The Power of Blogging
By Ashley Cisneros
Today, Hispanics are online more than ever. As natural communicators, teachers and communicators of new ideas, Latinas are at the forefront of this trend—leveraging the possibilities presented by the Internet to launch blogs, create online communities, engage in social and mobile media, and more.
Numbers Attract Attention from White House and Corporations
According to the Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) BlogoSphere Survey 2011, a whopping 61 percent of respondents use social media for personal purposes, followed by business, self promotion and for doing social good. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization uses blogging and social media to advance the social, civic and economic status of the Latino community. The group provides scholarships to help bloggers attend both mainstream and LATISM conferences.
Conducted using SurveyMonkey and promoted online, the survey drew 12,270 respondents. In 2010, LATISM’s Bloguera Survey focusing solely of Latina bloggers drew 939 respondents. The survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents are heads of their household, and 57 percent posted two or more posts a week. The largest group of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39, and 83 percent are moms.
“Latinas are naturally a very social group, and Latina bloggers tend to be younger,” says Elianne Ramos, LATISM’s vice chair of communications and public relations. “Blogging gives them the opportunity to express themselves, find a sense of community, and connect with others who have similar experiences.”
LATISM was invited to participate in the White House Hispanic Policy Conference in July, as participants of a group of 150 Latinos leaders from across the United States. The group met with high-ranking government officials in a series of workshops and interactive sessions to discuss the top issues facing Hispanics, including health, unemployment, housing, education and more. After the brainstorming sessions, the participants shared a report detailing their discussions and proposed solutions with White House officials. “It was an amazing experience, and presented an incredible opportunity connect with government in a meaningful, personal way,” Ramos says.
Like the White House, big corporate brands are noticing the power of Latinos online. One blogger who knows exactly how to connect with brands is Manny Ruiz, the father behind PapiBlogger.com, co-founder of LatinaMomBloggers.com and Hispanic PR Blog. In addition, he is the CEO and co-founder of Hispanicize, which provides resources for Hispanic social media marketers and Latino bloggers, including an annual conference.
In July, Ruiz and his family went on a “Making Memories Family Road Trip” sponsored by Disney Destinations and Buick, which provided a 2011 Buick Enclave for the trip. “We promoted Disney’s ‘Let the Memories Begin’ campaign by literally making memories through our road trip,” says Ruiz, who shared the experience through PapiBlogger.com, Twitter and Flickr. During the 37-day trip, Ruiz and his family visited 18 states from Florida to Alaska.
Ruiz has also hosted Twitter parties for McDonald’s in order to connect the company with bloggers, in addition to other sponsorships and partnerships.
Although the LATISM BlogoSphere survey indicates high numbers of Latinos blogging, Ruiz believes that the number of Latino bloggers is much smaller than what the survey revealed, and would estimate the number to be 300 to 500.
“Blogging is not easy because you have to create consistent, relevant content and that skill doesn’t come easily to everyone,” Ruiz says. “Just using Facebook or Twitter means you’re into social media, but it doesn’t mean you’re a blogger.”
Blogs Offer Latinas a Platform for Sharing News
Marisa Treviño, publisher and founder of LatinaLista.net has watched the Latino blogosphere explode since she launched the site in 2004. The former journalist says that when she started she only knew of 10 other Latina bloggers.
LatinaLista.net started as a single-page blog focusing on news and issues from a Latina perspective. Today, it has become a community niche news site with the unwritten mantra “national is local.” Readers can find original content, share news, commentary and profiles on successful Latinas. Treviño’s team includes contributors from across the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Treviño will never forget the way she felt when a newspaper editor told her that he’d never publish her column. “He told me that Latinos weren’t his readers,” Treviño recalls. “I told him that my mother, family and neighbors read his newspaper, but he refused to acknowledge that Hispanics were readers.”
Blogging offered Treviño a platform that she could control. She was the one who decided what would be published and how often.
After she began writing about the way a family was treated in a detention camp, mainstream blogs began to link back to her, and she gained national and international exposure. LatinaLista.net continued to grow with the 2008 presidential election.
When more newsrooms were closing their foreign newsrooms, Treviño felt that Latinas in the U.S. were being underserved, as many were still connected to issues happening in Latin America. LatinaLista.net then morphed into a news site with Treviño as the publisher.
“It’s so gratifying to see many more Latinos finding their voices online,” Treviño says. “The internet presented us with an opportunity and we took advantage of it. We’re empowered and the mainstream can no longer ignore us when it comes to marketing, media or politics.”
Blogging to Connect Women in Technology
Like Treviño, Trina Finton knows what it’s like to be underestimated. When Finton used to hear that women weren’t into gaming, she laughed. She knew that this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. A lover of all things tech since the age of 7, she noticed a lack of women blogging about gaming. She decided to do something about it, and signed up for a conference to learn more about writing about gaming.
“There was an all-male panel and the participants said they’d never hire a woman,” Finton recalls. “I asked why and they told me they got angry letters from readers saying that women didn’t know about video games. This infuriated me.”
