Social Media for the Growing Hispanic Market

Nov 22, 2012

There are currently over 50 million Hispanic people in the U.S.  This means that the Hispanic population of the U.S. is greater than the entire population of Spain, which makes the U.S. home to the second largest Hispanic population in the world, second only to Mexico.  Furthermore, the Hispanic population is growing despite the precipitous decline in immigration from Hispanic countries since the Great Recession. Currently comprising about 17% of the U.S. population, Hispanic people will constitute between 26-29% of the U.S. population by 2050.

Since 2010, when the U.S. Census revealed the Hispanic population to be the largest minority group in the nation, the political influence of Hispanic people in U.S. politics has gradually become widely acknowledged. The tipping point occurred during the recent Presidential election when the Hispanic electorate proved instrumental in the re-election of President Barack Obama. By turning out in large numbers in the key battleground states of Colorado, Florida and Nevada to vote for the incumbent, Hispanic voters were crucial in delivering the electoral vote.

Yet the mainstream recognition of the economic import of this growing demographic remains elusive. On average, the top advertisers in the U.S. allocate only 6% of their advertising budgets to reaching the Hispanic audience. While advertisers have been slowly growing their Hispanic marketing budgets, the growth has thus far been incommensurate with the enormous economic opportunity that the Hispanic market represents.

In the technology sector, the opportunity is especially remarkable. Studies have revealed that Hispanic consumers are early adopters of technology. Hispanic consumers are more likely to own a smartphone or a tablet than the general population. Moreover, they make 50% more voice calls and send 50% more text messages than the general population.  Most importantly, while they account for only 17% of the population, Hispanic consumers account for 35% of the growth in the technology consumer base.

The Hispanic market represents a huge opportunity in other verticals as well. The forecasted growth rate in household spending amongst Hispanic consumers is 5.7%, which is more than twice the rate of non-Hispanic households (2.5%). A recent study by the AHAA found that among top CPG companies, the share of overall marketing resources dedicated to the Hispanic market accounts for 35% of the companies' overall revenue growth.

Clearly the opportunity for marketers is huge. The challenge now remains for marketers to effectively address the opportunity. Recent research has provided substantial evidence that one of the keys to addressing the Hispanic market must be a robust digital and especially social media strategy. Hispanic consumers' early adoption of consumer technology (particularly mobile technology) extends to digital media (especially social media) as well. They are more likely to watch online video on desktop and mobile devices than the general population. Hispanic consumers also spend more time watching online video on desktop and mobile devices than the general population. They're also overrepresented on the major social networks and are more likely to turn to their personal online social networks when making purchasing decisions, especially via mobile devices.

However, marketers should be aware that a successful Hispanic marketing strategy requires investment in people with Hispanic marketing expertise. The early case of the California Milk Processors Board vividly shows how indispensable Hispanic marketing expertise is in developing marketing campaigns for these consumers. Back in 1993, Jeff Manning, who was the executive director of the CMPB at the time, wanted to take the organization's successful "Got Milk?" tagline to the Hispanic community.

Fortunately, Manning had the foresight to enlist the aid of Anita Santiago before executing his idea. This was fortunate because the exact translation of "Got Milk" in Spanish, "¿Tiene leche?", literally means "Are You Lactating?" and the campaign would have been a disaster.  Instead, Santiago came up with the tagline "¿Y Usted, Les dio suficiente leche  hoy?"  ("And you, did you give them enough milk today?") and later, "Familia Amor y Leche" ("Family, Love and Milk"), both of which were very successful.

This level of expertise is even more critical in the fast-moving world of social media, in which the necessities of real-time content scheduling and optimization leave even less room for error. Don't be fooled by the CMPB example that success is simply a matter of hiring someone who is bilingual. The Hispanic community is not monolithic but rather multifaceted with varying levels and varieties of Spanish, English, and "Spanglish" usage. Furthermore, the views of identity among Hispanic consumers are intricate. For example most Hispanics identify by their families' countries of origin rather than by the generic labels "Hispanic" or "Latino." Developing successful communications strategies targeted toward these consumers, especially strategies for social media, requires expert knowledge of the complexities of this diverse and growing community.