I’m writing this blog entry here in my hotel in Bogota Colombia. I’m here speaking on social media marketing for an international congress on sales and marketing. I thought I would share some of the results from the research I had done on social media in South America:
South America and Mobile Social Networks:
South America ( and other regions like Africa and South East Asia )has the potential in my opinion to leap frog North America’s lead in the social media space with mobile internet applications. As more and cheaper smart phones hit the market here it will quickly ramp up the number of active users on social networks. North Americans have adopted social media primarily through the web browser on their computer, it wasn’t really until recent introductions of the iPhone, and smarter Nokia’s and Blackberry’s that we really began to network and create social media in a mobile fashion.
North Americas still working on un-tethering tehmselves from phone and cable lines. South American’s on the other hand have greater access to mobile networks than they do terrestrial internet connections. In comparison to Canada for instance mobile handsets in South America are more advanced and their data plans are more reasonable than those of companies like Canad’s Rogers Communications. When millions of people come online via mobile devices I believe that Latin Americans will be an important force and community in the social media space. Marketers, and application developers will begin to turn their focus on this massive market. (Thanks multi-cultural marketing maven Cindy King for this insight)
Social media adoption rate is growing fast:
South America has 132,385,340 Internet users as of Feb 07/09, with a 34.0 % Penetration Rate (World Internet Stats), and according to data from Comscore the use of social networking sites alone in South America has increased by 33% in the past 12 months bringing the total number of users to over 53,000,000 unique visitors to social networking sites. (There were just over 40,000,000 last year.) From an anecdotal perspective, my search on Twellow for users in Colombia, and Chile in particular in March 2009 showed very few businesses or professionals in that region using the tool. My recent search turned about hundreds of business tweeters who are now actively using the tool. (Twellow for Chile, Twellow for Colombia). One prediction I will make is that FaceBook will overtake almost all of the other social networks used in South American within the next 24 months. Even in Brazil where Orkut has a large portion of the population using it we have seen FaceBook go from almost zero market penetration to over 1,000,000 users in 13 months.
Marketing to and from South America with Social Media:
As South Americans continue to populate social networks and become adept at using social media tools they will have a very in-expensive and effective way to reach markets globally. Through Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube channels and dozens of other social media tools (that are free) Latin American brands and companies can begin to build some really social connections with previously hard to reach markets. If you want to establish connections and business in the region these tools provide the same opportunity. One of the challenges with doing business internationally is local competitors, they get to talk to your clients and foster relationships in a very personal way. With social media, it is now possible to be in contact and keep our brand and personal message top of mind anywhere in the world. From far away, you can have a very local feeling relationship.
When marketing to any international region using social media it’s not enough to just translate your blog, or twitter content. Think about regional cultures, business protocol and expected levels of formality as well. Find a local partner in the region (or with previous experience) and get their feedback on how your social content may need to be adapted; and then TAKE THEIR ADVICE.
Disclaimer: I consider myself a very enthusiastic social media amateur, I have only begun to understand social media and the opportunity it provides both for South American’s and those marketing in that region. I’m hoping that this week in Bogota, Colombia will provide me with more in-depth first hand knowledge of how Colombian (and other South American) marketers, entrepreneurs, and sales people are using social media. As I learn more I will continue to update this post with more stats and trend information. If you have data, anecdotes or information to share kindly post it in the comments section of this blog.