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Using social media to understand Hispanic consumers

28 Dec 2020 5:54 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

Quirks Media printed an article back in 2016 on this subject that was excellent! We reprinted it here because all the points discussed are still relevant today.

David R. Morse is president and CEO of research firm New American Dimensions, Los Angeles. Karthik Praveen is co-founder of Consumer Inclusive, a Bangalore, India-based consulting firm.

For years there was talk about the digital divide between Latino and white consumers. Not anymore.

According to the Pew Research Center (Figure 1), the share of Latino adults who use the Internet was 84 percent in 2015, up 20 percentage points since 2009, narrowing the gap between Hispanics and whites to just 5 percent. Hispanics, says Nielsen, are among the most likely to own a smartphone, to live in a household without a landline and to access the Internet from a mobile device – nearly three-quarters of Latinos own smartphones, 10 percent higher than the U.S. average, and 10 million watch video on their mobile phones for an average of more than six hours per month.

Impressive numbers, given that Hispanics now make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, a share that is expected to increase to 29 percent by 2060.

When it comes to digital, Hispanics are not a segment to be ignored, and social media is no exception. EMarketer reports that in 2015, 76.6 percent of U.S. Hispanic Internet users accessed social networks, compared to 69.4 percent of overall U.S. Internet users. These numbers are projected to increase to 80 percent among Hispanics, compared to 72 percent for the general population.

On Facebook, by far the most widely-used social media site, 73 percent of all Hispanic adult Internet users have a presence, compared to 71 percent of the total Internet-user population. The gap is even higher for Instagram; while 21 percent of Caucasian adult Internet users are users, 34 percent of all Latinos maintain a presence on the site. A quarter of Latinos use Twitter, compared to 21 percent of Caucasians.

When it comes to language choice on social media, Hispanics are using both English and Spanish. According to E-consultancy, 33 percent preferred English, while 27 percent opt for Spanish; 40 percent used the two equally. But preference varied with the situation.

Given the importance of social media for Hispanics, marketers need to keep an active watch on what Latinos are saying about their companies, their brands and the categories that they operate in.

When doing social media listening with Latinos, the first challenge is to identify those who are posting in English. There is no perfect solution to this but we’ve found that using surname – and sometimes first name – derives a good representation. Second, for those using Spanish, we need to remove those living in Latin America. To do this, researchers should crawl social media sites with social media listening tools to identify IP addresses. We do this in order to ensure that we are only listening to conversations from the U.S.

The next step is to sanitize the data, by identifying and removing spam, and cleanse the data by identifying and filtering out noise words. Finally, we analyze and tag all relevant social postings for patterns, qualitatively validate them and then bucket them into categories describing topics of discussion and sentiments.

Social media conversations

As a case study, we focused on the perceptions and attitudes about heart disease among U.S. Hispanics. We analyzed 9,382 social media conversations between November 2015 and January 2016. Our analysis focused on Twitter, blogs and forums; while heart disease was frequently discussed on Facebook, the majority of conversations were brand-related rather than our primary interest, the challenges and apprehensions people with heart disease encounter.

When we dug deeply into social media conversations, we found there are that there was a lot of anxiety surrounding heart disease and no shortage of discussions surrounding proactive lifestyle change behavior by the segment. Close to 70 percent of the discussions centered on patients who have already suffered cardiac arrest.

Both patients and caregivers discussed treatment options like angioplasty and the post-treatment lifestyle changes they underwent. Many were apprehensive about undergoing angioplasty and were looking for alternative treatment options. Many shared the lifestyle changes they underwent following a stroke, such as cycling, exercise and use of fish oil.
Content sources

While a third of analyzed social media content originated with patients (Figure 2), half of the discussions were posted by caregivers, relatives and friends, particularly in blogs, perhaps a reflection of the collective mind-set and strong bonds among Hispanics. Much of the content was emotional in nature, offering a telling and very human glimpse of the challenges patients and their loved ones encounter.

Many patients discussed the symptoms that they suffered before experiencing a stroke, including tight chest, pain in arms and general body fatigue. Patients shared their story along with informative links about what one should do during a cardiac arrest and also lifestyle changes like not skipping breakfast; maintaining their blood glucose and blood pressure levels; weight management; etc. Most patients shared that they went through angioplasty after being diagnosed with cardiac disease.

Caregivers shared stories of how their loved ones suffered from the condition and how they changed their lifestyle. Some shared that their loved ones became weak after suffering and going through treatment for cardiac related issues. Many inquired about alternate modes of treatment and the cost of treatment. Caregiver conversations that shared lifestyle changes were focused on convincing their loved ones to quit smoking, change the oils they use to cook and to not skip breakfast in order to avoid drops in blood glucose levels.

When breaking down the different social media platforms, we found Twitter was mainly used to spread awareness about symptoms, treatment options and post-diagnosis care. Users shared links of health care professional and tips about what one should do if he or she suffers sudden cardiac arrest. Many tweets focused on skipping breakfast because of working multiple jobs. Other tweets centered on the cost of treatment.

Blogs tended to focus on the personal experiences of themselves and their loved ones. Patients mainly described the process that they went through, beginning with the pre-diagnosis stage when they had symptoms like difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest, etc. Caregivers gave detailed descriptions of how their loved ones had to go through lifestyle changes such as losing weight and changing food habits after suffering a stroke.

Forums were a platform for expressing opinions and asking questions, including sharing the experiences of suffering from the disease as well as the kind of activities patients undertook because of having heart disease. There were many questions about alternative treatment options to angioplasty as well as the cost of treatment for patients without insurance. Forums such as were popular online choices for discussions. A frequent concern for users was that some Spanish forums were giving contradictory information regarding treatment.

Tuning into the conversation

While many major brands are engaged in social media listening, Hispanics are frequently overlooked, in part due to the challenges imposed by language. However, given the social nature of this consumer segment, social media listening offers an unprecedented opportunity to tune into the content of Hispanic conversations and gain access to a rich panoply of discussion. With a little subjective acumen, social media content can be bucketed and quantified, as well as analyzed for subtlety and nuance. Though it may not be able to provide all the answers, social media listening has its place in the toolbox of any marketer, particularly those looking for insights among Hispanic consumers.

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