It all started with a tweet.
Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower Latinos through social media. Founder Ana Roca-Castro had the impetus to start LATISM because of a question-turned-tweet: Are there any Latinos out there?
Fast forward two years to Blogworld in New York, the premier conference for bloggers, where LATISM unveiled the results of a survey of more than 12,000 Latino bloggers, providing a unique window into the Latino blogosphere and unearthing streams of valuable information on the demographic profile, trends and opinions of Latino online influencers.
"Our event is about bringing together communities that don't normally talk to each other," said BlogWorld founder Rick Calvert. "I grew up in San Diego. My backyard fence on Monument Road was the border, so I know about, and have been around, Latino issues," he said.
The project surveyed 12,270 bloggers who answered LATISM's call. The respondents were 53 percent female and 47 percent male, and respondents hailed mostly from California, New York, Florida and Texas.
The results provide a snapshot of a set of individuals whose opinions and demographics might be at odds with what people think they know about Latinos.
When asked what issue they would focus on first if they were president, the overwhelming majority listed education as the top priority Latino-issue, followed by health and jobs.
"The most striking development that came out of the survey was that education was the top issue," said Sylvia Aguilera, director of federal government relations for McDonald's and an executive board member of LATISM. "Immigration did not come up as one of the top issues, which lends credence to the fact that we care about a vast array of issues."
There was also continued evidence that Latinos are increasingly wired into new and social media through mobile devices. The survey found that 85 percent of respondents owned a smartphone, identifying iPhone, Blackberry and Android by name, in that order.
The educational demographics showed that 67 percent of the bloggers had a college degree or higher.
"It supported a lot of the things we already believed," said Loida Rosario, the senior vice president for multicultural strategy and planning at Edelman and an executive board member for LATISM.
"Bloggers, Latinos are educated and conversive in all issues," she said. "There is an integration into American culture but they also care about Latino issues."
The survey also had findings about the online habits of Hispanics, information that would be music to the ears of companies seeking to market to U.S. Latinos.
Forty-eight percent of respondents shop online, and price is the biggest driver in purchasing decisions. But when it comes to changing or trying a new brand, the bloggers said that friends' recommendations were the biggest factor in their decision.
The question of languages spoken also offered unexpected results.
A plurality of respondents said that they were fluent in both English and Spanish, followed by only English. Those who said they spoke "Spanglish" and Spanish-only came in last.
The respondents' top three reasons for using social media were for personal purposes, for business or self-promotion, and for doing social good, while their preferred platforms were Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn – in that order.
"The biggest takeaway for me was that using social media for social good was one of the top three blog topics," said Elianne Ramos, vice-chair of communications for LATISM. "This is an awakening of the latest generation of Latino bloggers."
And for Blogworld's founder, Calvert, LATISM's survey of bloggers, and the Blogworld conference in general, are sorely needed in the current media environment.
"The show is in New York, for people on the East Coast," he said. "New York is the home of mainstream media but most mainstream media does not understand social media."
And LATISM is betting that, with the release of their survey about Latinos online, more attention will be paid to the full extent of engagement by Latinos in social media.
"We have homework for everyone who sees this," said Ramos. "Empower someone."