latino social mediaImage by BV Style

For Vanessa Woods, having a Facebook page just isn’t enough. To satisfy both her personal networking needs and those of her small makeup-artist business, she has two Facebook accounts and two Twitter profiles.

“I’ve been using Twitter for about two years now. I logged on when it was fairly new,” said Woods, 26. “The purpose of Twitter is to update your status constantly. Facebook is better for pictures.”

Facebook allows Woods to nurture her family relationships, while Twitter gives her an outlet for her band-following, concert-attending alterego that is better known by her friends.

Despite her anglo last name, Woods is a San Diego Latina. Born to a Mexican mother and white father, she belongs to a rapidly growing demographic consisting of individuals who identified themselves as mixed-race on the 2010 census.

As a Latina and avid Twitter user, Woods’ social media usage reflects the results of a Pew Research study released late last year, which found that Hispanics use the 140-character microblogging and networking tool at a higher rate than either whites or blacks.

The Pew Research Center‘s first-ever survey to exclusively examine Twitter identified the social media Goliath as an important bellwether for social media trends.

“It is one of the most popular online activities among tech enthusiasts and has become a widely used tool among analysts to study the conversations and interests of users, buzz about news, products or services, and announcements by commercial, nonprofit and government organizations,” the study states.

The study found that overall, 8 percent of Internet users use Twitter. Segmented by race, 5 percent of whites, 13 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanics tweet. “Minority Internet users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white Internet users,” the study found.

Does this mean that Hispanics are more plugged in? That they are early adopters? That they are more Internet-savvy?

Not necessarily.

Walter Meneses, a San Diego market researcher who focuses on the Hispanic market in the Southern California and cross-border region, isn’t surprised by the numbers and says the explanation is simple: the Hispanic and black populations are younger than the white population.

“The Hispanic average age is 27. The general population average age is about 37. The new generation coming in right now is large percentage Hispanic and African-American. In San Diego, one of every two newborns is Hispanic and in L.A. it is two out of three,” said Meneses.

And young people of all races use social media more. The Pew study found that for Twitter, 18-24 year olds had the highest rate of usage, at 14 percent, with a corresponding decline as respondents’ ages increased.

Consistent with many people her age, Woods uses her personal social media accounts to follow celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher and Donald Glover, and bands, like the Foo Fighters and Say Anything. “I’ll comment on a celebrity to see if they will respond. And bands post things about secret shows and concerts,” said Woods.

This is exactly what Meneses has found young Hispanics, and young people overall, use Twitter for. “It’s something new, it’s popular. It’s popular among artists. If you want to find out where Madonna is, go on Twitter,” said Meneses.

Woods seems to be reading from a marketer’s play-book when she says she uses social media to get special deals from companies.

“Nowadays a lot of what I purchase is through exclusives,” said Woods. “If I get a special deal through Facebook or Twitter I’m more likely to buy it. It’s like a status thing — I was able to get this and nobody else can get it now.”

The lesson here is that social media is a great way to reach younger audiences, and since Hispanics are a younger population overall, online tools are something that marketers cannot ignore when trying to reach the Latino market.