Brazil was recently named the "social media capital of the universe" by the Wall Street Journal. A rapid explosion in Facebook use means the country is second only to the USA in terms of account numbers, while Twitter recently set up a major office there. And Brazilian users are among the world's most engaged, spending an increasing amount of time on social media sites.
In many ways, Brazil is the ideal target for social media marketers - with a young, socially-connected population who are happy to engage with brands. While Facebook use reaches saturation point in North America and Europe, it's still growing fast in Brazil. But why is this huge nation so obsessed with social media - and how can marketers take advantage of it?
According to comScore's 2012 Brazil Digital Future in Focus report, more than 46 million Brazilians are now online, with an impressive 97 percent using social media. This figure doesn't take into account the high number of mobile-only users, which pushes the figures up even higher.
After a slow start, Facebook has finally taken off in the country, with user numbers soaring to 65 million users in 2012, while the country is the second biggest market outside the US for Google's YouTube. It's also one of Twitter's fastest growing markets. Orkut might have been knocked off its top spot by Facebook in late 2011, but it still showed a slight growth of 5 per cent in user numbers that year.
Once they're connected, users are bucking the global trend by spending more time interacting on social networks. While globally, the average time spent on Facebook dropped 2% to 361 minutes per month in September 2012 (according to comScore) it rose by 208% to 535 minutes in Brazil. Visitors are also among the most active Twitter users in the world, as well as spending more time watching and sharing YouTube videos.
As well as the major players, Brazilians have also embraced smaller niche networks. ComScore also reported that Vostu (a social gaming site) grew by 338% in 2011, while Tumblr use grew by 206%. Badoo, a site that combines social networking with online dating, is hugely popular with more than 14 million users.
Alexandre Hohagen, vice president of Facebook's Latin America division, puts the obsession with social media partly down to Brazil's extroverted culture. It's common for Brazilians to strike up conversations in elevators, restaurants, and other public places. People have always loved chatting about TV shows, sports and the news. Now younger viewers are turning soaps and televised soccer matches into a shared experience, posting real-time updates to Twitter and Facebook.
In a country with a big rich-poor divide, social media bridges class divisions. Although broadband use is still patchy (and expensive), mobile phones provide a much cheaper way to get connected. Twitter has targeted mobile users since it first launched in Brazil. Given the lack of diversity in mainstream media, it's become a popular alternative for keeping up with the news and latest trends.
Celebrity culture has also fuelled the passion. Soccer stars such as Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (known as Kaká) and TV stars have built up huge followings. The New York Times even named Brazilian comedian Rafinha Bastos as the most influential Twitter user in a 2011 list.
For social media marketers targeting Brazil, this popularity opens up unprecedented opportunities. Not only do users love chatting to friends and following celebrities, they also engage with brands. A 2011 study from Oh! Panel found that 81% of social networkers used the sites to research new products, while 75% looked for discounts. Almost four in five said they were more likely to trust recommendations from social media contacts than other sources.
Major companies are tapping into this trend with imaginative marketing ideas. Coca-Cola scored a hit with its "happiness refill" campaign, targeting teenage users. And Bradesco, a leading Brazilian bank, managed to liven up its mage by poking fun at Facebook stereotypes in a series of mini-videos.
With a little research and imagination, social media can open up doors in the world's fifth largest nation.
(Picture by Gaby_bra)