Social Media in Latin America


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feisbucespanol 214x300 Social Media in Latin AmericaI am on vacation in Costa Rica! But I can’t get away from thinking about one of my passions – the amazingly rapid and widespread adoption of social media as both a communication source and marketing tool. For one thing, in this heavily toured country – Facebook “likes” and positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor are golden – and hotels and restaurants here are not afraid to ask for both. We even ate at a restaurants in seemingly the “middle of nowhere” and on the back of the only-in-Spanish menu was a “follow us on Facebook” request!

It happens that I have a lot of family down in Costa Rica (my father is a Tico) so the insights I got came from both my travels across the country and from real business men and women in this country. Many of my relatives work for larger companies (e.g., IBM, Convergys) and small companies – they own their own stores, run export/import businesses, are doctors, lawyers, etc.

When I was a kid coming here everything seemed about 10-20 years behind. When we had touch dial phones, they were still using rotary, we had a decently large color TV, they had small black and white. No one had a mailbox (they still don’t!) – people go to a PO box to get mail, etc. Then the cell phone hit Latin America in the early 2000?s and things changed. With limited telephone infrastructure, the cell phone became a huge opportunity to provide easy and relatively inexpensive communication options, without extensive infrastructure. Everyone got one.

Shortly after I would get the occasional email from a cousin, not much changed in terms of our communication. But now – I am connected to all of them via Facebook! They are my most active friends by FAR, posting pictures, sharing community activities, connecting with family and friends around the world. Groupon isn’t here yet – BUT – the Groupon copy is – they call it Yuplon! So like most other places around the world, the personal community side of social media took off fast! (Read more about Groupon copy-cats around the world here.)

The question for me, then, was were local businesses using social for marketing purposes? I took a survey. First, I asked the marketing manager (and cousin!) of the largest furniture store chain in the country if they use social. The answer? A resounding yes. She proceeded to tell me all about their integrated marketing campaigns that make full use of social. She rattled off the number of followers they have on Twitter and the things they were doing to increase their followers. They have a site inside of Facebook that includes their catalog, their promotions, their new collections, videos about the products, etc. They are starting to measure how social is working for them and have even started an in-store and online survey asking how customers learned about certain promotions and tracking actions based on social. It’s just the beginning.

Next I asked a small business owner -the owner of some local stores including a specialty store that sells bathing suits, exercise cloths and high-end dance shoes – they too use social to market the business. They have a “fake” person on Twitter (in this case not the store name but more like a virtual sales associate) who tweets specials, new merchandise, etc. They also specifically market special promotions via Facebook – in hopes to get more followers and to both share information about and to learn about different events (e.g., local dance recitals) where they can sell their wares.

Larger companies are also using Linked-in and local meet-ups and using Facebook, Twitter and other local social sites to recruit local employees. Costa Rica, like many other countries, has become an excellent source for educated (English speaking, highly trained) labor. I spoke to both the outsourcing manager at IBM who provides near-shore shared services to P&G and the manager for Convergys who provides services to Comcast employees – both from large call centers in Costa Rica. They also both confirmed the use of social media to recruit new employees for both their Costa Rica offices as well as for offices across Latin America. As with recruiting, many also confirmed use of social for promotional marketing, customer service activities and more. Another great example of the rapid uptake of social media in Latin America, our recently announced partner, Cap Gemini had us train their Guatemalan call center to use Attensity Respond and Attensity Analyze to service their global customers. The best part, their users tweeted about the training session – so for them, learning to use our products that both analyze and route/respond to social was a breeze!

So, in conclusion! For social, like around the world, adoption has been FAST in Latin America. Also, like the rest of the world, it is only the beginning! #PURAVIDA

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michelle deHaaff
Michelle leads marketing at Medallia, the leader in SaaS Customer Experience Management and has over 18 years of experience in marketing, branding, product management and strategic partnering in Silicon Valley. Michelle came to Medallia from Attensity where as Vice President of Marketing and Products she led the transformation of the brand and the products to be the leader in Social Analytics and Engagement. Michelle also led Marketing at AdSpace Networks, was a GM of Products at Blue Martini Software and worked at Ernst & Young as a CRM practice manager.


  1. Hey Michelle, I liked the article, I feel the same way sometimes that I am able to communicate easier with my distant cousins in South America easier than those that live in the states, funny how that is.

    Anyway, nice article.



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