In the good ‘ole days before there was social media in Latin America, marketers would reach the average Latin American consumer through direct marketing alone. 

Take the U.S Department of Commerce, for example.

The Trade Administration’s recommendations on marketing in Colombia are solely fueled by direct marketing via print, TV, radio, newspapers, and other forms of traditional media. 

But this export.gov article is outdated (last edited in 2013… yikes).

That’s six whole years ago – when the iPhone 4 was still around, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” topped the charts, and Donald Trump was just the host of The Apprentice

A lot has happened since then, including Latin America’s shift from direct, tangible marketing to digital marketing and e-commerce. 

Social Media in Latin America: The Fastest Way to Reach Latinos Directly 

Latin America is seeing its brightest economic days in decades. Investment firms like Barclays Capital are forecasting that Latin America’s economic growth will outpace Asia’s. 

A recovering economy means a viable increase in poder adquisitivo (purchasing power) and, you guessed it, social media usage.

Overall, Latin Americans are more connected than ever before thanks to the growth of technology and internet connectivity.

In just 7 minutes, we will cover 4 pertinent questions:

  1. How many social media users are there in Latin America?
  2. What are the most popular social media platforms in Latin America?
  3. Which Latin American countries use social media the most?
  4. Is social media an effective digital marketing strategy in Latin America?

Let’s get started.

1. How Many Social Media Users are in Latin America?

According to a study on social media usage in Latin America between 2018 and 2019 by Statistica, approximately 84.5% of the Latin American populus are active social media users.

That means that of the 648,120,957 people who call one of the 33 countries Latin American countries their home, about 567,662,209 use social media in one way or another. 

For reference, that’s more than the United States’ and the Canadian population combined.

2. What Are The Most Popular Social Media Sites In Latin America?

social-media-usage-in-latin-america-by-platform

Where are these 500 million people spending their time online? Certainly, it’s not only to work or make a living –so, where are they scrolling

The most popular social media sites in Latin America are:

  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Instagram 
  • Twitter

Let’s break each of these down by usage and important statistics. 

#1 Whatsapp (Approximately 415 Million Users)

Whatsapp is the reigning champion in the same Statistica report: out of the 20,204 recipients, 64% used the messaging app. If the figure is projected to the entire LATAM population, it would encompass 414,797,412 people. 

This means that of the 1.5 billion monthly WhatsApp users, about 26% are from Latin America. 

Why is WhatsApp Popular in Latin America? 

  • Low Cost: It’s free to download
  • High Speed of Communication: Message arrival is instantaneous 
  • Free Phone Calls: Domestic and international calls are allowed using data or WiFi instead of using minutes as long as the other person has WhatsApp too
  • It’s included in the phone plan: As long as you have access to the Google Play or AppStore, you can easily download it. 

Full Disclaimer: Some studies claim Facebook to be the #1 most-used social networking site because Facebook acquired Whatsapp back in 2014.

We consider it to be a different platform on the grounds that social media and digital outreach strategies are conducted differently than on the traditional Facebook platform. 

#2 Facebook (Approximately 390 Million Users)

Facebook came second in a very close race, with 60% of recipients saying they used it. This comes as no surprise, considering Facebook is clocks in as one of the Big Four tech companies along with Amazon, Apple, and Google. 

This means that about 388,872,574 LATAM citizens use Facebook.

Why is Facebook Popular in Latin America? 

Basically the same reasons it’s popular elsewhere:

  • Entertaining 
  • Personal 
  • Convenient
  • Helpful in remembering birthdays
  • Serves as a point of convergence

The last point–serves as a point of convergence–is especially important in Latin America.

Just like social media played a significant role in the 2010 protests of the Arab Spring, Facebook helped mobilize protests against FARC by Colombians in 2008. 

#3 Youtube (Approximately 233 Million Users)

The video-sharing website came third with 36%–nearly half of the engagement that WhatsApp and Facebook receive. 

With more than 500 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s no surprise that about 233,323,545 Latin Americans tune in to stream everything creators have to say. 

Why is YouTube popular in Latin America? 

