The potential to tap into a grassroots, user-created environment that carries a homespun credibility with it has many advertisers jumping at the chance to be a part of it all. According to eMarketer, ad spending on social network sites is expected to reach $865 million in 2007 – over double the $350 million spent in 2006 – and will exceed $2 billion in 2010. Currently, less than 2% of social network advertising is spent in the Hispanic market.
“It's all about finding the consumer and interacting with them in a relevant way. This area is a huge draw for some of our targets, so we are looking for ways to harness the power they can bring based on the number of users and their engagement with the functionality and content,” Tapestry’s director of digital innovation Marla Skiko tells Portada.
Fully aware of the market’s potential, many Hispanic sites are expanding their user-created features, or launching new social networking sites altogether. Batanga, Terra, and QuePasa are only some of the players in this fast-growing space. A Vancouver-based company named AirG has developed a mobile social network for U.S. Hispanics, called Conexion Latina.
Music to their ears…
Music-related content is also blowing up on the social network scene. QuePasa and Universal Music recently inked a deal that would open up Universal’s music video catalog to the site, where users would be able to browse them and post them on their personal profile pages.
Batanga launched a new version of its website in October that further integrates music and video content, allowing users to “tag” music videos for subsequent search-compatibility. For instance, someone viewing the latest Shakira video might tag it “sexy,” and then that video would appear to other users typing the word “sexy” into the search field. Batanga only recently launched the social-network component to its website and accumulated over 30,000 registered users in the first month.
Social network site Migente.com, which was launched in October of 2000 and currently has over two million registered users, recently announced that it is launching Migente Music, an extension of the website where artists can build platforms from which to communicate with their fans. Notable artists such as Enrique Iglesias and Mario Vasquez have already launched profile pages on the network. In order to view the pages, one must first sign up for the free membership to Migente.com.
Migente Music offers artists the ability to see how fans are interacting with the site, which features they are accessing, song plays, etc. Artists may also post an unlimited amount of photos and announcements.
Spokesperson Keda Sekou comments, “What makes Migente.com different from many of the other Hispanic social networking sites is the focus on vital issues from entertainment news to significant cultural reports. Also, it provides an outlet for those who share similar bi-cultural experiences to relate them.”
In an attempt to tap into another widespread Latino passion – automobiles Batanga is developing a space where users can upload photos and information about the cars they drive. Friends and visitors of that member may then leave comments about the pictures posted.
Elhood.com is a new technologically advanced site that is focusing very heavily on music content. As Demian Bellumio, President of Hoodiny Entertainment Group, very simply put it, “We're really going out there to build the best music site in the world.” Toward that end, the site has inked a deal with Warner Music to bring a bevy of top-selling latin artists to the website where their official online profiles would be hosted. The site will include innovative features such as the ability to drag songs from one user’s playlist to one’s own.
One interesting aspect of Elhood is that it seeks to provide premium editorial content: “While many social networking sites rely on user-generated content, we are really more focused on offering high-quality editorial, and we’re willing to pay to get it,” says Bellumio.
Can we be friends?
One interesting approach for advertisers is to create profiles for the products they are selling, in essence personifying a product with a profile that other users can then “make friends” with. QuePasa did this with the L.A. Latino International Film Festival and, after a week of being featured in the #1 spot of “amigos,” over 1000 people had added the event’s profile to their list of friends. Contained in the festival’s profile were links where users could preview trailers and purchase tickets to the event. Eric Rayman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for QuePasa, notes that the key difference between advertising on a social network site and a normal website has to do with the type of interaction that takes place between advertiser and consumer. With a banner ad, the communication is a one-way experience: messaging delivered to consumer.
In a social networking situation such as the previous example, there is an interaction, a relationship that is established between consumer and the product. The other key difference is that social network sites have more usage days per visitor (meaning they return to the site more frequently), and the number of page views are dramatically higher than on regular websites (meaning the visitor “pings” from one profile to the next), sweetening the pot for potential advertisers.
Hispanic Social Networking Sites
Another development in social networking sites is the arrival of geographically-based networks. Terra recently added a section called “foros locales” – or “local forums”- where users can communicate with others in their region. Interestingly, the discussions on this Spanish-language site are frequently conducted in English, Spanish, or a little of each, affirming the familiar theory that, given the choice of using one language or another, U.S. Hispanics will often choose to use both. The result is an online space whose shape and direction are wholly determined by the users who participate.
At the same time, it is the grass-roots, user-generated side of things that has some advertisers unsure about whether this is as viable a forum in which to advertise their products as everyone says it is. A crucial aspect of brand management is the ability to manage the brand. Tapestry’s Marla Skiko says that the sites are acutely aware of this potential conflict and have addressed the advertisers’ concerns: “We do proceed with caution and avoid putting our brands near unpredictable user-generated content. The sites have done a good job of building out safe places for advertisers in that regard,” says Skiko. It is because of the unpredictability of user generated content that advertising on these sites is overwhelmingly banner format, as opposed to search-based.
Top 3 Reasons to Buy Media in Hispanic Social Networks
1. Hispanic SNW sites cater to different demographics within the Hispanic market
2. Large number of users actively engaged with the content
3. Advertising viewed on friend’s page adds word-of-mouth credibility
Frederick Ghahramani, co-founder of mobile social networking company AirG, says that Hispanics comprise the fastest growing segment of his Vancouver-based company’s 10 million-strong community. In August, it conducted a survey of its users and, within 90 minutes, received 30,000 responses, all sent from their mobile phones. Co-founder Frederick Ghahramani says that he was surprised to discover how much of their subscriber base was Hispanic, about 14%. As a result of this finding, AirG launched Conexion Latina, a Hispanic mobile community that AirG licenses out to various providers. Users can chat, instant message, make new friends, post blogs and share photos right from their mobile handset.
Ghahramani comments that mobile communities are the only mobile applications that allow advertisers to reach their customers with offers and content targeted to a particular group, as determined by age, ethnicity, location, etc., though one could argue that this is also the case with opt-in email marketing. He points to Conexion Latina as an example of that targeted ability, and notes that click-through rates average 5%, roughly ten times that of traditional online-advertising approaches.
And the growth potential in this area is vast. Ghahramani notes, “It took us five years to get from zero users to five million. It took us eight months to go from five million to 10 million.” He attributes the rapid growth not only to the viral nature of social networks, but also to the increasingly sophisticated cell phone technology that can support applications such as Conexion Latina.” Negotiations are currently under way for Conexion Latina to be pre-loaded onto some Motorola phones coming out in the USA.
Advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to interact and connect with the young and tech-savvy Hispanic masses. As their numbers grow, Hispanic youth will be targeted on an even greater scale. As long as Spanish-language social networks continue to retain their current user base and draw millions of new users, look for advertisers to increase investment in what is perhaps the most direct and cutting-edge arena for them to reach this highly sought-after target.