Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why U.S. Hispanics Use Social Networking Sites

By Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D. 

This article was originally included in "Latino Link" by Joe Kutchera in 2010 (PMP Publishers) and it is reproduced here by permission.

In 2009, The Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication and DMS Insights, in collaboration with Captura Group,  collected online national level data about Hispanics’ use of social networking sites.The main motivation of this study was to find out what reasons, attitudes, preferences, and demographics contribute to the time Hispanics spend on social networking sites online. The national online Hispanic sub-sample was composed of almost 541 Hispanics who answered the questionnaire in English and 351 who answered in Spanish.

The dependent variable of this study—that is, the behavior we were attempting to explain—is the number of hours that Hispanics/Latinos reported spending while “visiting social networking sites on an average week.” This specific study included a mix of 80 general attitudes, preferences, and reasons and behaviors relevant to online activities and participation in social networking sites.

We observed that, in general, the more time Latinos spend using the Internet, be it in Spanish or English, the more time they spend on social networking sites. Thus, online familiarity and activity appear to create a propensity for participation in social media online. The key reasons why Hispanics spend time on social networking sites is for messaging, blogging, self-expression, making new friends, and sharing cherished images. The reasons that were least important for using social networking sites included promoting my business, promoting causes, asking questions, answering questions, commenting on people’s activities, telling stories, chatting, and using classifieds.

That messaging and overall self-expression constitute central reasons for Latinos to connect online makes sense. In this and other research, we have found that self-expression is one of the strong motivators of Hispanics generally. Thus, the Internet has become a most important liberating technology that allows repressed social needs to be expressed. Hispanics, in particular, are fond of sharing their experiences.

Other factors strongly associated with time spent on visiting social networking sites included reading magazines in English, being younger, and being concerned about one’s diet. That younger Latinos spend more time on social networking sites is not surprising. What is surprising is that, while age is important, it is not nearly as important as other factors and reasons as more older Hispanics get turned on to social networks online. Reading magazines in English seems to imply that the type of people who are on social networks tend to be generally “print or text” oriented and curious about the world around them. Interestingly, concern about one’s diet may be partially addressed by social networks where Hispanics share issues and information of importance. Perhaps those who are more socially active are also more concerned about their health and appearance, and hence their diet is very important to them. Accordingly, food and fitness advertisers are likely to benefit from being more active and visible in social networks where Latinos share their experiences. Notably, gender was not found to make a difference in this analysis.

Marketers and service providers can capitalize on research like this by understanding that, by facilitating messaging and self-expression online, they are likely to attract the interest of Latinos. There are few reasons that are most important for attracting Hispanics to social networks online, and this research should serve as a step in that direction. Advertisers should consider embedding and linking to social networks where Hispanics participate to facilitate interaction and self-expression. Merchant websites should also consider the importance that Latinos assign to self-expression and sociability and facilitate these activities on their sites. As a corollary, I should emphasize that it seems like the age of corporate and organizational censoring is being replaced by an age of openness.

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