Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tap into the Hidden Social Business in Latin America

Latin America is the second largest consumer of social media worldwide, becoming one of the regions with more digital potential for brands and agencies. According to the French social media monitoring and research firm Synthesio.
But there’s much more behind the numbers, combining them with some experiences in the area I realised how many social business opportunities are hidden in this area.

Social Media explosion in Latin America

Synthesio found out that in the area the level of social media adoption per capita ranks only second after US and Canada; it also ranks second as the highest consuming region of blogs: 61% versus a global average of 51%.

82% of Latin American web users use social media

Facebook relative dominance

With almost 100 million users in the region and 5 countries within the world top 20, Latin America’s leading country is Mexico, which also ranks 7th worldwide well ahead of countries like Canada, Spain, Italy, France or Germany. According to dosensocial, a leading social media blog in Latin America, Facebook stats as February 2011 are:

World rank:                Num users:

7          Mexico          21,560,720
12        Argentina      13,154,840
13        Brazil            13,012,220
15        Colombia      12,572,540
20        Venezuela      8,046,100

But how much influence Facebook has based on its penetration? Synthesio does this precision and the picture changes drastically:

Clearly at country level the influence one Facebook campaign can have varies widely from Chile or Puerto Rico to Brazil, which absolute population is far larger (195 millions) but with an scarce 8% on this network. On the other side 8 out of 10 Brazilians have Orkut accounts, representing over a half of this network’s users.

Twitter speaks Spanish

While in US or Europe Twitter is widely used for professional networking, Latin American twitters, equivalent to 16.1% of total Twitter users, are far younger; following mainly closer friends and celebrities and talking about a variety of topics from politics to social affairs to gossip. Since Twitter launched in 2009 its interface in Spanish, users speaking this language had multiplied by 7. By the way, the account @twitter_es has 4,298,261 followers, ranked on 14th place worldwide.

Cultural factor matters... a lot

Social Media users in Latin America show a clear cultural-driven trend. They maintain strong links with their local societies rather than following a common regional behaviour; Columbians, Argentinians, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Venezuelans…. don’t see themselves as a part of some “Latin American Unity” as frequently seen from abroad, trying to fit all them into the same box.

Consumers are 5 times more likely to buy on a site written on their own language, and this applies equally for Spanish or Portuguese languages. I’d go further: brand messages for social networks in Latin America need an extremely high localisation, even within the same language, same copywriting may have a totally different connotation in Temperley, Buenos Aires, in Polanco, Mexico City or even in east Los Angeles.

Great opportunities for European Brands and Agencies

Mostly young web users.- With an overwhelming 85% of social networkers ranging between 13-34 years, if engaging adequately, your brand has the invaluable opportunity to cultivate the loyalty of an extremely attractive market for its future.

Western culture influence.- Both the lifestyle and the models that most influence Latin American web users come from US and Europe. Since their behaviours clearly follow western world patterns, they are most likely predisposed to buy, adopt - and adapt european brands than consumers in the Middle East or certain regions of Asia.

Don’t overlook other networks.- Sonico and Hi5 were the region's leaders before the arrival of Spanish version of Facebook. But they still have deep penetration in selected countries, consider them on your strategies.

Latin American brands still have to catch up.- 53% of big Latin American companies are mentioned constantly on Twitter conversations, but very few have an official account to interact with consumers. In Colombia for example 86% of companies are mentioned on Twitter, but only 29% have account. Managed correctly your brand could easily gain valuable steps on the positioning ladder.

Poor Internet access, but…- It is true that Internet access in Latin America reaches only 34.5% of the population, but is still well ahead of other developing regions like the Middle East 29.8%, Asia 21.5% or Africa 10.9%. The answer is on mobile Internet connection, since region’s telecommunications leader América Móvil, main business of the world’s wealthiest man - Mexican Carlos Slim, and its rival - Spanish Telefónica are already considering 4G networks introduction in later 2011.

Social Media adoption at it’s best.- According to Synthesio and Nielsen social network adoption amongst Latin American web users is one if the highest, even Brazil alone surpasses, with 86% of adoption, the UK and US, both with 74%.

My initial intention was only to feature some interesting stats, but as I kept digging it was so exciting to integrate many of my direct experiences in this fascinating market. Is your brand / agency ready to conquer Latin America? Let me know!

Twitter: @DJVassallo

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