The evolution of social media in Brazil

. Aug 25, 2018
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Brazilians are avid social media users, spending over three hours and forty minutes a day, every day, scrolling through their timelines. Social media has become so important in the lives of Brazilians that since last October The Brazilian Report has been discussing how they could interfere in the electoral process. But in this article, I don’t intend to talk about the political role of social media, but rather how it became such a central part of people’s lives in Latin America’s largest country.

Many believe that the era of social media begins with the arrival of today’s most famous platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter – but that’s far from the truth. Indeed, social interactivity and internet democratization are certainly linked. But Brazilians have been connected to each other online for a long time.

The 2000s: the era of Orkut in Brazil

In Brazil, commercial Internet boomed back in 1996, but its first social media experience came eight years later, with Orkut.

Orkut was a social network launched by Google (and named after the Google employee who created it, Orkut Büyükkökten). It was so popular in Brazil that the country accounted for approximately 60 percent of the network’s users. That’s why, in 2008, Orkut started being managed by Google’s Brazilian office.

At first, membership on Orkut was by invitation only. Way before Facebook, the website allowed users to share their profile, photos, and personal information with their friends – and join many groups (which were called ‘communities’). But then came Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, stealing Orkut’s market share and profitability.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This failure can be explained by three main reasons. Orkut was only big in India and Brazil. As a matter of fact, it was not making many efforts to improve user experience or release new products to maintain interest in the platform. When Facebook arrived on the market, Orkut was playing defense, implementing design changes and functionality to make it more similar to Facebook, such as its own version of the “Like” button. As a last resource, it started integrating popular social games, such as Farmville.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">From its early days, Facebook understood that making a cleaner tool was the key for a better user experience. And the strategy was spot on. Orkut could be hard to use and extremely slow when you got to customized profiles that loaded with videos or music. Also, Facebook profiles had far less depth back then, making it a very simple social network to use. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also, Facebook managed to create a news feed where people could be more and more engaged. Seeing a new post from a friend, an update to their relationship status, or a photo where someone was tagged, watching all of this seemed like a movie unfolding on your computer screen, and people ended up getting addicted to it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the end, Brazilians saw in Facebook an opportunity to restart their social media presence, with better options than they had on Orkut &#8211; which eventually, made them lose interest and abandon Orkut.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Today, Facebook represents what Orkut did before: a gateway for Brazilian internet users into the world of social media.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Brazilian internet landscape shows that social media users represent 62 percent of the total population, and 93 percent of the internet population. Also, Brazil is now one of the only markets (alongside Southern Asia) which can consider social media penetration as a synonym for internet penetration. Considering the continental aspect of the country, Brazil became a strategic market for any social media platform looking for international deployment.</span></p> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-7969" src="" alt="social media use we are social hootsuite" width="1024" height="576" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1920w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <h2>Brazil v. the rest of the world</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every country has their specific social media consumption habits. These are often due to cultural reasons, but can also spill over into economics and <a href="">politics</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In China, for example, none of the top Western social media groups thrive, despite an online population of 772 million people. The Chinese government has banned them from the country, leaving local players such as Weibo and WeChat to dominate the market.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Brazil, no platform is banned &#8211; but the social networks of choice do not exactly follow the same pattern as the rest of the world.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-7975" src="" alt="Stats Counter, Global stats. June 2018" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some platforms, such as Twitter, show a low rate of adoption in Brazil compared to the rest of the world. In opposition, social platforms based on photos and videos, such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and, to some extent, Facebook, are hugely successful in Brazil &#8211; in some cases, even more so than in the global market. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazilian users appear to be big video and image content consumers. That explains why Twitter doesn&#8217;t have the same amount of addicts. While on other platforms messages are directed to friends, family, or groups, Twitter is a human microphone. It is not the way Brazilians socialize culturally. </span></p> <h2>Impact on the advertising industry</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Social media has become a primary channel for the advertising industry. In 2017, American brands spent USD 16.5 billion on social platforms alone. In that same year, Brazil invested BRL 14.8 billion in the digital industry, with one-third of that being on display and social media. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brands and ad agencies began to understand the importance of social platforms in Brazil and how to make use of them. Indeed, advertisers have long seen social media as a simple extension of other media channels. For years, offline models and strategies were simply transplanted to social media.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Today, brands put social media at the heart of their strategy to generate awareness but also to drive business and sales. This year, Gol airlines celebrated its 17-year anniversary using Facebook as a unique promotion platform. The strategy was to increase brand awareness around the event but also to promote ongoing sales.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With an increase of 10 points on ad recall and 234,000 unique visits through the hotsite promotion in one day, Gol is a textbook example of how social media channels are the new place for advertisers to get attention for their clients and prospects.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last year, Casas Bahia, one of the biggest home appliances retailers in the country, decided to use complementarity between TV and social media for a promotion called “Consumer&#8217;s Week.” The brand adapted its TV content for the Facebook mobile news feed, which generated an increase of 12 points in ad recall and 26 percent incremental reach.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On a global level, in 2017, Adidas stopped TV advertising to focus entirely on digital channels, understanding that younger consumers engage predominantly over mobile devices, and therefore, on social networks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For mass communication, Facebook or YouTube are the preferred platforms, mainly because of their huge audiences and the length of time spent on each one. However, to communicate with a qualitative audience, a specific group of persons with a high return on investment, platforms such as Pinterest or LinkedIn are favored.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazilian internet access continues to grow, which will automatically increase social media access and advertising. Despite that, social network players still have challenges to face. This year has shown us how these ecosystems can be strong and fragile at the same time. Mark Zuckerberg had to address the U.S. Congress and admit how his company was used to tamper with the last American presidential election. It was the first time that social media has had to speak in front of a branch of government.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">User data privacy, fake news, mobile payments, or artificial intelligence integration will be points of attention for the next years relating to social networks. Advertisers will have to be more creative to communicate to the right people, to the right platform, at the right time. Indeed, users increasingly connected on a variety of platforms, and so, they may enter a new era, fighting for attention.

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Joao Citounadin

Joao works with advertising and has 6 years of experience with social media. He has worked for the Havas Group in different markets, from Europe to Latin America.

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