8 Things I Learned Speaking about Social Media in Brazil

In December I had the pleasure of speaking about social media and internet marketing at the FMB conference in Belo Horizonte in Brazil.

The conference was amazing – lots of very friendly and passionate people.  I had the opportunity to speak with a number of internet marketing and social media marketing people from Brazil and I learned a lot.

Here are the top things that I learned.

1. Facebook is Quickly Growing in Popularity in Brazil

In Brazil Orkut has been the main social network for many years, but recently Facebook has been taking over with triple digital growth.  According to a recent Comscore study Facebook has only about a 20% share.

Despite the fact that Facebook is still relatively small, the audience was extremely interested in getting more involved in using Facebook for marketing purposes.

2. Speaking LOUDER and  s  l  o  w  e  r  doesn’t help when people don’t understand the language.

Remember this.  I don’t speak any Portuguese, and when I didn’t understand, people would often speak louder and slower.  This doesn’t help when you don’t know the words.

3. Don’t Use Sarcasm when being Translated

My good friend and “the Smartest Man in the World”, Saul Colt learned this the hard way.

When speaking at the conference we were being translated.  It was a cool experience.  When other panelists were speaking or questions were asked we had headphones on to hear the English translation.  When we spoke it shifted and the Portuguese speakers put on head phones to hear the translation of what we were saying.

At any rate, back to the sarcasm.  Saul made a sarcastic joke about how his $40 a month music habit was a good replacement for his drug habit… and nobody laughed.  Afterward the translator came up to him and said “I have to apologize, but I think that I told the audience that you were a drug addict”.

Note to self – sarcasm doesn’t translate well.

4. Twitter is extremely popular in Brazil – The highest reach IN THE WORLD

According to Comscore Twitter’s internet user penetration is at 23% – this is the highest in the world.  The conference did a great job of publicizing the hashtag for the confernece to consolidate the Tweets around it.

I was told that it was even a trending topic on Twitter at some points.

5. Smart Phones and Cell Phones aren’t Mainstream in Brazil ($$$) – Yet

Apparently cell phone plans are extremely expensive in Brazil – especially when compared to average incomes.  I was told that some people pay as much as the equivalent of $400 US for their cell phones, which apparently is close to the average monthly income in Brazil.

In order for smart phones to really take off the infrastructure will have to support more cost effective solutions.

6. Brazilians are Really Friendly

Everyone that I met at the conference was extremely helpful and friendly.  The conference organizers went out of their way to make sure that we knew where to go and how to get around.

Even with the language barriers, people went out of their way to find us a translator or figure out what we needed.

The conference organizers, staff and Volunteers at the FMB were outstanding.

7. Even with Cultural Barriers Marketing Principles are the Same

Despite being in a different country with an entirely different culture, basic marketing principles still applied.  The same principles of marketing in social media that apply in the US also apply in Brazil and South America.

While in some cases the tools are different (orkut vs. facebook) the strategic approach to social media is still the same.

8. Different Views About Authenticity

One of the biggest marketing differences that I noticed was that there were different views between the North and South Americans about the importance of authenticity.

A question came up about whether or not artists and musicians have to manage their own social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc) or if the account management can be outsourced.

Both Saul and I felt pretty strongly that the artist should Tweet themselves.  People feel betrayed if they find out that the account isn’t legit.

Some of the Brazilians on the panel felt that it was perfectly ok to outsource and have ghost writers.

While this may have just been a difference of opinions on the panel and not specifically a North American vs. South American issue, I thought that it was pretty interesting.


  1. Hi… nice post. But, I don´t agree with the number 7… the social media marketing is not the same in US and South America. I mean, Brazil is part of South America but is a different market, a different culture, a different people… you know… is other kind of “conversation” in social media… maybe, using some principles of marketing but, definitely, creating new strategies and new rules!!.

    We (Latinoamericanos!!) thing that Brazil is a special case in the region. So…. I recommend you read about other countries and cases like Venezuela (my country!!) and Argentina, for example.

    Thx! for your post… bye!

    P.D. Hey! and sorry for my “english”… Yo hablo español!! 😉

  2. Regarding Facebook, I’ve long been annoyed that all of my wife’s family (she’s Brazilian-American) are on Orkut. I really, really don’t like Orkut. There’s nothing there, as though it’s frozen in 2000.

    Recently I managed to convince one of my nieces to join Facebook. Now a few of her cousins and several of her friends have also joined, and the numbers are growing. What makes a social network attractive and strong are the relationships themselves, and it was just one relationship that brought her on board, then many others after her. food for thought.

  3. I’ve been the last 3 years about four times to Rio, and I also was very impressed about my visits. Not only are the people so kind, and do they have a true multi-culture.
    On the business side Rio is booming, hence the organization of also top international sportevents like FIFA worldcup 2012, Olympics 2016 and much more!

  4. Miguel

    Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate the insight…. it is interesting to know that Brazil is perceived to be a bit of an outlier in South America.

    You are definitely right about the differences in culture with different expectations about how companies can connect with them. While I think that this leads to different approaches, I think that the basic principles of social media marketing – people are getting more connected online and brands and businesses can play a role it that – still applies.

    The “how to” is very different though.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.

  5. Adam

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story of how social networks spread….

    If I think back to the days when I was on Myspace and people started switching to Facebook after they lifted the college student email requirement I remember that it was one friend in Canada that convinced me to join, but once I got on I realized that many of my friends were on it. I think that it will be interesting to see if the country makes the switch to Facebook.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    – Krista

  6. Remco

    I wasn’t even thinking about the great international sporting events that will be in Brazil in the next few years…..

    You’ll have to plan a business trip when one of those events is happening 🙂


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