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In Search of Latinos Online

by Gus Razzetti on November 30, 2010

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It seems that location-based technology is still on its early adoption phase according to Pew Internet.  Interesting to note that, on the other hand, it found that Hispanics over-index in the use of geo-social services like Foursquare.com or Gowalla.com (10% compared to only 4% of the total wired population) confirming the growing influential role of Latinos online.

Current research also shows that Latinos are avid cell phone users as well as heavy “downloaders” (music, video, etc) more so than the total population, tend to be more active in social media networks and more receptive to online ads.

In the past, we had a harder time convincing clients to target Latinos online. Now with all these powerful facts and findings, it is a no-brainer. It’s time to move the conversation beyond the “are Latinos online?” question.

The language and cultural divide

The first step is defining which Latinos to target. Level of acculturation and language preference generate different behaviors that are not free of contradictions.

Pew Digital Divide study shows that technology use among foreign-born Latinos (mostly Spanish dominants) continues to lag significantly behind that of their U.S.-born counterparts. At the same time, as computer prices continue to fall (e.g. netbooks) and social and mobile continue to grow, this gap will play a not so important role.

“English-preferring, U.S. born Latinos will constitute the majority of the Hispanic audience growth in the future”, said Joe Kutchera, author of Latino Link and consultant. “Hence, Telemundo launched Mun2, a TV and web brand for reaching English-preferring and bi-lingual Hispanics”.

Curiously, a study from IAB shows that Bilingual and Spanish preferred Hispanics visit mass reach destinations, yet they are more likely to be found and more engaged within Spanish language sites.

“You need to think of both the longtail (the collection of diverse groups of people based on specific interests) and the metatribe (how the different groups sometimes come together around big issues)”, said Giovanni Rodriguez, chief marketing officer at BroadVision and author. “If you can target English-speaking Latinos and non-Latinos with similar interests or values, and it makes sense, strategically the effect can be huge”.

Dealing with Challenges

Budget seems to be the biggest challenge of all. The 2009 AHAA Hispanic Marketing Investment trends report revealed that still many corporations ‘don’t get it’ and indicated that it’s the current Best-In-Class companies that are spending more in the Hispanic market. According to AdAge, digital represented only 5.6% of Hispanic advertising versus over 10% that went to digital in the General Market.

Most of the experts agree that lack of culturally relevant and in-language online content is the other major challenge that marketers are facing when targeting Latinos online.

“There are few good sites in Spanish” according to Marcelo Salup, Principal at MS Group LLC. “I guess the first challenge is that many Hispanics online do not necessarily choose Spanish-language sites all the time”, he added.

Joe Kutchera believes that both budgets and online advertising inventory are the major challenges. “Many Hispanics have come to find little content tailored to their needs in Spanish or even culturally”, said the author. “That of course is changing as publishers and marketers themselves develop more content in Spanish for their digital properties”.

Social media expert and managing partner at Hispanicize, Louis Pagan said that one of the biggest challenges is “filtering the Hispanic from (social media) platforms that they are engaged with the general public”.

Geo-targeting can be very useful when used on foreign sites (many Latinos that live in the US check their “local” news on a website from its country of origin). It can also be very effective when done by targeting specific states or setting zip codes restrictions. This is very important when you want to focus on areas of high Hispanic population density or limit your campaign to specific DMA.

Behavioral targeting is key to reach Bilingual Hispanics who have visited Spanish-language websites when they re-appear on English language ones.

Last but not least, Search engine marketing is a very powerful tool to efficiently reach the Latino market. “Though it may sound obvious, the easiest way to target Hispanics is by using Spanish-language keywords (i.e., “salud” for “health” and “préstamo” for “mortgage”). For the most part, advertisers are not bidding as heavily on Spanish-language keywords, so in the bid-driven world of SEM, the cost of Spanish keywords are lower”, added José Villa president of digital agency Sensis.

A Promising Future

32% of the online users growth will come from the Hispanic segment (4 times that of non-Hispanic white) according to estimates from IAB. The same study projects that 70% of Hispanic population (that is 39M) will be online in 2014.

The continuously growth of both in-language and culturally relevant content is here to stay. Brands such as McDonald’s, Best Buy, General Mills and Coca-Cola were very emphatic at the ANA Marketers conference on their commitment to multicultural marketing. 56% of advertisers that responded to the ANA survey will be investing more money in engaging Hispanics via social media, Spanish language websites, mobile, among other tools.

The arrival of Mark Lopez to Google is another positive sign. “He can ensure that Google really thinks through its strategy for the vastly complex English/ Spanish Latinosphere, the fasting growing super-segment of the social web”, added Giovanni Rodriguez. Many experts agree with him on the major role that Google can play by providing more meaningful insights into things like language, culture and content.

“What will be hot in 2011 is Spanish SEO, and it looks like Google is seriously going to bank on this”, concludes Louis Pagan.

This article was originally published in Hispanic PR Blog

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