The WESTCHESTER GUARDIAN – Vol. IV No.XLXXV - Thursday October 28, 2010 (Pages 12 & 14)
MONROE COLLEGE PANEL EXPLORES HOW HISPANICS EMBRACE SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS by Rob Seitz
The Hispanic community is as plugged-in to using social media tools as any other population group.
The Hispanic community is a victim of the digital divide and often lacks access to the tools necessary to become tech-savvy.
The Hispanic community is smart in how it spends its mobile communications dollars. A $50 phone card allows migrant workers to keep in touch back home through texting, Facebook, the Internet, SKYPE and other social media.
The older Hispanic community has not embraced social media skills. It’s like learning a foreign language to them.
What do you get when you put together an El Salvadoran, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and “Yorician” on the same panel to discuss trends in social media amongst white collar professionals in the Hispanic community?
No, this is not the start of a politically incorrect ethnic joke. On the contrary. The discussion was quite serious when the King Graduate School at Monroe College (www.MonroeCollege.edu) in New Rochelle invited members of the National Society of Hispanic MBAS (NSH MBA ) to present to graduate and undergraduate students on trends in social media within the Hispanic community.
“Monroe College has always been an early adapter of technology. Because of the entrepreneurial, real-business-world orientation of our King Graduate School we regularly invite to our campuses in New Rochelle and The Bronx in-the know business professionals with different marketplace perspectives and experiences,” explained Marina Dadashev, dean of Monroe’s graduate programs in Business Administration and Criminal Justice. “We also have a very ‘global’ enrollment at Monroe and so we want to expose our students to as many international and culturally different ways of conducting business, as possible. This panel underscored the diversity found in a single demographic group which can have as much in common as it has its differences,” Dadashev noted.
Reina Valenzuela is the CE O and founder of Starfish Global (www.StarfishGlobal.com), a business advisory and management consulting firm for entrepreneurs based in New Jersey. “I immersed myself in social media because I especially saw opportunities within the older, Latino community. There is a digital divide that’s not only defined by limited access to technology, but also a lack of computer training and limited English language skills. Learning computer literacy is like learning a foreign language. That’s why I blog in Spanish I want all Latinos to know that social media resources are available to them.”
There is also a generational divide that Valenzuela has experienced on a personal level. She recently helped organize a reunion with family members scattered across the United States, in her native El Salvador, and in other countries. “The teen and young adult family members responded to the reunion plans through Facebook. My siblings and cousins relied on e-mails and cell phone calls. But to keep my 79-year-old mom in the loop, I still had to rely on landline communications!”
For Mauricio Godoy, the evolution of social media resulted in a new career opportunity with his employer, IBM. “About two years ago I assumed the position as a social media expert within a software group analyst relations team,” explained Godoy, whose Latino roots are in both Nicaragua and El Salvador. “I wanted to explore how we could use social media to connect with my colleagues all over the world. At IBM, we believe that social media is key in relationship building, as well as a tool for receiving and providing information content.”
Godoy’s Facebook.com/LatinosatIBM group started with four people out of his Westchester County headquarters. Within two years it has grown to approximately 500 active techies, including IBMers, non-IBMers, Latinos and non-Latinos around the world. It shares information about new social media trends. “However,” said Godoy, “the challenge is not just in knowing that these technologies exist, but getting people to embrace them. Social media is no longer something for the ‘geeky’; it’s something for everyone. And the more you use it, the more you increase your image as a trustworthy source of information in a timeliness that was previously unavailable.”
According to Manny Velásquez-Paredes, a New York-based marketing and social media consultant, “Most of the Hispanics who I have encountered may not really understand the concept of social media and yet, they use it on a daily basis. They are far from home and so the Internet is the cheapest way for them to communicate with family members back home. They are the largest community of early adapters.”
Velásquez-Paredes, executive vice president of the New York City chapter of NSH MBA , was an early adapter, beginning with various “messenger” services and chat rooms developed by AOL in the 1980s. Fast-forward a generation and he is now introducing clients to the marketing potential of Foursquare, a technology application that allows users to “plot” the whereabouts of people on their contact list in real-time. “One client, a ‘youngish’ doctor totally gets it and its marketing potential. The other, a market researcher who is older, feels he doesn’t have the dedicated time needed to make social media tools work,” said Velásquez-Paredes.
Louis Pagan, owns his own business, LAT3G Meda (Lat3gmedia.com) and is a social media consultant based in Yonkers. He says he has used social media “to leverage the Hispanic voice in executive-level jobs, multi-media and entertainment, and to level the competition.
“I use social media to bring down the walls and launch Latinos upward though those hard-to-reach places – the glass ceiling – to get their voices heard,” said Pagan, an American-born native New Yorker. Because he is not entirely fluent in Spanish, he Tweets and blogs in English.
This has not been a barrier for him within the Latino community, his observation being that in both their day-to-day lives and in the social media arena. For several years Pagan wrote LatinoPundit.com, a blog that addressed issues unique to the Latino community as well as topics not defined by ethnicity and which gained him a national following. He has since-suspended the blog because “the niche got filled” by other Latinos. He’s now focusing on multiple social media tools, including Twitter, where he has over 7,300 followers. He’s aggressively pursuing social media with many projects on his plate.
“What these social media pioneers have accomplished is important to our students. Monroe’s MBA students are required to develop a business plan as part of their graduation requirement. This is a significant undertaking that is tracked by their professors throughout their MBA studies. As a result, many of our graduates go on to start their own businesses,” explained Dadashev of Monroe College. “The trailblazing activity of these and other guest speakers is often just the motivation that one of our students needs to create the next Facebook, Twitter, or iPhone!”
For more information about Monroe College’s King Graduate School contact 1-800-55-MONROE.
Rob Seitz (www.robseitz.com) is a senior level communications consultant based in Mamaroneck. He is Vice President of the Fairfield County PR Assn. and an adjunct professor at various colleges. He specializes in Social Media, higher education, special events, real estate and economic development. He is also a NYS licensed real estate agent with Goldschmidt & Associates. He can be reached at 914-393-6144 or email@example.com