Brazil is one of the fastest-growing social media markets in the world. According comScore's "2012 Brazil Digital Future in Focus" report, more than 46 million Brazilians are online, and 97 percent of those use social media. Internet adoption has grown from almost zero to 88 percent of the urban population in five years. Soon it won't just be people in urban areas who are online: Between 70 and 80 percent of the population will have internet access by 2016, and work is being done to ensure it isn't just the richest in Brazilian society who benefit from new technology.
The dominant networks
We tend to think Facebook for social media campaigns, but until very recently, the dominant social network in Brazil was Google's Orkut (the result of Google translating the social network into Portuguese in 2005). Just over a year ago, Forbes reported that 90 percent of Orkut's page views came from Brazil, with comScore reporting that an average of 31.2 million visitors logged in from Brazil in 2010. What's more, Orkut is still growing -- very slightly (it had 5 percent more visitors in 2011, from 2010).
Undoubtedly, this is changing.
Facebook officially overtook Orkut as the most popular social network in Brazil in December 2011, and it's growing -- fast. Brazil is now the second biggest Facebook market in the world, with a staggering 51 million users. (To put this into perspective: The U.S. has just short of 156 million Facebook users, and India has around 50 million.) This is some achievement by Facebook: In 2009, logging on to Facebook was so rare that it wasn't worth trying to count the number of users.
Why are Brazilians moving to Facebook? There have been some complaints by users about a lack of functionality on Orkut, such as limits on friend numbers and difficulties with sharing photos or discussion threads. Some attribute growth in part to the exposure the network got from the film "The Social Network." And the ages are telling: The majority of Facebook users are under 24, so the overwhelming likelihood is that these numbers will grow as more young people join.
Facebook users are mostly limited to major cities, as 34 percent of Brazilian users are from São Paulo and 12 percent are from Rio de Janeiro.
But still, comScore reports that the majority of social media users (87 percent) are keeping their Orkut profiles, as well as creating new ones on Facebook. Could this be apathy or a genuine desire to keep both networks alive? Time will tell.
Google+ and LinkedIn are both growing in Brazil. In November 2011, Google hosted Brazil's first official Hangout, and since then Brazil has become the nation with the third highest number of Google+ users (although at just over 5 percent, it's still some way behind the U.S., which makes up almost 31.5 percent of Google+ users). The Portuguese version of LinkedIn opened in 2010, and an office in São Paulo followed in 2011, by which time it had 6 millions Brazilians using the site.
The ubiquitous Twitter has around 33.3 million users in Brazil, making the country the second biggest user of Twitter in the world (ahead of Japan and the U.K.), and user numbers are growing by around 40 percent a year. YouTube reaches a reported 79 percent of the country's internet users.
Despite this growth, Brazil-based brands have been relatively slow to create social campaigns. This could be down to nervousness on the part of the brands: A study by Forbes and Weber Shandwick revealed that 41 percent of Brazilian executives thought that the risks of social media outweighed the benefits. Perhaps as a result, engagement is still relatively low. But consumer demand might be about to change all that: A 2011 study by Oh! Panel reported that more than 61 percent of Brazilians search for product information on social media channels before making a purchase.
The most popular Facebook pages in Brazil belong to celebrities rather than brands. No great surprise that the most popular of them all is Brazilian footballer Ricardo Kaká, with 17,521,444 fans. (Next in line is novelist Paulo Coelho, with just shy of 9 million fans, and Brazilian TV presenter Luciano Huck with around 7 million.) There's a football theme here: Claro tops the Twitter chart in Brazil with almost 3.5 million followers for the @ClaroRonaldo Twitter feed, the result of a partnership with Brazilian football legend Ronaldo (not to be confused with Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo).
Brands are starting to make their mark. The brand page with the largest fan base is Brazilian soft drink brand Guaraná Antarctica with around 6.5 million fans, followed by Skol (5.8 million) and L'Oréal Paris Brasil (4 million).
Brand campaigns are still fairly heavily focused on gaining "likes" on Facebook, something that (as in the rest of the world) is likely to change as the novelty of Facebook wears off. But for now, we see campaigns such as Heineken Brazil's "1 Like, 1 Balao" ("1 Like, 1 Balloon"), which did what it said, turning "likes" into balloons for the office and videoing the office as it filled with balloons. The campaign got the brand thousands of new followers, but how these translate into sales for Heineken remains to be seen.
The sheer numbers in Brazil make it the world's social media darling. This may be a relatively new market, but it's growing fast, and it is, for me, the most exciting social media market in the world.
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"Brazil flag on thumb up gesture like icon" image via Shutterstock.