Blogeando: Latinos Are Blogging, Are you Engaging Them?
By Kerri Allen
Lean in close to your screen. I have something to tell you. Latinos use computers. It’s true. Know what else? There are more Latino bloggers than general market bloggers. I didn’t believe it either, but this week has seen a spate of industry reports saying exactly that and more.
Depending on the source, there is anywhere from 5.4 percent to 7.5 percent more Hispanic bloggers than whites in the U.S. The gap is due to the “liberating” effects of new technology, the skill set that online adroitness offers working-class Latinos and stay-at-home moms, and the longstanding cultural value on collectivism over individualism.
Not only are the numbers higher, but blogueros’ communities and commenters are more active and vocal than their general market counterparts. Latinos’ drive to blog is less about grandstanding and more about conversation. (Perez Hilton notwithstanding.)
In a handful of days, a trio of reports confirmed what Hispanic PR professionals have been buzzing about for years. Latinos are online and engaged more than nearly every other group (Asian-Americans are the leaders). AOL and Cheskin released their fascinating and beautifully designed Hispanic Cyberstudy on January 26, a day after BlogWorldExpo rolled out their list of power “blogueros”provided by the founder of LatISM (Latinos in Social Media). Florida State University’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication gave us a sneak peek at their forthcoming report about Latinos online.
In 2010, too many marketing leaders still doubt the buying power and sophistication levels of U.S. Hispanics. To be sure, many Latinos immigrate here and work as unskilled laborers, but there are millions more who are active consumers of media in both English and Spanish, with a buying power just shy of $1 trillion. Market skepticism may go unspoken, but the lack of strategy and budget allocation is loud and clear.
Public relations professionals need to remember that Latinos comprise 15 percent of the U.S. population and are blogging like crazy. That makes for an exciting online relations program for your clients’ businesses in a market that most still leave untapped.
So, how’s that Hispanic blogger program going?
Blogueros Blow Away The Bloggers
Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D. is a leader in Hispanic marketing research and professor of advertising and integrated marketing communication at Florida State University. In his forthcoming, fourth-annual report on Hispanics and the Internet, Korzenny shared that 18.9 percent of English-preferring Latinos have a blog, compared to just 13.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Spanish-preferring Latinos trailed slightly behind the general market at 12 percent. The AOL report found an even greater 21 percent of Latinos bloggers. In either case, those numbers shocked us. So we investigated.
“Measuring who is online is very complicated,” Korzenny says. The industry recognizes that 65 percent of U.S. Hispanics are online, about 10 points lower than the general market. But he cautions that even that large number is too low. “Hispanics are online much more than the surveys give them credit.” He asserts that activity through cell phones, Internet cafes and friends’ computers isn’t included, with age being the most egregious omission. “Sixty-five percent is conservative when you include Latinos who are younger than 18 and our market is so much younger.” Most surveys are conducted with adults age 18 and over.
The easy answer to why Latinos are outpacing whites is because youth is online and Hispanics are nearly a decade younger than the general market. The reality is not so simple. “When you break down the age categories for this study and look at the difference in the adoption of blogs, you notice that the Hispanic numbers are higher across all age groups, not just 18 to 25,” says Korzenny.
“Once they’re online, Hispanics tend to be very proactive and innovative.” Many had little access to technology for many years, so the jump into online activity is greater and deeper.
Korzenny also asserts that Latinos perceive the economic gap can be closed by honing new media skills like blogging. “Not everyone can go to university right away, but knowing cell phone applications or Web technology is like skipping a step.” He calls them “technologies of liberation”. Blogs and other digital outlets “give people a new way of becoming a new self”. Korzenny points to Perez Hilton as a rare example of blogging as self-made celebrity for Latinos. “The ability to set the agenda without having to ask permission from anybody is very powerful.”
Where Did they Come From?
Of course, not all bloggers are self-representative. Many emerged as reporters from traditional media outlets. As with print the world over, Hispanic newspapers have shifted, or at least split, their focus onto the blogosphere. The San Antonio Express-News publishes the longstanding Latino Life blog by Elaine Ayala, focusing on Mexican-American issues. Miami’s El Nuevo Herald has a quartet of Spanish-language blogs, including Cuaderno de Cuba with keen insights into life between the Caribbean and the States.
Before his current role as a producer of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and blogger for AC360.com, David Puente was an innovator of Hispanic news at ABC News, launching the Exclusiva series, and blogging early in the trend about Hispanic issues.
Still, no one was uniting these bloggers, which meant that communications officers couldn’t always find them or even recognize their influence. In a step to reverse that, Ana Roca Castro founded Latinos in Social Media, which is “the largest organization of social media professionals of Hispanic origin.” Members are bloggers, tweeps, social network group leaders, e-commerce owners and marketers.
The enthusiastic startup is launching the LatISM Blogger Academy to teach Hispanic bloggers how to monetize their sites, secure high Alexa rankings and court deep-pocketed advertisers.
“There was a misperception that Latinos were not in social media and we were not blogging,” Castro says. As CEO of Premiere Social Media, she oversaw development of internal social networks, Facebook and MySpace and iPhone apps and 3D Buildings at Google Earth for clients such as Toshiba, Walmart, FedEx and The World Bank. When clients began to ask her to reach Latinos, she wasn’t sure where to look. “I started tweeting ‘Where are you guys?’ and the Latino bloggers started coming out of the woodwork.”
LatISM has been very active in its short year of existence, hosting a National Heritage Tour in three cities, a conference on social media and a robust directory. In partnership with Blog World Expo, a major blogging and new media conference, Castro released a directory of Latinos blogs earlier this week. She’s adding more every day, as Latinos continue to comment and request that their blogs be added to the ballooning list.
Mami Blogs Grow Up
Latinas start families younger than non-Hispanic whites and often continue to work from home. According to Korzenny, blogging is a key way for Hispanic women to earn money while raising families.
The mommy blogger phenomenon hasn’t been restricted to any ethnic group, but Latina “mami” bloggers lag behind the mainstream in ad dollar revenues and media attention. But they don’t trail in readership.
Melanie Edwards’ ModernMami.com is a Hispanic-focused, English-language blog currently ranked higher than very well-known sites like The Mommy Blog. Modern Mami’s U.S. ranking on Alexa is 45,870, while The Mommy Blog’s is 96,885. She also has twice the amount of Twitter followers: 5,455 to 2,400, respectively.
In spite of its reach, the Latina blog commands $20 per month for a small display ad. The same size ad on The Mommy Blog is $163.80 per month—seven times greater.
“We still need to build authority,” Castro says. With a stronger platform comes greater ad dollars, invitations to speak at industry conferences and press coverage. The Mommy Blogger’s Mindy Roberts has been interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN, while Melanie Edwards reports no such TV interviews.
Castro says, “It’s a vicious cycle and we’re trying to break that.”
The Latino population continues to grow, with Census 2010 numbers projected to report at least 50 million Hispanic citizens. Old media is screeching to a halt in every language, while blogs and social media take the reins. Without a doubt, sin duda, turning to the online Latino is a turn towards the future of communications.
Kerri Allen is the Director of Public Relations for the Hispanic communications firm REVOLUCION in New York City.