The Money Don’t Mean a Thing

July 20, 2009


One particular blog entry stood out to me on, which stated that according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Brazilians pay highest cell phone bills in the world.

The typical Brazilian citizen spends an average of $ 107.00 per month on a cell phone.  This amount is equivalent to U.S. $ 44.20.

The log also went on to point out that:

  • In Brazil, the price of a basic monthly mobile package – includes ONLY 25 calls per month and 30 torpedoes (SMS messages) –
  • In Brazil, in 2008, the cost of local cellular minutes in peak hours was $ 0.92 (Germany the average cost was only $ 0.06).
  • The average Brazilian pays above the global average for use of their phone to connect to the internet due to taxes, which in some states constitutes 40% of the overall bill.

Surprisingly, despite the atrocity of this data,  mobile phone companies are STILL increasingly targeting the slums and shanty towns of cities such as Rio and São Paulo in search of new customers.  In fact, 1.3 million NEW mobile phone users were registered in January 2009 alone–bringing the total number of users in Brazil to 151.9 million out of a total population of 190 million.

Economically, I do not understand how it is possible to get so many mobile subscribers given the cost analysis of these devices.  Nevertheless, the data proves that regardless of the cost the people of Brazil as well as around the world Want, Need and Live by their mobile devices and will not regress from it despite the cost.

A brand that is looking to promote their goods or services could very well use these stats to help them implicate the use of social media to reach the people of Brazil.

A Brand can take this information as a clear sign that as telecommunications continues to expand throughout Brazil and the rest of South America so will the opportunity for mobile media marketing campaigns.

Brands may also want to consider how they can use social media platforms to assist in making access to information about their products and services FREE to the people of Brazil.

For instance, when Nokia began launching its celluar phone to the people of Brazil, the phone came with music service that allowed the purchaser to download tracks unlimitedly for one year as part of a  purchase incentive.  Read more about that here.

Check out this video which describes the concept of the Free Generation.


Engaging a Virtual Community

July 19, 2009

Brazilian consumers spend an average of 19.3 hours online for personal use versus 9.8 hours watching TV, according to a study released by Deloitte. According to Internet World Stats, sixty-seven million Brazilians now have internet access, which is approximately 34 percent of the population. A large number of Brazilians access the Internet from Internet Cafes and online gaming cafes, and they are also more likely to use Social Networks and Blogs than the average global Internet user.

Brazilians are also incredibly community oriented, so Social Networking caught on fairly quick in Brazil because of its relevance to their everyday life. Although Brazilians are some of the most outgoing people, they are quite cautious when meeting others and inviting them into their inner circle.

With an abundance of web activity on social networks in Brazil, it’s not hard to see the advertising potential for companies that know how to engage the audience successfully. It is not enough to simply target Brazilian consumers where they spend their time online. Because Brazilians are engagers who strongly believe in community, it is also important to create a platform that is interactive and encourages two-way asymmetrical communication, which ties into key elements of their culture. A simple display ad would not work, particularly in the realm of social media.

Amanaiê, the Brazilian leader in creating social ads — product-based apps that work inside social sites such as Orkut, seems to have found a formula that works.  The Sao-Paulo based startup has already worked with some major market players such as Yahoo! Brazil and Universe Online, the country’s top internet portal.

Amanaiê founder Gilberto Junior describes the concept:

Gilberto Junior

Gilberto Junior

“We address the problem of the lack of relevance in display advertising. We believe advertising can be more engaging and it can be where people already are, instead of trying to take them out of there and lead them to some kind of advertising website. “

The Orkut apps drive traffic for the portals.


Bolao BBB9, an application designed for fans of the  popular Big Brother Brazil reality television show, was created to run on Orkut, Brazil’s most popular social network. The application displays each week’s remaining contestants and engages the user by allowing them to guess the winner and loser in advance. They can then compare their answers with those of other players on Orkut. Users are ranked by their cumulative scores. The application also features photos and news about the contestants for fans.

This case was successful because it:

  • Understood the target audience’s motivation for using the tool.
  • Empowered the target audience through engagement.
  • Kept the target audience in their community, without prompting them to go to another site
  • Reached the target audience in a familiar environment (a community where they were surrounded by virtual  family and friends)

Gilberto continues:

“Digital advertising is changing. Digital display ads are working less and [becoming] less relevant over time. The new digital media is that one that engages the costumer —The advertising that is so relevant that the user wants to install it on their public personal profile on a social network.”

After all, Facebook apps summed are making more money than Facebook itself.

Incorporating Social Media into Efforts to Boost Tourism

July 19, 2009

brandWhile conducting research on Brazil this week and thinking of an upcoming trip, my thoughts turned frequently to the country’s tourism industry. Despite a high level of social media usage among its residents, and a visually appealing, content-rich online presence, Brazil’s official tourism efforts seem to make a limited use of social media at this time.

When planning a trip to destinations near or far, many travelers turn to the Internet for information first. Although guidebooks are portable and relatively compact sources of information, a few clicks and keystrokes can deliver a universe of information right to someone’s desktop or hand-held device in seconds. In addition to provider-generated content, sites such as TravelAdvisor, Frommers and Fodor’s have resulted in online traveler communities rich with user-generated content on destinations around the world. Travelers turn to these sites not only to get basic information about their destination and its attractions, but also to get the inside scoop from others on what a hotel or neighborhood is really like, which restaurants are not worth stepping into and what attractions should not be missed.

Social media tools add another dimension to this, with blogs providing more detailed insight into specific locations, photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa enabling anyone to share their travel photos and Twitter enabling travelers to share real-time information about trip events.

