Like millions, Santiago follows his favorite shows - Pasión Prohibida (Forbidden Passion) and Corazón Valiente (Valiant Heart) - every night, in prime time, while using Twitter and/or Facebook. Latinos are the ultimate "multiscreen users" of this multiplatform moment.
Latinos use Facebook more than the general audience, Google+ almost twice as much, and Twitter 21/2 times as much. In a pattern seen here and throughout Latin America, they are more likely to own only a cellphone instead of a landline, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"It's just part of what Latinos are," says Manny Ruiz, founder of the social network Hispanicize. "Social media is the most perfect marketing tool for Latinos, because we're wired for that. Sponsors increasingly want to be part of the social-media strategy for their shows, part of a marketing team, with producers, writers, stars."
That's especially true with the telenovela, a kind of series we estadounidenses don't have in prime time. Novelas tend to run five nights a week, for six months, and then terminate. "That's a big commitment," says Peter Blacker, executive vice president of emerging and digital platforms at Latino cabler Telemundo, "but viewers make it." Telemundo is owned by NBC/Universal, which in turn is owned by Comcast Corp.
"It's astonishing to reflect," says David Beck, vice president/general manager of social media for Univision, "that our viewers watch 90-plus percent live."
A smash novela - say, Telemundo's Pablo Escobar : El Patrón del Mal (Pablo Escobar: Boss of Evil) - might play to an average of 1.7 million U.S. viewers (997,000 in the golden 18-49 age group) every night, less than half of the 3.8 million for a U.S. cable hit like USA's Burn Notice. But still, it's every night for six months, 100-plus episodes, with an avid, captive audience, not the weekly look-in of U.S. shows.
The Latino audience, about equally male and female, skews "about 10 years younger" than the U.S. prime-time audience, Beck says. "Advertisers know, and they're eager to leverage it."
No definitive metrics tell us whether all this tweeting adds viewers. "We're working to find that out," Beck says. "The whole industry wants to know. One thing we're sure of: It keeps an already engaged audience deeply engaged."
"Are you with us for Amor Bravío (Savage Love)?" tweets Univision. "YES here watching Amor Bravío, Univision's best novela," responds viewer Roque Lozada. Followers of El Rostro de Venganza (The Face of Vengeance) are tweeted: "Who do you think is the most mamacita [sexy] actress . . . ? VOTE NOW!" Telenovelas such as Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise) let viewers vote via Twitter among multiple possible endings.
"It's the cost of being in the middle of everything and wanting to immerse yourself in everything all at once," says Lizbeth Domínguez, 33, of Mexico City. She says via Facebook, "I watch different channels, plus all the popular novelas, while I'm on Facebook and Twitter."
Blacker says, "Social media are now part of scripting and development for all our shows. We're always looking for moments, plot points, relationships, we can amplify through social media. Our stars now understand that their jobs are not only to act in the novelas, but also to tweet to the audience."
Sometimes stars tweet in character. Patricia Navidad does, as Mimi de la Rose in Por Ella Soy Eva (For Her I Am Eva) on Univision: "How beautiful it is to read such solidarity on Twitter . . . truly, from the heart I thank you for it." Mimi may not exist, but she gives good tweet.
Aracely Arámbula, star of Telemundo's La Patrona (The Boss Lady), says by e-mail from Mexico City: "In the mornings I always say hello to my followers, and between shootings I always take photos to show them what we're doing. . . . I love them! Twitterland!!!!"
Univision has a five-night-a-week prime-time strategy. "Twitter Mondays" get the buzz started. On Tuesdays, viewers get a special question about the show. On Wednesdays, three of the best answers are put on the air. Thursday is a big thank-you and a tease for Friday's coveted Fan of the Week. All this traffic has an on-air floor manager: TV journalist Lourdes Stephen.
How does she find time for all this tweeting? Speaking by phone from Mexico City, the Dominican-born Stephen says, laughing: "Well, it's what I'd be doing anyway at night - sitting on the sofa, watching the novelas. That's what I grew up doing with my mother. I love tweeting. You have direct contact with the people who follow you. They can see you're a person like they are."
Santiago says, "Once you tweet the stars, they become your friends, and you start to love them personally." Among his closest superstar buds, he counts recently deceased Jenni Rivera and Mexican singer Ana Gabriel.
Are we dealing in stereotypes? Not at all, says Blacker: "It's a cultural difference. Latinos expect a personal connection." He points to a study titled The Hispanic Identity Project, by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, that found Latinos use social media to, as Blacker puts it, "create intimacy in the public space."
Joe Kutcher, a consultant in Latino marketing and author of the book Latin Link, sees obvious differences in the tone of tweets south and north:
"In tweets north of the border, there is a competitive, edgy thing going on. There's much less sarcasm and snark in Latino social media. It's more directly emotional, more down to earth, a reflection of the culture."
Some wonder whether, as the audience gets more English-speaking and older, this Latino social-media culture will disappear. "I doubt it," says Ruiz, "especially with its value to advertisers."
Kutcher, in fact, sees a reverse trend: "Our culture has been changed by Latino foods and fashions. What if TV and Twitter also become more, not less, Latino?"
Contact John Timpane at 215-854-4406 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter, @jtimpane.