Several months ago in this column, I had a announced a series of profiles dubbed “150 Puerto Ricans,” an ongoing project to bring attention to a number of leaders on and off the island who were poised to transform the Puerto Rican narrative in the coming years. For a number of reasons, I decided to delay the project. And it was only in the last days of 2013 that I was able to find a way to formally start the project, which I am formally debuting today. The idea was — as it is today – to focus on disruptors. But one major tweak to the idea is to focus on technology disruptors – that is, Puerto Ricans working in the many different precincts in the world of technology because technology done right might have the effect of accelerating change. So it is fitting that I launch my new blog series, on the first day of the New Year, with a nod to Lance Rios, best known for his work as founder of the “Being Latino” community.
If you have been following Lance and/or Being Latino – a community that boasts more than 700,000 followers in Facebook groups – you may know about his gradual and steady climb as a social media influencer, and his work and status in the Latin American community has caught the attention of major brands. But he has also steadily been diversifying his portfolio of assets and services, helping to launch a creative studio (DigiBunch) and securing equity stakes in Latina Mom Bloggers (a network of 500 writers) and Hispanicize, the fast-growing media-and-events company led by Manny Ruiz. With the four companies behind him, Lance is now in discussions with brands and agencies that see an opportunity to innovate with an integrated approach to social media “that goes beyond PR.” “People are beginning to get it,” said Rios. The mix of services that Rios bring to the table is helping them understand.
As someone who has helped to educate marketers on the unique ways that social can mix creative, engagement, and distribution, I can confirm that marketers are just beginning to get it. And from where I sit, Rios looks well positioned to win big in the inevitable market that will emerge for integrated social communications. Three reasons why:
Rios has demonstrated an uncanny ability to grow community. The 700K followers on FB are, of course, nothing to sneeze at, but a more interesting metric is the level of engagement. Engagement — measured according to how much people actually speak with another — in the Being Latino Facebook groups hovers in the 25% range, more than double the average, says Rios. The success – which is one of the reasons marketers are watching Rios – was built on many experiments, iterations, and thoughtful tweaks to the Being Latino experience, an approach that Rios learned early in his career, from his early days as an intern at Warner Music after college at Bowling Green. Rios – born and raised in Cleveland Ohio to Puerto Rican parents – grew up in the marketing biz working with some of the industry’s best pros.
Second, I am betting that his new portfolio will in fact make a difference. Rios confided that the four entities – Being Latino, DigiBunch, Hispanicize and Latina Mom Bloggers – are looking to build “something on the back end” to truly integrate their offerings. It’s one thing to help marketers understand the new opportunities for integrated communications, but it’s quite another to actually offer them a platform that enables them to do it. By choosing to develop as a parallel entrepreneur rather than as a serial entrepreneur, Rios may have found a way to effectively leverage his different interests.
But just as important is the opportunity for many marketers – who, again, are only just beginning to understands what integration really means – to do this work in the Latino consumer market. As Rios and others are always ready to point out, Latinos over-index in social and mobile channels. If marketers are feeling the urge to experiment with integrated campaigns, but want to hedge their bets, a smart approach would be to start with Latinos. Upshot: experiments with Latinos could lead the way for even larger experiments. In the meantime, Rios will be ready. Just one month this side of 30, he has many more years to look forward to as one of the Latinosphere’s most interesting innovators.