  • Free Music: It has every Latin song on demand (we’re looking at you, “Despacito”)
  • Stream TV & Movies: Mom and grandma watch their novelas for free
  • Access to Information & Education: Free classes covering anything from guitar to English to calligraphy are available in Spanish. These are especially useful for those who can’t afford traditional schooling. 

Did You Know? 

social-media-usage-statistics-in-mexico

As of June 2019, the most subscribed Spanish-speaking YouTube channel is Badabun. It’s a Mexican network of influencers who do different types of mini-series.

Some of their most popular mini-series are Exponiendo Infieles (“Exposing Cheaters”) and Mansión del Influencer (“Influencer Mansion”).

To date, Badabun has 42 million subscribers and 13 billion views on their videos. 

#4 Instagram (Approximately 150 Million Users)

Instagram is used by 23% of respondents, projected to be about 149,067,820 of the LATAM population as of late 2018. 

Like WhatsApp, Instagram is also owned by Facebook but serves a different purpose: only sharing pictures and videos (as opposed to status updates or album sharing).

Why is Instagram popular in Latin America? 

  • Free Advertising Tool: Many informal vendors use it for communication (if not paying for the ad boost)
  • Mobile-based: Logging on is easy–just tap the application screen. 
  • Younger Audiences: While most parents only have a Facebook account, their children are more active on Instagram. 

The last two points are also the reason why Instagram doesn’t have as much reach as Facebook in Latin America.

Because it’s primarily for mobile use, it misses out on older generations who only use desktop computers. 

Here’s are Some Interesting Facts for Latin American Business Owners: 

  • 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business
  • 59% of users in Brazil have used the app to purchase a product or discover a brand. 

#5 Twitter (Approximately 102 Million Users)

With a 12% penetration rate, Twitter is the least-used of the top 5 biggest social media platforms in LATAM. Nonetheless, it’s expected to reach 101.7 million Latin American users by 2020, up from 67 million users in 2015.

Why is Twitter popular in Latin America? 

  • Latin American users tend to be male
  • Political communication by state leaders
  • Direct contact to celebrities, usually soccer stars and other athletes

Following President Trump’s lead, many Latin American heads of state have turned to Twitter to build a bigger following and bridge the communication gap with their people. So, who has the biggest voice in Latin America?

Number of Twitter Followers of Latin American Heads of State (as of August 2019)

social-media-usage-of-latin-american-presidents
  1. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico) – 5.9M followers
  2. Mauricio Macri (Argentina) – 4.9M followers
  3. Jair M. Bolsonaro (Brazil) – 4.8M followers
  4. Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) – 3.6M followers
  5. Sebastián Piñera (Chile) – 2.2M followers
  6. Iván Duque (Colombia) – 914K followers
  7. Lenín Moreno (Ecuador) – 711.3K followers 
  8. Martín Vizcarra (Peru) – 597.5K followers 
  9. Evo Morales (Bolivia) – 565.4K followers
  10. Marito Abdo (Paraguay) – 315.8K followers

Bonus Social Media Platforms in Latin America: Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr

The three remaining social media sites – Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Tumblr – are used much less frequently than the rest, at 7%, 2%, and 2% for all of Latin America respectively. 

These figures vary depending on the country in question, but none of these platforms surpass the 10% mark.

There is only one exception to this rule: in the Dominican Republic, Snapchat has a 23% penetration rate (as opposed to 21% for Twitter). 

Why are Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Tumblr Unpopular in Latin America? 

  • Snapchat Overly Friend-Focused: Snapchat is mostly used by Millennials/Gen-Z to connect with friends 
  • LinkedIn Overly Professional: LinkedIn is for professional connections exclusively
  • Tumblr Overly Private: Tumblr is solely for blogging, and the number of followers is kept private 

Overall, the audiences for these platforms are very niche. 

But don’t worry! Those who have accounts in any of these 3 networks are likely to have other accounts in any of the top 5 most popular sites in Latin America. 

3. Which Countries Use Social Media The Most In Latin America?

social-media-in-latin-america-statistics-by-country

A country’s social media usage mirrors:

  • Consumers’ purchasing power 
  • The overall wealth of the state
  • Population size
  • Internet availability
  • Cell phone ownership availability
  • Cell service and data 

Now that we got that out of the way, it should come as no surprise that the country with the most social media users is….

