This post was originally written by CJ Moore.

When I started researching for my story about marketing to Hispanics online for Inside Self Storage Magazine, I quickly figured out the foremost authority on the subject was Carla Briceno.

Briceno is the cofounder of Bixal, a company that provides strategic communications and marketing for organizations targeting the online Hispanic market.

Briceno provided me with some great information, all of which I was not able to get into my story. So I thought I would share our interview for more information on marketing to Hispanics online. Enjoy.

Q: Why are Hispanics so drawn to the Internet, even more so than the general public?

A:  Latinos see the Internet as a way to connect with friends and family, improve themselves and their families, and find important information on services and products that they are interested in. Social media in particular has become very popular with Hispanics over-indexing in a number of areas, largely due to a lack of professional Spanish language content out there. As a result, many Latinos are creating their own content using these new online tools.

Q: What are some of the best ways to target Hispanics with online marketing/advertising in general?

A:  Identify what segments of the Hispanic market you’re most interested in, do your research and develop a strategy based on your findings.

Q: Importance of having a bilingual site?

A:  This depends on what segments of the Hispanic audience you’re trying to reach as well as their lifestage.

According to a recent study by AOL, 23 percent of the online Hispanic market is Spanish-dominant, 31 percent is bilingual and 46 percent is English dominant.

Additionally, the data shows that a significant percentage of Hispanic families, whether young, mature, or in their prime of life, prefer Spanish language content.

Q: What do you think of a human translation vs. machine?

A:  Human translation definitely. Machine translation is not good enough yet. Even a professional literal translation of your original general market materials is usually not effective. A better approach is to identify your audiences, take steps to understand their unique needs, interests, and demographics and develop original content, or at a minimum content that speaks to your audience in both a culturally and linguistically-appropriate way.

Some important questions to ask:

  • How do they perceive your products and services?

  • How are they using them?

  • What are their typical needs in this area?

  • What are their language preferences?

  • How are they using the Internet and social media?

  • What factors play a role in how they might use your products and services?

Q: Is it better to at least have some sort of translation rather than nothing?

A:  In my opinion, no translation is better than a machine translation. Poor or awkward translations communicate to your audience that you don’t value or understand them as much as your general market.

Q: What are the benefits of original content targeted to Hispanics?

A:  By doing your research up front, which doesn’t have to be overly formal, to understand the perceptions of the members of the specific segment you are trying to reach, you can develop an online presence, whether it be on your website or on some of the key social media platforms, that is culturally-relevant and focused on providing the information that the growing online Hispanic audience is looking for.

Q: The self-storage managers I’ve talked to say comfort and trust is important to their Hispanic customers. How can businesses build that trust, online and through every day practices?

A:  By really understanding what aspects of their product are important to this market segment, by respecting their language and language preferences, and by creating a two-way dialogue. This is where social media is useful. More and more Latinos are using social media and this offers brands the opportunity to listen to what is being said about their products or their competitors and engage in two-way conversations that can help them shine a light on their brands.

Q: Managers say Hispanics hesitate to finalize deals online. Why is that? Do communication hurdles influence this? Lack of a credit card?

A:  When I was at Sprint Nextel, managing projects for the Hispanic eCommerce site, we saw something similar. In some cases, Latinos may prefer to do their research online and then actually go to the establishment in person to make their purchases. This could also be due to their lack of trust in Spanish-language websites. There are many poorly translated sites out there, which has caused many Latinos to lose trust in all sites. It’s important to keep in mind that any communications effort that is of high-quality and focused on the audiences’ specific circumstances will engender trust and set itself apart. A recent survey by ARAnet Adfusion shows that Hispanics are more likely than African-Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites to take action online after reading a banner ad.