On the night of Feb. 28, one
day after a powerful earthquake hit Chile, Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos
was sitting on a plane in Miami about to embark on an eight-hour flight to the South
Finding a flight had not been
easy -- the airport in Santiago had
been shut down and most communications were cut off. Ramos and his crew first
landed in the northern city of Antofagasta, where they had to clear customs, and then continued
to the capital, where they finally arrived in the early hours of March 1.
Ramos' travails to reach the
earthquake-ravaged country and subsequent coverage of the devastation were
dutifully recorded on his Twitter page, and updated almost daily to serve the
more than 4,000 people who follow the Mexico-born news anchor on the social
media platform. (Univision declined to comment for this article.)
A relative newcomer to the
social-media community [he joined Feb. 5], Ramos is only the latest in a string
of Hispanic media personalities, journalists -- and even TV characters --
signing up on Twitter, now considered one of the top five social-media sites
among U.S. Hispanics, with 1.9 million users in January, per Comscore Media
Metrix. The No. 1 social media site is Facebook, which has surpassed MySpace
and now counts with 10.5 million U.S. Hispanics, also per Comscore.
Reporters and news anchors at
Univision, Telemundo, Azteca America, Mega TV and even smaller outlets like Time Warner
Cable's NY1 Noticias in New York are
actively pursuing a social-media strategy, although nobody in the space seems
certain of the impact -- if any -- social media will have on their profession
as they know it. For some, setting up a Twitter or Facebook account seems like
a natural way to promote themselves and their network, but they are wary.
"I think we are all there
because we don't want to be left behind [...] The truth is we don't really know
how all of this is going to end up," said NY1 Noticias anchor Juan Manuel
Benitez, who has set up accounts on both Twitter and Facebook to promote his
show (Pura Política)
and, hopefully, raise awareness for a cable channel with limited distribution.
But he warns of a catch. "In their quest to become the first ones to break a
piece of news, some of the well-established news agencies are skipping the
basic filters and rigors of journalistic work and producing a hodgepodge of
useless news and information," he said.
News coverage aside, Hispanic
TV networks are using the popularity of social media as a way to promote
themselves and ultimately bring more eyeballs to their TV shows and online
properties. Their strategies have evolved rapidly, from setting up a simple
corporate fan page on Facebook or Twitter to more-elaborate schemes, making
social media an intrinsic part of their marketing and sales pitch.
Ahead of the curve is
Telemundo, which counts more than 180,000 followers across different platforms
and 17 different accounts.
"We want to be at the digital
water cooler," said Telemundo executive vice president of digital media and
emerging businesses Peter Blacker. The broadcaster first dipped its toes in
Twitter in early 2009 to promote the Latin
Billboard Awards and now has set up one fan page for each of its television
shows and series.
Ultimately, said Blacker, the
goal is to keep audiences engaged on the sites where they want to be (Twitter,
Facebook, etc.) rather than asking them to go where they don't want to go.
strategy is part of a five-year digital plan that kicked off in 2005, the year
Blacker joined the company and when Twitter and Facebook were virtually
Starting this year, social-media
platforms are expected to be at the heart of the company's digital strategy and
are already a critical part of this year's client development meetings, which
substituted the traditional upfront presentations and kicked off March 15.
As for Univision, this week
set up a Facebook fan page called Amamos
fans to share their experiences, videos, poems and even songs about how they
interact with the Spanish language. The information page promptly warns fans
that: "By participating [...] you hereby grant to Univision a royalty-free,
perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, copy,
reproduce, display, exhibit, perform, adapt, modify, distribute and promote any
material submitted by you [...]"