3 Insights About Social Media in Latin America

I spent the last week with our Brazilian 360 Digital Influence team and the bigger Ogilvy digital team in Sao Paulo. I learned a lot about that market and digital and social media growth across the region. Of all the stats and the discussions, there are three things that stuck out as important insights about the region

Here are the headlines from the experience:

  1. Brazilians are adopting social media faster than any other world market
  2. Orkut dominates in Brazil now but maybe not forever
  3. Mexico will erupt as the next big social media hotbed (after Brazil)


Supersonic adoption of social media
Here are some simple bullets that begin to tell a story:

  • Year over year Online population growth in Brazil = 27% as of June 2008 which outpaces the worldwide average
  • Brazilians are far more likely to use Social Networks and Blogs than the average global Internet user
  • 46 per cent of Internet active users (9M) in Brazil access and read blogs – (Recuero 2008)
  • Recuero and Zago’s (Forthcoming) study of the Twittersphere suggests “that Twitter is most used as an informational tool in Brazil, where values such as reputation, visibility, popularity, knowledge and information access are more important for users than social values such as social support.” (Comscore and Recuero)

Orkut dominates…for now
“Orkut (owned by Google) is the primary social network in Brazil – both reach and usage metrics outstrip all others .  8 out of 10 online users in Brazil visit Orkut” (Comscore)

The numbers speak for themselves – this is Orkut’s magic market worldwide. As Friendster is to the Phillipines, Orkut is to Brazil and Portugal – highly relevant. But can an installed base and the fear of Google keep them entrenched? Plenty of digerati I spoke to commented about users migrating to Facebook. They felt that Orkut was a little too “lowest-common-denominator” in terms of its feature-set. As Facebook grows worldwide, offering a global social network to be a part of, it may lure bilingual Brazilian influencers away from Orkut (no one ever leaves a social net, it just loses our attention).

Mexico will erupt with social media
The second largest population in the region – 110 million – Mexico has 25% of the population or 27.5 million connected with slightly higher percentage of braodband users than Brazil(4.4% or 4.8m). Most of my feeling about Mexico as a fast growth market in digital and social media is based upon the overall business potential for the country that Ogilvy colleagues in the region see. Certainly the recent H1N1 incidence was a setback. But I hope not a serious one. The country is far more sophisticated than western news reports about drug crime, disease and pverty would reveal. Like Brazil, I think we will all be suprised by how fast digital and social media grows inside Mexico. One of my team’s core strengths is global, cross-market work. A lot of big brands are trying to expand their experience from one market to another. They may get experience in Europe or the US but quickly want to bring that experience into mexico, Brazil and other markets around the world. The drive to use social media is coming from global brand HQ as much as perhaps from the region, itself.

 Datapoints on MEXICO (from Globotrends)
MX – 109,955,400 population – Country Size: 1,967,138 sq km
Capital City: Mexico City – population 8,658,576 (’07)
27,400,000 Internet users as of Dec/08, 24.9% penetration
4,804,282 Internet broadband connections as of Sept./07, 4.4% p.r

Datapoints on Brazil (from Globotrends)
BR – 196,342,587 population – Country Area: 8,544,418 sq km
Capital City: Brasilia – population 2,314,172 (’07)
67,510,400 users as of Dec/08, 34.4% penetration, per ITU.
6,788,100 Broadband subs as of Nov.26/08, per ITU, 3.5% p.r.

See my blog for additonal posts in my Latin America trip