You Don’t Get to 500 Million Amigos … At This Rate

Latin American businesses are less active on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites than their global counterparts. Why?

Social Network in Spanish


The Influence Project

Has anyone else noticed the relative absence of Puerto Rican businesses on Facebook and Twitter? The global research firm Burson-Marsteller has! According to its recently released Latin American Social Media Study, a mere 5% of Puerto Rican companies are leveraging one or more of the major social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or blogs). In fact, it was a trend across South and Central America. According to the study, only 49% of major Latin American companies have a significant social media presence, versus 79% of businesses worldwide.

Burson-Marsteller’s methodology wasn’t exhaustive–but it was significant. They collected data on the social media activity of the 20 highest-earning companies for eight Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela), examining a total of 160 companies. Only the Mexican companies met the global average, with 80% having a significant social media presence. Burson-Marsteller collected data from June through August of 2010, and defined “activity” generously–one post within the three-month span registered as being “active.” Even so, only four of the countries even broke the 50% mark.

¿Qué pasa? It can’t be that Latin Americans in general aren’t into social media; they are. Facebook has seen explosive growth there, as it has much everywhere. And the correlation between general population use and business use is not at all clear; Argentina, one of the leading regional users of Facebook, was the second-lowest scoring in the recent Social Media Study, with just 25% active. It can’t be, either, that Latin Americans have some sort of ingrained antipathy to discussing business on the Web. The recent study found that many companies were being mentioned by the general populace on Twitter–even when the company itself didn’t have an active account. The Latin American brands were simply missing out on the opportunity to be a part of the conversation.

We called over to SeñorBurns (whose name is apparent nod to that arch money-maker known world-wide), a company based in Madrid that develops businesses social media presence not only in Spain but also in Latin America. But its CEO, perhaps unsurprisingly, was in Venezuela (which has a stronger social media presence, at 75%). We’ll update when we hear back her take on what makes that country’s vecinos late-adopters.

In the meantime: Companies of the Americas, log on! You have nothing to lose but your dignity.


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.