“Social Media Savvy y Todo:” How Online Hispanics Are Crafting The Message and Changing Politics

GUEST POST BY Melissa Salas Blair, founder of Puentes Research and Communications, Inc.

Earlier this year, "the chimichanga heard round the United States" was interesting not just for the fact that Jim Messina, Obama 2012's campaign manager, tweeted the following  —"Line of the day from WAPO's Dana Milbank: 'The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos"—  but for the fact many Hispanic voters from both sides of the aisle were insulted, and social media stepped in and stepped in quickly.

In less than 10 minutes, even though there were tweets of support for Messina, there were also just as many tweets tweets calling for him to apologize. Blog posts then followed, then full-blown articles, then radio and televisions shows added the ‘scandal’ into their programming schedules. And it all started with a tweet, in 140 characters or less.

"Chimichanga-gate" confirmed that there is now a rapid response time by online Hispanics on both sides of the political spectrum. In days long gone, it would have taken some time for a response, and the usual organizations who often speak out would have taken the throne, but not anymore. Left-, middle-, and right-leaning Hispanics are taking control of their words, their messages, and speaking out via Hispanic-owned and/or managed media. And this list of outlets is growing: Latism, Fox News Latino, NBCLatino, the Huffington Post's "Latino Voices"VOXXI,  as well a myriad of popular independent journalism sites such as this page, the Latino Rebels.

Hispanics are speaking out against rhetoric hurled by all sides, left and right, as well as both political parties. And, no one is "safe," which Geraldo Rivera found out rather quickly—very quickly. For example, this page (and others) had a blog post about Geraldo’s controversial statements up within minutes, followed by massive social media buzz, inspiring NBC Latino to cover Geraldo’s unfortunate remarks. It was a STOP IT chanclazo heard by all, and felt by Geraldo!

In recent years Hispanic communities have become the fastest-growing population of tech-savvy individuals. A report by 360i Digital Connections found that “in the last year, the number of Hispanics using social media grew 38% (more than double the 16% growth rate for the general population).” It’s fascinating to see the changes and growth, but also more importantly, how Hispanics are utilizing social media.

In the past much of it was used to support one political party or the other. To support one policy position versus another. But, now you find more Hispanics from all cultural backgrounds and all sides of the political arena apoyando each other and openly discussing policy stances that many on the left, the middle, and the right agree on, like comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and some versions of the DREAM Act. Not only is social media increasing the reach of the Hispano voice, but it’s making it possible for Hispanics to work together on issues and policies for the greater good of all Americans and their families. It’s allowing for unity in many cases, or at the very least respectful discussions and debates like never before.

I believe the greatest lesson for all is this: careful what you say on social media and in the mainstream media, because you never know where the next chanclazo is coming from or from which direction — left or right! And, you don’t want to be known as the person who got a #NoMames award. That’s just embarrassing.

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