#1 Brazil 

The country of Ordem e Progresso leads all of Latin America in:

  • The most social network users on a smartphone
  • The highest number of Facebook users 
  • Leading country of Instagram addicts 
  • The country with the most Twitter users 

Brazil dominates social media usage in Latin America due to its immense population (they’re the #6 most populous nation with over 211,000,000 residents). 

They also have a rising middle class, and due to its immense economic power, Brazil has slowly risen many out of poverty and increased their spending power. 

Still, even residents of poor communities use smartphones just as much as their wealthy counterparts. People congregate in the plazas of favelas to use Facebook in Brazil where the signal is strongest. 

In fact, social media has become so important in connecting Brazilians that they have catapulted the country to #3 on the list of countries with the most social media usage in the world, contributing 10% of all global time spent on social media. 

#2 Mexico 

Mexico, the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world (yes, even more than Spain!) comes second in our list of social media usage in Latin America. This comes as no surprise because it’s the second most populous country in the region (and the tenth most populous in the world). 

With 10.9 million users, La tri leads all of Latin America in the number of Snapchat users as of January 2019.

Nonetheless, Facebook clocks in at 81.12% as the most popular social media website based on share of visits. After Facebook comes: 

  • Twitter 
  • Pinterest 
  • Instagram 
  • Youtube 

Mexico’s population is rapidly urbanizing, with 78.84% of people living in cities and urban areas, and 21.16% living in rural areas. And, they’re also young–the median age across the entire population is 28.3 years old. 

Did You Know?

The U.S. has the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world (yes, even surpassing Spain, Colombia, and Argentina).

However, the different U.S. Hispanic market segments have varying levels of Spanish fluency. Check out our e-book to learn more.

#3 Argentina 

Argentina’s top-ranking social media platforms closely mirror the social media tendencies of the rest of Latin America:

  1. WhatsApp
  2. Facebook 
  3. Pinterest
  4. Youtube 
  5. Instagram 
  6. Twitter 
  7. Tumblr 

The meat and maté-loving country sees 9 in 10 adults between 18 to 34 years old posting on social media networks by the hour. Older folk aren’t left behind, with those over 50 years old owning a smartphone at 42%.

This could change with the highs and lows of the Argentinian economy, but technology and all its wonders will remain a must-have for many in the country. 

#4 Colombia

The coffee-growing, salsa-dancing Land of a Thousand Rhythms is not too far behind, holding spot #4 in social media usage of all Latin America. 

Colombians love to communicate: Facebook and WhatsApp are super popular, with 90% of internet users having an account on either platform. And they’re active too, with family group chats and professional communication taking place on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. 

Here’s how they break down: 

  1. WhatsApp
  2. Facebook 
  3. YouTube 
  4. Instagram 
  5. Twitter

Younger Colombians choose to browse for products or discover brands using social media as opposed to search engines. The number is rising too, with more and more people accessing the internet as the standard of living increases. 

Along with Brazilians, Colombians are concerned about data privacy, with 8 in 10 worrying about how their personal information is being used by companies. 

4. Is Social Media an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy in Latin America? A Resounding Yes.

The typical Latin American digital consumer tends to be young, affluent, and trendy. He or she (or they!) are likely to be aware of fashion, are savvy and independent, and increasingly connected. 

Social Media in Latin America is More Important than Email

It’s important to understand that social media marketing will bring more return on investment than email marketing due to social sharing.

On top of that, marketers should also know that targeted ads are typically okay for the average Latin consumer and that user experience and site navigation are of utmost importance.

Seriously, it could mean life or death for a new market entrant. 

Using Social Media in Latin American Market Entry

Generally speaking, using social media to increase sales and brand recognition isn’t rocket science. But it can feel like Mathematical Inverse Problem Theory if you’re analyzing Latin American digital consumers without a proper professor. 

Did you know that 83% of Latin American consumers view WhatsApp as a good way to contact a company and that 73% would say the same about Facebook messenger? Because we sure did. 

With Colibri Content, social media marketing in Latin America can be a success by using our proven social media strategies to make your brand shine in Latin America. 

Just start by contacting our team at hola@colibricontent.com to go over your strategies for future success in the continent. 






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