Have a cause you want Latinos to support? Facebook and Twitter can help, but for greater traction, try to lure them in through friends and family, suggests a new study from Georgetown University and Ogilvy Public Relations.

“We set out initially to study social media: Has cause engagement gone there or is it still on the way?” says Denise Keyes, Associate Dean of the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown. “We found out that social media is not the be-all and end-all. People still get involved in the traditional ways.”

Overall, Latinos and African Americans were significantly more likely than Caucasians to engage with and learn about social issues and causes through social media.

About half (51 percent) of Latino respondents said they believe they can help get the word out about a cause through social networks, versus 58 percent of African Americans and 34 percent of Caucasians. They also believe that social networking makes it easier to support causes and increase their visibility. Twenty-seven percent of Latinos (versus 31 percent of African-Americans and 21 percent of Caucasians) cite social media and blogs as a main source of information for learning about causes.

Keep in mind, this still pales next to the traditional sources of information: TV (57 percent), family (39 percent), friends (38 percent)—even newspapers (43 percent).

And how much is that online support worth?

Perhaps not much, according to the survey respondents themselves. A full 57 percent of Latinos believed that “Everybody ‘likes’ causes on Facebook, it doesn’t really mean anything.” And 69 percent said emails about causes sometimes feel like spam. Yet nearly 39 percent of Latinos said they were more likely to support a cause online than off (that’s in contrast to 30 percent of African Americans and 24 percent of Caucasians).

Also, Caucasians also were more likely to engage in the kind of offline cause support that charities and nonprofits crave, such as donating money or things, signing a petition or volunteering time. When it came to online activities such as joining a cause group, posting a logo or contributing to a blog, though, only 13 percent of Caucasians participated that way, versus 20 percent of African American and 18 percent of Latinos.

Other interesting facts from the study:

• Overall, Latinos say they value getting involved in causes: 78 percent believed their support can make a difference, and that involvement can provide a sense of meaning in life; 70 percent said getting involved in causes made them feel like they were part of a community (versus 61 percent of Caucasians, for example).

• 52 percent of Latinos said they were very or somewhat involved with causes, versus 53 percent of African-Americans and 42 percent of Caucasians.

• Among Latinos, the top causes, in this order, were: Supporting the troops (30 percent), global warming (28 percent), bullying (26 percent) and gay marriage (25 percent). (For contrast, Caucasians ranked feeding the hungry (31 percent) second, then bullying (29 percent), then the tea party movement (29 percent).

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