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How to build and grow a Hispanic Social Network: the case of

Posted by Elena del Valle on April 12, 2008

By Jean Derely


Jean Derely, founder,


Social Networks matter

The recent acquisition of by AOL confirms the trend that Social Networks matter. Internet users love to explore Social Networks more than any other website. They are ready to reflect their views, ideas and even personal life on it. The user’s commitment to the Social Network brand is huge and they record an average of 35 page views per visit. Bebo is not juicing money yet, but eMarketer forecast a 200% growth on advertising dollars spent on Social Networks in 3 years from now. Also Social Networks open the opportunities to traditional Media to engage their auditors and make the experience more interactive. Social Network is today a part of everyday Internet Life.

Hispanics Social Networks

In our Hispanics world, QuePasa has been an early player in 2000. They have had a fast growth supported by heavy advertising. Then Hi5 launched and gained much attraction. It has been followed by Fotolog, MySpace Latino, MetroFlog, Hispanito, Sonico and several others. Those portals have multiplied their traffic up to 10 times in 2007. The recent launch of the Terra social platform tells that traditional Hispanics portals want their piece of the cake. The space seems crowded but Hispanics Online are coming in masses and the Social Network market is still fragmented. The battle for leadership is in its early stage.

How to grow a Hispanic Social Network

Early 2007, while signing-up to several social networks, I had a tough time understanding the concept, getting friends to connect and browsing the tools available. On the other hand, I liked very much the concept of Fotolog and Metroflog, but I could not effectively manage my social life on those platforms. So I decided to build my own social network.

I founded Hispanito with the “users” in my mind. I launched the platform in March 2007 and today we have 56,000 registered users, 150,000 unique visitors and 6 millions pages viewed per month. The project is self-founded.

So how did we grow?

Back to the basics: Social Networks are all about Users. Social Networks are like virtual bars where people do their social life. They have their friends here and they come to meet with new people as well. Like any other social interaction, they first look at each other through the profiles, then they explore and exchange quick sentences, eventually they share personal information and pictures. They allow each other a deeper access to their private life. They finally establish durable relationships.

If you create a Social Network, you have to keep the following in mind while building your platform:

  • First, define your target and buy a good domain. Work hard to get a position in Google.
  • Then, build a simple sign-up process. Do not fool your users; do not steal their e-mail contacts ever. Good relationship with the users is the backbone of success.
  • Give your users a total control on their profile and privacy settings. Their online Space will be the focus of their Internet life.
  • Be pro-active and administrate the communities. Interact with the users and get feedbacks.
  • Focus on the “environment” and the “theme” of the site. Features are a nice-to-have but, in our experience, they have not resulted effective. When adding new features, your main challenge should be keeping an outstanding usability in the website.
  • Do not “buy” new users with advertising, those users will not share their personal data and will not be engaged. For us, this strategy resulted expensive and useless. Always concentrate on retaining your users.

Jean Derely was born in France in 1976. He led the expansion in Mexico for Forrester Research, a leading research firm in Marketing and Technology. In 2007, Jean and his partners in India launched , a fast growing social network targeting the Hispanics in the USA and Latin America.