Is social media in a state of flux in Latin America?

With a growth of 10% per year since 2000, Latin America has become one of the most thriving regions for the expansion of the leading social networks. A main indicator of this development is internet penetration, which was at 62.3% in 2016, a significantly high number considering that the rest of the world makes up the average of 49%.

The challenge really lies not in market potential, as the region remains an important target market, but in the ability for the status quo to free itself from technological limitations. Here we take a look at the contradiction in a market is indeed blossoming but not without struggle.

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

The expansion of features on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube generally means brands get to reach great heights to promote and sell their brand and products online, and despite the huge gap between connectivity rates in countries like Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela, where internet access is still limited, Latin America is becoming one of the most important digital markets.

Social media has become a big part of life over here in the past years, as citizens spend 29% of their time on social networks, doubling North American users at 14%.

This social media boom has also been demonstrated by users’ participation and behavior. ComScore and Shareable revealed that videos in social media are increasing 67% per year. In 2016 more than 13 million of online interactions had occurred between users and brands on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This notable growth is due to mobile internet access, which jumped from 7% in 2010 to 58% in 2015. Besides business opportunities, social networks have found an enthusiastic volume of new audiences.

While Twitter, for example, is struggling to reach new users in regions like Europe and the US, Latin American users on the network increased 15% last year, a number significantly higher than other regions. Twitter has a surprisingly strong presence in Latin America compared to other regions around the globe, which should bring some relief to the company as it deals with serious recent losses and disappointments.

Meanwhile, Facebook engagement is huge in countries like Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. According to the information announced by the network on its first anniversary, Latin America won first place in the usage of engagement, or, more specifically, “reactions”, which were shared in more than 300.000 million Facebook posts worldwide.

 

Santiago, Chile

 

YouTube, owned by Google, is also looking forward to expand its territory with the arrival of new product offerings and has kept Latin America markets in its sights. Taking into account the growing number of live-streaming events like Viña del Mar Festival in Chile, Mexico was the first Hispanic country where YouTube Music and YouTube Red were launched. Colombia was the first country, along with the US and the UK, to offer the YouTube Gaming service which streams videogame contents.

YouTube’s influence on Latin American citizens has also gone political in Venezuela, since it has become the only platform to broadcast the American news channel CNN, banned by President Nicolás Maduro for an attempt to “attack” the country. But that’s not the only link between social media platforms and politics: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube also played a key role during the last presidential election in Argentina, leaving behind traditional media outlets in the battle for paid propaganda. In fact, current President Mauricio Macri won the election mainly because his party was able to adapt to the new demographic of online audiences.

In the balance between the expansion of business opportunities and a regional growth of internet access, social networks can find ​​new opportunities in Latin America by injecting entertainment into their branding and promotion mix.

The challenge for all the brands that want to step into this flourishing market will be to adapt to the wide gap underneath the high average rates. There are still a lot of cities, mainly rural, where internet connection remains unavailable and, despite high internet penetration, the quality and speed is below the international average. This is something companies hoping to make a mark and market share in Latin America must take into account when creating mobile and digital products, apps and services.