It is widely expected that the new census data will show 1 in 6 people living in the United States is hispanic. The Arizona immigration law case has only presented one view of this fast-growing population. Here’s another.

22 of the top 50 hispanic advertisers increased their media budgets last year, despite the disasterous recession.  12.6% of Google users and 11.4% of Facebook users are hispanic.  Hispanics are also the nation’s second-largest consumers of goods and services.  Their median age is “young and generally living in large, traditional, married-with children families” according to a recent analysis by Advertising Age.  As the boomer generation ages, this coming-of-age hispanic generation will lead the way in consuming goods and services.  But thanks to the rise of the internet, Skype, and relatively inexpensive global travel–at least as opposed to what was experienced by past immigrant generations–this population remains connected to countries and cultures of origin, even while they are becoming more Americanized.  So reaching them must recognize and respect these connections.

Are corporations and nonprofits effectively reaching prospective customers and donors who are hispanic?

Some large companies and nonprofits have been proactive about advertising and multi-lingual outreach.  Recognizing that 2.5 million Hispanic Americans suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance syndrome that is considered “pre-diabetes,” last year the American Diabetes Association launched an oral care program aimed at this market with corporate partner Colgate-Palmolive, which also happens to be among the top 50 advertisers to this market segment. But other groups are sluggish, relying on diversity initiatives that are geared primarily towards women and African-Americans, and often target prospective employees more than prospective customers.

Part of the key to reaching hispanics is, as with any group, connecting to prospects through the communications tools they themselves use.

According to a new Pew Research study, when it comes to socializing and communicating with friends, young Latinos (ages 16 to 25) make extensive use of mobile technology. Half say they text message (50%) their friends daily, and 45% say they talk daily with friends on a cell phone.  Only 10% use email.  Recognizing this trend, Nestle recently launched an iPhone app that promotes use of Carnation Evaporated Milk by pulling recipes and content from its MiCochina Latina site.

Whatever happens in Arizona, the American population is changing and people selling everything from nonprofit causes to consumer products must adapt to reach the growing hispanic market.

According to a new Pew survey , the use of non-voice data applications on cell phones has grown dramatically over the last year. Compared with a similar point in 2009, cell phone owners are now more likely to use their mobile phones to:

  • Take pictures—76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Send or receive text messages—72% vs. 65%
  • Access the internet—38% vs. 25%
  • Play games—34% vs. 27%
  • Send or receive email—34% vs. 25%
  • Record a video—34% vs. 19%
  • Play music—33% vs. 21%
  • Send or receive instant messages—30% vs. 20%

But what’s most interesting about the study is that African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web. Cell phone ownership is several percentage points higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners use more mobile phone features than their white counterparts. In total, 64% of African-Americans access the internet from a laptop or mobile phone, a seven-point increase from the 57% who did so at a similar point in 2009.

But are minority outreach communications programs geared towards mobile web?

With 72% of mobile phone users sending or receiving text messages, texting seems like the best place to start. And yet few corporate or nonprofit communications programs regularly incorporate text messaging for customer or donor outreach. One of my nonprofit clients uses texts during its annual conference to notify attendees of program changes.  This is a good start. Since 9-11, many schools have gone to text notification of parents for emergencies. But what about corporations?  Couldn’t they text customers about urgent issues like product recalls? The recent water emergency in Washington, D.C. area was a great example. As a customer, I never heard one peep directly from WSSC, even though they could have texted me, or frankly even used the robo-phone technology so prevalent with our local schools and political campaigns.

And if you’re interested in reaching older adults, the Pew study has some interesting data for you. While young adults still dominate mobile data applications, cell phone owners 30-49 aren’t far behind, and were found to be much more likely to use their devices to send text messages, take photos, record video or access email, among other uses.

We are part of an increasingly mobile society. Good communications plans need to mobilize, too.