“With Facebook and other tools, we can create a truly engaged organization”

-ANDRE ARBELAEZ, SVP & CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER at SOFTTEK USA

It’s a bit of an oxymoron. Hispanics are generally more tech-savvy than the general population, with nearly 75 percent owning at least one smartphone. They watch more online videos than non-Hispanics and lead the way in both e-commerce and social media use. But when it comes to self-promotion, the group lags behind.

Media outlets have recognized the trend and are capitalizing on reaching Latino consumers through social media, but now it’s time for Latinos to promote their own brands by leveraging those digital skills.

As president of the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC), Andre Arbelaez encourages members to build an online presence and get comfortable building their brand. “Many Latinos grow up hearing this message that it’s bad to talk about oneself. We work hard, we’re loyal, and we get the job done, but we don’t like to brag. In business, though, you have to get the word out about who you are,” he explains, adding that HITEC has become a de-facto third party that touts the achievements of its members on official online channels so the public is aware.

Often, Arbelaez says, public pressure can keep high-profile leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs from embracing social media. He helps manage HITEC’s online persona and knows just how important it is to get things right. “Those leading the online efforts for an organization have to be careful nothing is miscommunicated, especially when taking public positions,” he says. “If you make a slight left or right turn, you open yourself up for attack.” A group or individual’s image on social media is just perception, and users must manage the tools to ensure perception matches reality.

Although keeping pace with the ever-evolving Internet landscape is a challenge, it helps that HITEC has the CIO of Facebook, Tim Campos, on its board. Following some of Campos’s suggestions, HITEC has turned to reverse mentoring, through which veteran members and young leaders interact.

Arbelaez says the efforts have led to more widespread use
of Instagram and other outlets, and overall, members are using social media to stay connected with each other. “Sometimes, members only see each other face-to-face a few times a year at special events,” he says. “But with Facebook and other tools, we can create a truly engaged organization.”

More from the cover story: Hanging out with HITEC