Why Spanish Will Always Be Critical for Reaching Hispanics Online


Back in 2011 I wrote a piece outlining “5 Reasons for Using Spanish to Reach Hispanics Online” and thought I would revisit the topic after reading  this post that argues that digital marketers should “de-emphasize” the use of Spanish for reaching Hispanics online.

While the latter post makes sound recommendations to focus on key passion points for Hispanics, the Spanish language remains the ultimate passion point for all Hispanics.

Spanish Is Really Important for Hispanics

Regardless of language preference, for Hispanics there is nothing more culturally relevant than Spanish. The degree to which they use it —and the way they use it— might evolve as they become more acculturated and embrace technology, but research shows Spanish will remain central to their identity.

A 2012 Experian study found that “three-quarters of Hispanic adults prefer to speak at least some Spanish”.  The study looked at language usage by generation and confirmed that 45% of third generation Hispanics say they prefer to speak Spanish at least some of the time.

A more recent study by AHAA and Nielsen also found that 75% of upscale Hispanics speak some Spanish and that the percentage of upscale Hispanics that are Spanish dominant grew 18% between 2010 and 2012.

Spanish is not only important for Hispanics today, but will also be important tomorrow.  A 2012 report by the Pew Research Hispanic Center found that “95% of Hispanics believe it is very important for future generations of Hispanics in the U.S. to be able to speak Spanish”.

Hispanic Digital Growth Is Being Fueled by Spanish Speakers

Savvy marketers need to look at target markets today and into the future in order to identify opportunities.   A recent study by the Pew Research Hispanic Center highlights a clear opportunity in the Spanish-language digital market.

The following tables take data from the Pew Study and compute Internet penetration in 2012 and growth from 2010 – 2012 by segment:


  • English Dominant –            89% penetration, 2% growth
  • Bilingual –                   83% penetration, 7% growth
  • Spanish Dominant –           63% penetration, 27% growth

Foreign or U.S. Born

  • U.S. Born–                               89% penetration, 4% growth
  • Foreign Born                    69% penetration, 18% growth

True, Internet penetration is lowest among Spanish Dominant and Foreign born segments, but the strong growth rates within these segments point to a clear opportunity to use Spanish online.

Marketers Should Adapt to Evolving Use of Spanish

My 2011 post argued that marketers should figure out the language preference of their target audience and use that language, whether it’s English or Spanish.   Today I would make the same argument and add that Spanglish be considered for certain segments.

That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that Spanish is here to stay. Even English dominant Hispanics have emotional ties to Spanish, and that won’t change for generations to come.

¿No crees?


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Barbara Clapera

    Hi Lee, This article is very interesting as all the content on the blog. I usually wonder if Hispanics in the States search on Google/Bing in Spanish or they have adapted to search in English.
    Is it worth for a company to set up Spanish campaigns targeting the US Hispanic market?

    Thanks for your insight!

  2. Jose Villa

    Lee, I appreciate the spirited rebuttal to my MediaPost article last week. I do not disagree or dispute any of the data points you have shared in your article. However, they fail to make a compelling argument that because Hispanics continue to speak Spanish that they prefer to conduct their digital lives in Spanish, or consume content in Spanish. I’ve written a short counter-point at my blog: http://www.thinkmulticultural.com/2013/06/14/the-great-debate-spanish-or-english-online/

    Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/202326/why-spanish-will-always-be-critical-for-reaching-t.html?c=109236#reply#ixzz2WEb9lsVK

  3. Ricksantos01

    I think an interesting post. Yes agreed Spanish is important, but no matter how we cut its predominantly a immigrant language. Most US Born Hispanics speak English, or are English Dominant. Most Spanish media is focused toward immigrant, even Univision and Telemundo accept that Spanish is mainly an immigrant Language, and their networks are watched predominantly by Immigrant Hispanics. In fact much of the growth in the Hispanic population has been via US Born Hispanics (so I see a shift happening, certainly evident in the last 10 years), Immigration is slowing down due to the very bad economy in the US, and the booming Lat-Am Economy south of the border. I just don’t just don’t see Hispanics (In large) numbers tune into Spanish TV/media etc, whether we like it or not we will become English Dominant and add to that our very Sizable Intermarriage Rates certainly does not help, but is a reality living in the US. That said I certainly would like to see more Hispanic Culturally focused advertising and more Hispanics on TV/Media and so on.

  4. Jim Porcari


    Excellent article. Do you have any information on how the hispanic cohort responds to online marketing efforts and what, if any, the preferred media is? Thanks

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