Latin America Loves Social Media

In spite of the economic limitations, some of the happiest people are found on this continent.  Social interaction is an essential component of this happiness:  the close bonds and tightly knit communities give meaning to the lives of millions of Latin Americans.  The social mentality is easy going, affectionate and engaging.  People make friends everywhere and anywhere.

The personal boundaries on sharing information are in general quite loose. Sharing with friends and family is a daily ritual and one, which is more entrenched than in other parts of the world. Latin American culture is one of rituals and gestures, of sharing in joy and in pain, and expressing affection spontaneously in ways, which might be perceived as awkward by other cultures.

It is no surprise, then, that social media is growing exponentially as it services that most basic of needs, connecting and sharing.  Access to computers and Internet infrastructure in many Latin American regions is still lacking and there are still large chunks of population without access, but the increase of mobile penetration in Latin America should result in a boost to social network access.  Mobile phones and tablets continue to account for a growing amount of digital traffic.

Social media is also fast becoming an outlet for protest and expression, just as in other continents, not just for-against the political establishment, but also voicing consumer concerns.  Naturally, every country has web based opinion leaders, which are more or less vocal, more or less aggressive.  Some companies, particularly the local companies, have become averse to the open exchange with consumers, afraid of the negative comments and the exposure they might have, directly on their web as well as in opinion leader’s websites.

In this post I will basically share information from comScore Media Metrix service latest report and some information from eMarketer.

Latin America’s online population grew faster than any other global region in 2011, rising 15 percent to 129.3 million visitors in December 2011. The number of searches in 2011 increased 38 percent to more than 21 billion in December. With an average of 173 searches per searcher, Latin America leads the globe in search frequency.

The study found that out of the top 25 most engaged countries in the world, 7 of these are in Latin America including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and of course Brazil.

More than 127 million Latin Americans ages 15 and older visited a social networking destination from a home or work computer in April 2012,  a 12% increase, with the average visitor spending 7.5 hours social networking during the month.   Latin America will see an 18.5% increase in social networking users this year.  While this number is slightly below the worldwide average in growth, that leaves plenty of room for social networking to grow in the region, according to the latest eMarketer estimates.  By 2013, one-third of the Latin American population will use social networks.  Argentina has the highest rate of social network usage among the population as a whole (38%), followed by Brazil (31%) and Mexico (26%) according to this source.

9 out of 10 social media users use Facebook in the region, 1 of every 4 minutes spent online are also spent in FB.  It has 114.5 million visitors, an increase of 37 percent from the previous year, Brazil has the largest number of users. 41.5 million followed by Mexico with 28 million. followed with 27.4 million visitors, the users in this region represent 16% of the total traffic in Twitter and it also has one of the highest growth rates.  Twitter has already started selling advertising in the region and has set up offices in Argentina and Brazil.

Orkut ranked third with 25.7 million visitors coming almost exclusively from Brazil. is also a fastest-growing destination doubling its audience in the past year to 7.2 million visitors.

Pinterest’s audience increased eightfold in the first four months of the year to reach 1.3 million Latin Americans in April, (1% of the audience) up from just 153,000 visitors at the beginning of the year.

Entertainment sites grew 14 percent to reach nearly 97 percent of all online users in the region.

Online video viewing grew by double digits across Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile.

Online retail visits jumped 30 percent. Comparison-shopping had the highest penetration.  There is still a lot of doubt as to the safety of web transactions, but barriers are slowly being torn down with more sophisticated security tools and more education efforts directed towards the population.

Many companies have presence in the web with very stiff sites and unfriendly platforms; sometimes they are a replication of traditional media in web format.  Many companies use Internet simply as a way of complying with a “trend” but are far from incorporating social into their business model.  This is a very young continent, with exponential growth in Internet and social media penetration and consumers are way ahead of them.   Brands have yet to capitalize on the potential of social media and very engaged audiences.  In spite of all the similarities, there are great differences from country to country, no matter how small they are.  Regional and global brands need to take into account cultural differences by listening and identifying the unique wants and needs of each market.  And start doing it now.