, who also happen to be full-time moms! View on YouTube at: http://bit.ly/12LV0nx

  2. Jose Villa from Sensis, June 14, 2013 at 6:57 p.m.

    Lee,

    I appreciate the spirited rebuttal to my MediaPost article last week. I do not disagree or dispute any of the data points you have shared in your article. However, they fail to make a compelling argument that because Hispanics continue to speak Spanish that they prefer to conduct their digital lives in Spanish, or consume content in Spanish.

    I've written a short counter-point at my blog:
    http://www.thinkmulticultural.com/2013/06/14/the-great-debate-spanish-or-english-online/

  3. Lee Vann from Captura Group, June 17, 2013 at 7:56 p.m.

    Jose- Thanks for the comment, I too appreciate the spirited debate. The published data that I cited makes the argument very clearly that Spanish remains critical for Hispanics both online and offline. Although I have not seen the research you cited in your original post I have seen data that indicates that Hispanics, regardless of language preference, cite that they use the Internet primarily in English. The key question to ask is why? In my experience, the answer is because there is relatively little out there online in Spanish and what is out there is not up to snuff. This in turn has created low expectations among some Hispanics and trained them to bypass Spanish sites, even if they prefer Spanish. We have seen first-hand that this lack of Spanish content online and low expectations has created a wonderful opportunity for marketers and for our industry to emphasize Spanish by creating high-quality Spanish language digital experiences. The data clearly shows that the Spanish language is and will remain a cornerstone for Hispanics and I recommend marketers celebrate and embrace Spanish not de-emphasize it.

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