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But just finding people who have been indexed – or who have self-indexed – as Latinos is not enough. You will want to know more about them. There’s no substitute, of course, for following, reading, and engaging people to truly explore what the basis for a relationship might be (more on that in a moment). But you might also want to avail yourself to any number of tools that can help you understand someone’s profile. One cool tool – which is getting an increasing amount of attention – is Klout, which not only attempts to measure the influence of all Twitter users using a number of indices beyond the number of followers, but also categorizes people according to their roles in the Twitter ecosystem. (For an interesting look at Latino “influentials” on Klout, go to Tomás Custer’s Hispanic Tips.) Using a Gartner Magic Quadrant-like schema, Klout places people into 16 possible categories, ranging from observer to celebrity. Think of it as a Myers-Briggs personality test for the Twitter set, but with an unforgiving Darwinian twist. While it’s nice to find oneself in a group of supposedly likeminded people, nobody likes being in the lower left-hand quadrant, and I suspect that this might limit the tool’s appeal. Nor does the Klout profile tell you enough to give you a real sense of the person: her tastes, her likelihood to follow and chat with you, etc.

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To be fair to Klout and other measurement tools, that’s not what they are meant to do. At best, they are about influence, not about engagement.

 

For that, you might even skip the first two steps, and go straight to the third: joining existing conversations that Latinos are having on Twitter. The easiest way to join is the hashtag, which in the Latino world has great utility. At almost any moment of the day, you can click on #hispanics, #latinos, and #latism and join a lively conversation. (Disclosure: I serve on the board of LATISM (Latinos in Social Media), the organization behind the hashtag.) This is a conversational medium, after all, and there’s no better way to learn about people than to speak with them. Also check out Twitteros, a “network for digitally influential Latinos.” This community also provides brands a way to be visible in these conversations through sponsoring and advertising opportunities.

 

Hashtags – which were invented by users, not product marketing folks – support the spontaneous, emergent behavior that makes Twitter such a fluid, dynamic environment. And they serve as the simple mechanism that enables people to engage in what is perhaps the most fluid, real-time conversational format on the social Web today: the Twitter party. Several Latino groups host live chats on Twitter, and the parties have attracted sponsorships from major brands.

 

But the real value comes from participating in these chats (assuming you can type fast enough). Because the real value in Twitter is conversation, and for whatever reason, Latinos like talking on Twitter (listen to what two Latino tweeps Julio Ricardo Varela and Julie Diaz-Asper have to say on this subject). Is it because Latinos are more social – the big question posed at the beginning of this post? Who knows? But I like Carrie Ferguson Weir’s suggestion that perhaps Latinos were the original retweeters (see below) – repeaters of information, long before the new conversational tool arrived. Conversation is an ancient art, and marketers hoping to engage Latinos should probably think less about the tools and more about the rules of being social.

A few weeks ago – shortly after the election – the Pew Hispanic Center released a study with a bombshell of a headline, the kind that digital marketing professionals take great care to craft because, if done right, the results can be huge: “National Latino Leader? The Job is Open.”

 

As with most great headlines, the facts of the story were framed for effect. The Pew study, based on a recent survey of 1,375 U.S. Latinos, had found that nearly two thirds could not answer when asked to name the person they consider “the most important Latino leader in the country today.” Second most popular answer? “No one.” Of course, there are many ways to interpret these numbers. But Pew’s headline swiftly spawned hundreds of similar headlines – on columns, blogs, and yes, on Twitter – which is all about headlines – for stories debating whether Latinos even need a single national leader. (We’re too diverse. And, by the way, what other ethnic groups have “national leaders”?) And yes, people are still writing. It was a great result for a minor survey. The “Leaderless Latinos” debate has legs, as they say in the entertainment business.

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