Immediately following the conference, Finton launched a blog, GamingAngels.com. The response was deafening and today the site has become the largest female gaming community online. Not only were there plenty of women visiting the site, but Finton saw an opportunity to use it as a tool to encourage more women to turn their passion for gaming into a career.
“Too many times girls are not given the support or encouragement to explore technology,” says Finton, who mentors participants in Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program. “We need to expose girls to the possibilities in the technology sector.”
As part of this effort, GamingAngels.com presented a full scholarship to a 9-year-old girl to pay for her to attend the week-long National Computer Camp, where she will create an actual game.
GamingAngels.com currently generates revenue through sponsored posts as well as ads, though Finton is looking to adopt a different business model. She uses social media to generate buzz and traffic to the site.
“What started as a simple blog, has turned into a respected company, and there are more people joining every day,” Finton says. “Now 42 percent of gamers are women, and it’s time that the industry figured out how to market to us, and in a way that’s not offensive to us.”
Due to the wild popularity of the site, Finton will be launching She’s Geeky, Inc., the first women’s media network with a concentration on technology and video games. She plans to re-design GamingAngels and add GizmoAngels, a gadget blog and PulpAngels, a comics and sci-fi blog. Next year, she hopes to launch a college mentorship program to help young professional women find jobs in the tech and gaming industries.
Professional Women Promoting Expertise Via Blogs
Hispanic women have incredible stories to tell, and more people should be listening. That’s what Raquel Vélez and mother Deborah Aguiar-Vélez thought when they founded Escúchame, a virtual, global and bilingual community connecting and promoting Latinas as experts, entrepreneurs, and speakers through blogs.
The idea was born in 2009 when Aguiar-Vélez was participating as a National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) fellow, and realized the power of the stories of her fellow Latina leaders.
“I like to joke that when a bunch of Latinas get into a room it sounds like chickens in a coop, and everyone’s trying to talk over one another at the same time saying, ‘Escúchame! Escúchame!’” laughs Vélez, who serves as chief technology officer of the company.
Escúchame helps members build their brands, share their knowledge and profit from their expertise. Additionally, the community allows visitors to tap into the member pool to either hire Latinas, to buy products and services from them, interview them, etc.
“We want to change the way the world views Hispanics, one Latina at a time,” Vélez says.
Since going live in February 2011, Escúchame has garnered members from all over the Americas, Spain and throughout the world. Vélez and her mother were recently interviewed by CNN en Español.
Free community membership is available to anyone and it’s free. Escúchame generates revenue through events, such a launch event it recently hosted to expand the company to Puerto Rico. In addition, it offers paid services to its members, such as press kit development, online store creation, etc. Rather than advertising, Escúchame forges corporate partnerships to help companies reach Latinas.
“Slowly, Latinas are starting to share their stories and share their knowledge through the blogs on our site, and I think people are really starting to pay attention,” Vélez says.
“We like to discuss different aspects of the bicultural experience, and include spotlights on Latinas and the great things they’re doing,” — Pérez-Litwin
Empowering the Personal Growth of Latinas Through Blogs
After New York psychologist Dr. Angélica Pérez-Litwin didn’t get the funding she needed to conduct a formal research study about Latina women around the country, she wasn’t deterred. Her experience sharing ideas about being a Latina through her personal blog gave her a strong foundation to launch NewLatina.net in 2010. Only a few months later, Pérez-Litwin released an online survey to learn about the needs of Latina women, which drew almost 500 respondents.
What started as a blog has now blossomed into a personal growth and lifestyle online magazine for modern, ambitious Latinas. By early 2011, Pérez-Litwin introduced a Latina Online Business Directory and an e-book, The New Latina Guide to a Fabulous 2011 Year! In addition, she launched a College Prep E-mentoring Group to help students and parents complete college applications and explore avenues for education. Most recently, she created a Mentoring Hermanas platform on Facebook, an initiative featuring accomplished professional Latinas who offer guidance and advice on entrepreneurship, careers, fashion, relationships, money, health and fitness, and more.
“We like to discuss different aspects of the bicultural experience, and include spotlights on Latinas and the great things they’re doing,” Pérez-Litwin says.
New Latina’s success has led to talks with iVillage about a talk show, and Pérez-Litwin being selected for Kmart’s Latina Smart campaign.
“For a long time in our culture, women were expected to be quiet and proper, and there was a subtle oppression of expression,” Pérez-Litwin says. “Today, blogging has given Latina women a voice. Blogging and social media offer immediate response, validation and the opportunity to share ideas with anyone across the world.”
Pérez-Litwin envisions New Latina becoming an online destination with channels to reflect the life experiences of Latina women while promoting their personal growth. The first New Latina conference will take place in June 2012, and Pérez-Litwin would like to branch out into TV talk shows and books.
“The Latina blogging community has been incredibly supportive, and without it, New Latina would not be where it is today,” Pérez-Litwin says. “We support each other by retweeting one another, answering questions, and attending and supporting each other’s events and promotions.”
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.