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Social Media and The Latin American Market

It is an incontrovertible truth that social media usage is growing at an unimaginable pace. People can now connect in a digital space that transcends physical limits and companies can reach and interact with a wider audience in ways never before possible. Within the global social media context, Latin America accounts for a large and increasingly important portion of the market with Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina leading in Facebook and Twitter penetration and video based media engagement. However, the social media boom in Latin America is indicative of inherent cultural attitudes in the region which afford new marketing opportunities. Now more than ever, companies should take advantage of social media and an audience eager to listen.

“Brazil is Facebook’s second largest market behind the US” 

Latin America is one of the largest growing populations of social media users in the world. From June 2011 to June 2012, the number of Facebook users in Latin America grew an astounding 47% from 116 million to 168 million with Latin America and the Caribbean making up 19% of the world’s Facebook users.However, the biggest South American markets are those of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. Brazil (34.88%) and Mexico (36.89%) fall into the top ten countries globally with the highest Facebook penetration percentages per population and Brazil is Facebook’s second largest market behind the US with 65 million active usersArgentina dominates in Twitter usage globally with 15% of the population being active Twitter users (Brazil and Mexico round out the top 10). This enthusiasm for social media in Brazil and Mexico is explained in part by cultural inclinations that bely the Latin American market’s receptivity to social media.

As Facebook’s second largest market behind the US by number of users, Brazil possesses an exceptionally voracious appetite for social media powered by existing cultural attitudes. One such example of the power of social media in Brazil is the transformation of local Brazilian internet sensation, Michel Télo, to international superstar for his viral YouTube hit “Ai Se Eu Te Pego.” ComScore research has also shown that Brazilian users spent 41% more time on Twitter in 2012 than in 2011. Reflecting on the nation’s fixation with social media, Alexandre Hohagen, Facebook’s Latin American vice president, commented that Brazilians’ chatty and hyper-social culture creates an interconnected and inclusive population obsessed with sharing experiences, thoughts, and feelings as evidenced by Brazilians being the most active on social media when they are watching soccer matches and soap operas.

“Mexico is the fourth fastest growing market in the world for social media usage” 

Comparably, the popularity of social media in Mexico may be explained by its similar function to the nation’s traditional site of exchange: the town plaza. eMarketer points out that in Mexico, the plaza is the historical meeting place and center of commerce and cultural life. Social media therefore supplements established Mexican cultural social gathering practices online. Despite infrastructural limitations owing to slow economic growth, Mexico is the fourth fastest growing market in the world for social media usage behind India, Indonesia, China, and Brazil. In this important emerging market, not only are nine out of ten Mexican social media users active on Facebook but they are especially avid consumers of video based media.  Overall, Latin American audiences are continuing to log more hours on social media and user populations are growing exponentially.

The social media explosion in Latin America has led to significant regional investments in social media marketing. According to eMarketer Inc., spending on online ads in Brazil will double to $4 billion by 2016 and Zenith Optimedia estimates that Brazil will add $5.6 billion in additional ad spending which exceeds the projected totals for India, Russia, and Indonesia. Twitter recently opened an office in São Paolo to gain a foothold locally and regionally. Similarly, a successful 2011 social media campaign for the Renault México Stepway led to the company increasing it’s digital marketing budget by 60% for 2012. Despite the proven success of digital and earned media advertising techniques, there remains an absence of smaller companies with a social media presence.

“Latin America still falls behind the global percentage of companies with a social media presence”

In a global context, Latin American companies are slow to capture the social media market’s potential. The number of Latin American companies using at least one social media platform has grown significantly with Argentina more than doubling its percentage from 25% to 64% from 2010 to 2012 and with other countries, save Mexico, growing across the board. Interest in corporate Twitter presences is exceptionally high in Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela where the number of followers has skyrocketed (more than 100% in the former two countries) and Facebook fan followings in the region have followed suit. Nevertheless, Latin America still falls behind the global percentage of companies with a social media presence and therein lies a missed opportunity to grow a loyal following of customers.

All the figures point to the inevitable; social media is becoming the next big outlet for advertising and integrated marketing. Based on the culture of communal sharing, the Latin American market is hyper-receptive to social media marketing and yet remains a resource that has yet to be tapped. Many companies still do not feel hard pressed to develop their social media presence but now is one of the best times to seize the opportunity to create and cultivate a loyal customer base. This will lead to more meaningful and long lasting relationships with clients.