Social Media Marketing in Latin America

How Ideas Spread in the World’s Most Promising Emerging eMarket

Buenos dias, social media marketing gurus!

Ever since you first fast-talked your way into today’s hottest profession, you’ve been trying to stay abreast of trends while setting yourself apart. If you took some Spanish in high school, you may have done some research on a career trajectory that includes more sunshine, surf, and margaritas.

If so, welcome to Chainsaw Communication’s first in an irregularly published series of blog posts on Latin America, the world’s fastest growing social media market!

It’s true: The world’s fastest growing region for Internet penetration is Latin America, which had 299 million netizens in 2014, up from 159 million in 2013. And that’s less than half of its IRL residents.

More than 10% of the world’s online population lives in Latin America, and they are young (80% are 18-44), mobile, and enthusiastically addicted to Facebook. As an aside, Latin America is also the world’s fastest growing region in ad spend.

Social Media in the World’s Most Social Culture

As Latin America catches up to mature online markets like the USA and Europe, it is following similar patterns of Internet adoption: More online purchases, more travel bookings, and of course, more cat videos.

Gato Monoriel

Some things are universal

There are differences, however, most dramatically in the use of social media. More than 97% of Latino Internet users have social media accounts. (Compare that with around 70% of users in the UK, USA, and Italy; not quite 60% in Germany, France, and China; and 88% in Egypt, which the highest social media saturation of any non-Latino market.)

Moreover, Latin Americans spend an average of ten hours each month on social media, double the worldwide average. Almost all of that is on Facebook—with more than 200 million users and the lion’s share of time. Half of Latin American subscribers access Facebook on mobile.

No one is sure why the region has embraced social media so warmly. It may be linked to the “Latin Bonus,” that semi-mysterious phenomenon where, despite sometimes epic levels of crime, corruption, and poverty, Latin American nations always top those Happiest Country in the World lists. “Experts” studying said bonus usually credit a cultural emphasis on family, friends, and community (as opposed to long hours and expensive possessions). Which makes sense.

That love of socializing apparently translates into a love of social media. Here are the four biggest power players in the region.


Some 200 million active Facebook users live in Latin America, and they spend more time on the popular social media site than anywhere else. In Brazil, South America’s biggest media market, the average Internet user spends 155 hours per year on Facebook.

As one Gooibiz editor says, “Social media advertising on anything other than Facebook is probably going to be a waste of time. Why limit your audience to 10%?”

Neymar Jr with trophy

I’m kind of a big deal on the Internet.

Until the 2014 World Cup, Twitter enjoyed a respectable 5-15% penetration in Latin America, with Chile the only really mature market in the region. Then, during last summer’s games, Twitter hit an all time high of more than 618,000 tweets per minute, thanks to Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr.

Today, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and Mexico are among the fastest-growing Twitter markets in the world, and those numbers are accelerating at around 100% per year.


Latin America loves online videos. The vast majority of Internet users in Argentina (95.5%), Chile (91.6%), Brazil (85.9%) and Mexico (81.3%) watched online videos in 2014. Latin America is the largest market for YouTube outside the USA—and 60% of it is under 34.

If you want your social media campaign to pop with Latin America hipsters, make a video. Or, better yet, hire this guy to make your video:

Chilean YouTube phenomenon Hola Soy German racked up 28 million views for this video, made in his parents’ house, discussing (ahem) Twitter addiction.

The professional platform had “only” around 40 million Latin American users in early 2014; by comparison, the USA had about 100 million accounts, Europe 65 million. However, increasing interest and double-digit growth have convinced LinkedIn to project 150 million Latin American members by 2016.

If you want to connect with your Latin American counterparts, update that old LinkedIn profile, and start networking.

Subhead: Wait, Why Is Latin America So Tech-Savvy Anyway? That Doesn’t Fit My Cultural Stereotype of the Region!

Like the rest of the developing world, Latin America is in many ways more prone to early adoption than the so-called First World, because of necessity. Tech fills holes in infrastructure that simply don’t exist in the USA, Western Europe, and other developed nations.

Moreover, some 50 million families in the region have joined the middle class over the past decade; today one in three Latin American families is considered middle class. Companies like Barared cater to those who can’t yet afford their own computers with low-cost Internet kiosks in malls and other public areas.

Traditional infrastructure hasn’t kept up with this unprecedented development, but tech has.

For example, cellphone magnate Carlos Slim became the world’s richest person largely because Latin Americans had limited access to ground lines. Today, more than 400 million people in Latin America use mobile phones, 170 million of which are smartphones. There was a 45% growth in new users of smartphones during 2013.

No one in the Costa Rican capital would go a day without Waze, because there’s no other way to navigate its largely nameless sprawl of streets. Many other metro areas offer free phone apps to help locals and visitors, such as Medellín, Colombia. Bloggers are considered the best source of information on crime in Mexico. Latin American corporations rely so heavily on social media that services like TwiCVer can rewrite your résumé for ten tweets or less.


Waze is becoming indispensible Central America, where the streets literally have no name.

By the end of 2015 almost half of Latin America will have made an online purchase. Many online giants, however, even international behemoth Amazon, are just now getting into the market.

Subhead: Fascinating, But What Does This Mean For Me, A Struggling Social Media Guru who Barely Passed High School Spanish?

Breaking into the Latin American market can be tricky business, and success stories like eBay’s Mercado Libre are the result of partnerships with people who know the peculiarities of the region’s many countries and cultures.

For example, Robert Souviron, CEO of Despegar, Latin America’s largest online booking agency, expects that online travel bookings will make up more than half of all travel bookings in ten years, up from 20% now. Most industry trends are, as you might expect, similar to those in USA and Europe. With one huge difference.

Since capital has historically been difficult to secure in Latin America—even bank loans to, say, build a house—consumers have developed different habits and expectations. “Here, most people pay in installments. People are used to it,” explains Souviron. “We have a partner bank with whom they finance their [travel] purchase, and then, for example, you can pay in 12 installments.”

What US-based financial expert would have predicted that?

However, if you just want to stick your digital toe in those warm Caribbean waters, there are plenty of small steps you can take toward branding yourself in Latin America.

For example, make sure that reviews of your products are available online, preferably in Spanish and Portuguese. Some 67% of Brazilians and 73% of Mexicans look at online reviews before making a major purchase, even more for automobiles.

While banners and other traditional ads are certainly effective in Latin American markets, advertorial is almost certainly the best way to reach these blog-loving audiences. If you have a product that you think would work in a Latin American market, send samples to local bloggers and let them post a review.

Consider social TV campaigns—network television still has the most saturation of any media in Latin America, and some 60% of online Latinos watch while commenting on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media networks.

Finally, do more research! You can start here, where we’ll continue discussing different aspects of social media marketing in Latin America.

2016-10-21T11:03:10-05:00 By |Categories: Communication, International, Marketing|Tags: , , , |