Spanish social sites on the rise

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With 67 percent of 18- to 27-year-old Hispanics using the Internet, marketers should not overlook this demographic.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, advertisers spend millions trying to reach Hispanics via networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Joseph Anthony, CEO of Vital Marketing, said the growing population of Hispanics online indicated the need for entertainment and networking sites tailored to that group.

"No longer just a buzzword exerting 'exotic' influences on the majority culture of this nation, minorities now constitute a significant market across all domains - from apparel to electronics to beer," Mr. Anthony said.

"As a booming group, minorities now set the pace at which trends are developed. With this social influence and undeniable buying power, this market must be addressed directly."

Mr. Anthony has helped the U.S. Army, NASCAR, Motorola and Tommy Hilfiger to expand their brand in the minority marketplace. He cited the launch of El Hood, a bilingual social network promoting the latest in Latin music, as a good means of targeting and reaching this group.

"Creating opt-in acquisitional marketing campaigns that give the minority marketplace something they crave while creating an ongoing dialogue is a tactic that we've had success with," Mr. Anthony said.

A report from Forrester Research Inc. said 51 percent of U.S. Hispanics who use the Internet prefer Spanish-language Web sites, and 23 percent must have Spanish online. Nevertheless, El Hood is not without competition, as Quepasa.com, MiGente.com, MyGrito.com, Vostu.com and even Latino.MySpace.com, a Spanish-language version, all want a piece of the market.

"All major retailers and brands that market to Hispanics for in-store traffic need to be taking the same approach on the Internet," Mr. Anthony said. "The rise and presence of Hispanic-focused Web sites needs to be accounted for by any company looking to make sales inroads within this community."

Relying on television broadcasts to reach this community is no longer practical, he said. The message on a TV commercial should somehow be coupled with the right offline and interactive components to maximize profitability.

While the minority culture has strongly leaked into the mainstream, it is very important that brands do not combine multicultural marketing with traditional branding and marketing initiatives.

"Ultimately, the effectiveness of reinforcing the brand message via events, samplings and out-of-home initiatives has never been more important," Mr. Anthony said.

"By adding this personalization and feeling of authenticity, you are able to get up close and personal with your target demographic," he said.
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