Courtesy: Pew Research Center

I’m one of those people who took a while to get into texting. I simply didn’t appreciate people messaging me when they could just as easily call me; they were already on the phone after all. To this day, I still prefer to talk with my friends and family.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve embraced texting. I now understand there are times when it is more convenient to send a quick message. In addition, I’ve also become more digitally connected, what with a Blackberry and broadband connection both at work and home. However, I’m apparently somewhat of an anomaly among my fellow Hispanics. Maybe.

According to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, Hispanics are less likely to access the Internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone.

This seems to fly in the face of other reports about Hispanics’ digital habits.

A blog entry on traces the confusing results: “Back in December 2010, your study clearly found that Latinos were top Twitterers (we can’t do that if we’re not wired). In November, we were more likely than whites to use located based applications. In October 2010, another of your surveys found that we lead in mobile application use. In July 2010, another of your studies found that Latinos and African Americans were most active cell phone users. And now, in your latest survey, you’re telling us that Latinos are less likely than whites to access the Internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone.”

I have previously commented on some of those other studies, and what I can infer is that those Hispanics who are connected are more frequent Twitter users and use more applications and cell phones than the general market consumer.

But maybe something has changed. Social media is about communication and self-expression, and it’s growing in popularity every day. Could it be that Hispanic digital habits are being affected by cultural differences and preferences, such as the way Hispanics are known for their need for personal interaction, lively conversations and enhanced family engagement?

While the study didn’t delve into that aspect, it did conclude that Hispanics are less likely to use any non-voice applications on a cell phone (58% vs. 64%), and they are also less likely to send or receive text messages (55% vs. 61%). One thing is for sure: Talking with one another is top priority for us.

While there may not be a magic bullet to reach Hispanic audiences (or any audiences, really), here is what I propose in light of these conflicting studies.

The Human Touch. How nice is it when you’re at the grocery store and someone hands you a sample of a new pasta sauce to try, and then tells you why it’s good for you? While some people may not want to hear about it from a promotions team, the fact that others at the grocery store are engaging in the same behavior and typically enjoy what they’re being offered gives marketers a tried and proven alternative. In many cases, no amount of technology can replace the convincing sound of someone’s voice. But you can always drive your audience to a tasting via digital media.

Target Your Audience, Even More. Marketers think targeting Hispanics is an easy, one-step deal, but remember that there are differences in preferences for each group: native-born, foreign-born and English-dominant. If we go one step further, each nationality has different idiosyncrasies. So, narrow down your audience (i.e. Mexicans in Chicago, Cubans in Miami, Puerto Ricans in New York, Central Americans in San Francisco, etc.) and find a tie that binds you to each by thinking of things that are relevant to your target group. Use social media sites and bloggers to create niche markets for your products and drive sales.

Think younger. The study tells us that as Hispanics get older they are less likely to be online. So why not reach the older population through their kids and grandkids who have to be online for work or school? The same way toy companies appeal to moms to get to kids, why not appeal to teenagers and adults for products that are for their parents and even grandparents? This is a culture that believes in taking care of their older relatives, so this idea wouldn’t be such a stretch.

As confusing as the Pew study may be, the reality is that nothing can replace human interaction. Still, the best strategy for reaching the Hispanic audience is to find the groups that are online and connect with them to reach others offline. It’s up to your marketing teams to come up with the best tactics to make your product or service a success.