Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Latino Social Hurricane

Someone's Twitter handle can turn into the official source of information during a hurricane in a couple of days
By Gustavo Razzetti, ClickZ

A couple of days ago, I got a call from a journalist that wanted to learn more about the phenomenon of Latinos in social media. He said he's been reading the Marketing to Latinos column at ClickZ and was curious about what was driving the explosion of Hispanics in social media.

At the same time, while I was finalizing this column, another phenomenon came to life. I'm talking about @irene, a major natural event, which persuaded me to change the topic of my column and turned it into what you are reading right now.

Why Latinos Are Social?

I mentioned that, of course, age is a key factor. Latinos are younger than the general population, so it makes sense that they are more open to new technologies and interact more with other people.

Another reason includes having friends and family that are all spread out. Many have friends and family in their country of origin (or their parent's one). Also, if you take a look at the dynamics of population, Latinos have been migrating to non-traditional Hispanic DMAs such as North Carolina. Their social network is more diverse (browse the names of any Latino's Facebook friends and you'll know what I'm talking about).

Also, considering the social nature of Latinos, it seems obvious that this is a key driver. If you look at the statistics, Latinos spend much more time than the average American tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc.

Hmm…tricky question: is this social nature exclusive to Latinos?

Hurricanes Go Social

Many times, as marketers, when thinking on social media, we tend to put more emphasis on the media portion rather than on the social aspect. This recent event is a great example of why "social" goes before "media."

It might have been an interesting one for Irene Tien. As a pioneer in social media, she has the Twitter handle with her first name, @irene. And when the news spread around about the chances of a hurricane hitting the East Coast, she started to receive tweets directed to her, as if she was actually the natural catastrophe. Following the advice of her colleagues, she decided to "lend" her Twitter handle for some days, so that it could be used to share safety information and advice related to Hurricane Irene (the real one). Combining useful tips and links with a sense of humor drove her account past 11,000 followers.

The Latino Hurricane

The Latino Twittersphere was also very active. Natural threat aside, it was an interesting thing to watch. Kind of a live version of the reasons I had explained to the journalist mentioned above.

I evidenced an increased interaction between friends and family living in Latin America and in the U.S. I saw a back and forth between speaking in English and Spanish as a consequence of that. The social spirit of Latinos was at its peak; people sharing advice, information, and sending "bendiciones" for those who had families on the East Coast.

There was also room for humor as well. One friend, after the storm, was saying that what happened was nothing compared to how his hometown in South America got after a "regular" rainstorm. Another friend was bragging, saying that "se ahogaron en un vaso de agua" (they got drowned in a glass of water) and that category one storms, Caribbeans eat those for breakfast.

Providing help, emotional support, and also their sense of humor, Latino social nature was at its best around Irene.

Social Storms

External phenomenons ignite conversations in social media, turning complete strangers into "friends" who really care about each other's family. Someone's Twitter handle can turn into the official source of information during a hurricane in a couple of days.

Once again, social comes first and people are becoming (trusted) media. As marketers, we need to learn more about how external social events impact consumers' mindsets and behaviors. Thanks to @irene, for the latest lesson.

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