In August, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project released data from its spring tracking survey showing that while there are clearly fewer Hispanic Americans among the total U.S. internet population, these same users are more likely to use social networking sites than non-Hispanics. While 70% of white, non-Hispanic internet users use social networking sites, a whopping 80% of Hispanic internet users use such sites (75% of black, non-Hispanic internet users use social networking sites). In addition, while just 14% of white, non-Hispanic internet users use Twitter, 28% of Hispanic internet users employ the service (27% of black, non-Hispanic internet users use Twitter).
Although this data indicates that Hispanics online are more likely to use social networking sites than their non-Hispanic counterparts, it does not necessarily follow that Hispanic social media users are more active or engage more frequently, as some in the news media have suggested. It could be that online Hispanic Americans use the social media sites more but as passive observers rather than as actively engaged users. Yet, previous data from various studies conducted during the last 3 years, as well as recent data on social TV usage, suggest that nothing could be further from the truth ("social TV" is a general term for technology that supports communication and social interaction in the context of watching television).
Data from the social TV analytics company SocialGuide, now part of The Nielsen Co., reveals that the social media audiences of several of the major Spanish-language TV programs consistently generate more social media actions per user than their English-language competition. One notable example is Despierta América. While there are generally fewer viewers tweeting about Despierta América than about its major English-language competitors, Today and Good Morning America, the viewers of Despierta América who are tweeting generate two and a half to three tweets on average per broadcast, while those watching and tweeting about Today and Good Morning America generate about two on average.
These observations reflect the findings of major research organizations going back about 3 years. In 2010, Forrester Research presented data in its "North American Technographic Benchmarking" survey showing that online Hispanics in the U.S. were more than twice as likely as their non-Hispanic counterparts to be content creators and almost twice as likely to write ratings and reviews. These findings have been reproduced with minor deviations in subsequent waves of the study. Similarly, last year Hispanic marketing agencies Lapiz and Leo Burnett released the results of a study that showed that Hispanic shoppers in the U.S. were twice as likely as non-Hispanic shoppers in the U.S. to share their opinions and write reviews online.
When confronted with these data, both anecdotal and study-based, one is naturally inclined to ask why it is that Hispanic Americans have this distinguishing tendency to contribute rather than simply observe online. Some, such as ANA (Association of National Advertisers), have stated that the need to connect and share is particularly prominent in Hispanic culture. Supporting this assertion is research from the University of Texas-Austin released in 2010 in which the authors found that the primary motivators for online content creation among U.S. Hispanics was connecting with friends, family, and niche communities. A prime example of this quality is the continuing popularity of the forums section of univision.com, Univision Foros. At a time when online forums have declined in popularity, Univision Foros continues to draw massive traffic and engagement as users converge on the site to seek out others with similar interests, initiate dialogue, join existing conversations, and share their thoughts.
Thus, albeit preliminary and limited in scope, the observable facts suggest that U.S. Hispanics are not only more likely to use social networking sites, but that they are also more likely to actively engage in the conversations about the topics that interest them by commenting, posting, and tweeting. Savvy marketers looking to convert customers into advocates for their brand by helping to generate content and spread the word would be wise to take note. Hispanic Americans on social media are increasingly valuable not only as potential customers but also as potential brand evangelists.