Mexican-born entrepreneur Lucia Tovar-Matthews seeks to use the growing importance of social networks to create new connections for the Hispanic community.

Since 27 percent of Hispanics currently spend six or more hours a day on social networks compared with 8.5 percent of all users, Tovar-Matthews told Efe that Web sites like this are increasingly important for the new demographic of the Latino market.

She and husband Richie Matthews founded the public relations firm Dialogo in 2006, based in San Diego, which now has offices in Mexico City and New York as well.

One reason the company has grown, the businesswoman said, was understanding that social media are not just a new "marketing tool and a way to create brands but are a growing force for large-scale social transformation that by connecting Hispanic voices can influence the way their purchases shape business strategies."

In 2011 Tovar-Matthews was honored with San Diego Metro Magazine's 40 Under 40 Award that hails young leaders, especially those capable of maintaining connections among different sectors of the community.

"I've taken advantage of my experience working in Mexico City to create a non-hierarchical environment," Tovar-Matthews said about her company, which has grown from three to 41 employees.

While founding the company wasn't easy, its growth shows that the risks were justified, she said.

"I could pay my debts. The company has allowed me to take part in the growth of the Latino market and not just in San Diego - I couldn't be happier," she said.

Tovar-Matthews also said that thanks to the firm she can cultivate her interest in mentoring young Hispanic professionals in the communications field by creating a program for interns that gives them a hands-on experience of mounting public relations campaigns.

After first opening the office in Mexico City in 2010 and the one in New York in 2011, Dialogo recently launched a syndication service for Hispanic bloggers.

The young entrepreneur's experience growing up in Mexico City and her husband's profession as a public relations executive allowed them to found the company and provide a service for marketing, financial and political media, they said.

Among its clients, this Hispanic woman's company numbers the San Diego Latino Film Festival and Mexican telecommunications firms eager to penetrate the U.S. market. EFE