The hospitality industry has taken notice, and government organizations responsible for tourism, such as Brazil’s Tourism Board (EMBRATUR) have taken steps to include social media tools as part of their strategy to boost tourism to their countries as well as internal tourism opportunities for locals. Unfortunately, this is not evident without some searching.

A series of videos produced as part of the Brasil Sensacional! (Sensational Brazil!) campaign showcase the country’s stunning beauty. In addition, the country collaborated with the Green Living Project (GLP) as part of the GLP’s efforts to document sustainability initiatives in selected locations in South America earlier this year.

Unfortunately, it seems to stop there and the connections are not readily apparent after a visit to the Tourism Board’s site. (If there are, they did not easily turn up on searches of Orkut, Facebook, Twitter or Google.)

As a potential visitor, I was surprised that I could not find much government-generated social media content beyond the videos posted on the Tourism Board’s YouTube channel, particularly considering the popularity of social networking applications in Brazil.

Brazilian site PoliTweets tracks politicians using Twitter.

Brazilian site PoliTweets tracks politicians using Twitter.

Although virtually unknown in the U.S., Google’s Orkut social network dominates the Brazilian market—holding 79 percent of it. A Comscore report shows that Orkut enjoys a 79 percent market share in Brazil. (Only 1 percent of Brazilian internet users are on Facebook, according to the Comscore data.) A June 2009 Sysomos study states that Brazil is the fifth-largest nation of Twitter users, with about 200,000 users. And it’s not just Marisa in Sao Paolo using Twitter—it’s also President Ignacio Lula da Silva, 17 senators, 46 federal congressmen, 11 state congressmen and 39 councilmen, too, according to Brazilian site PoliTweets. (Brazil also has the highest percentage of users of all of the non-English speaking countries polled in the Sysomos study.)

Comscore reported that Brazil has the world’s second most engaged social networking audience, after Russia. A study released by Deloitte states that Brazilian consumers spend an average of 19.3 hours online for personal use versus 9.8 hours watching TV. Approximately 67 million Brazilians (or 34 percent of the population) have internet access.

So, given the popularity of social media in Brazil, I was surprised to find so little official use of social media for tourism purposes. The posting of videos on YouTube seems like a step in the right direction, but as it seeks to expand and enhance its tourism industry, Brazil might find that travelers like that personal connection that other forms of social media offer.

Despite the high incidence of personal use of social media applications in Brazil such as Twitter and Orkut, and some references to Brazilian tourism in a handful of blogs, it seems as if there is still much room to expand. For example, the Brazilian tourism portal does not include links to Twitter (for something as simple as weather or event updates throughout the vast country), Orkut and Facebook (for internal and external fans and potential visitors to post feedback and photos) or a tourism blog.

For now, the country’s limited use of social media does not seem be hurting it, though.

Official Brazilian tourism website provides information for visitors.

Official Brazilian tourism website provides information for visitors.

In a statement at the Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Florianopolis in May, Tourism Minister Luiz Barreto said that more than 5 million foreigners visited Brazil last year, spending almost $6 billion dollars in the country in 2008, an increase of 16.8% more than the amount spent by foreign travelers in Brazil in 2007. Barreto stated that in addition to visits from other countries, that the country has potential internal market of 100,000,000 tourists, with Brazilians now sustaining 85 percent of tourist activity. (Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world, extending over 47 percent of the geographical area of the South American continent and a population of nearly 200 million.)

The country is investing heavily in its infrastructure (about $304 billion) and is paying considerable attention to its tourism industry, particularly as it prepares for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and seeks to host the 2016 Olympics.  Ample opportunities exist for infrastructure developers and those affiliated with the hospitality industry to not only expand their bricks-and-mortar businesses, but also to use social media to communicate about their services—and for the Tourism Board to communicate about activities and events in real or near-real time. Dispatches from Rio’s carnival or the World Cup, anyone?

Perhaps their future efforts to expand tourism include expanding their use of social media?

Do You Orkut? Looking beyond Facebook for tips for getting brand attention in Brazil

July 19, 2009

I never ventured into the social networking world until Facebook reeled me in. It was unavoidable, a requirement for one of my graduate school classes on social media. I slowly dipped my foot into the water, but slowly and surely, I got in deeper and deeper.

It felt like such a revelation when I realized I could reconnect with friends across the country and friends that I had not seen since high school. Before long, I realized I had joined the legions of people who loved Facebook. Granted, I wasn’t ready to go out and declare my newfound passion by wearing a t-shirt,

shirt available at

shirt available at

but I felt like a better correspondent and more in touch with my friends.

For me, part of the appeal lies in the origins of the company. It is a story that has likely become equal parts factual legend and myth. A Baltimore Sun article about writer Ben Mezrich’s take on Facebook’s founding in the book “Accidental Billionaires” suggests that he takes artistic license in some scenes. Regardless, everyone agrees that founder Mark Zuckerberg started the social networking site out of his dorm room in Harvard. As the site grows, Zuckerberg has great idealistic plans for what Facebook could become. He is quoted in Fortune as telling a German audience:

“We think that if you can build one worldwide platform where you can just type in anyone’s name, find the person you’re looking for, and communicate with them,” he told a German audience in January, “that’s a really valuable system to be building.”

But other social networking sites such as Orkut could slow Zuckerberg’s worldwide plans. Orkut, a Google–owned utility, has its largest audience in Brazil with more than 20 million users .Picture 7 Google has even made the country the center of its Orkut operations. Despite starting in the U.S., Orkut quickly gained a foothold in Brazil and by 2004, Brazilians outnumbered Americans 2-to-1, leading to tension among the users. But how Orkut became the social networking choice of Brazilians is a point of disagreement among bloggers with thoughts ranging from the name sounding like a popular yogurt drink to a much more rational explanation of simple timing and its early invitation-only feature.

Facebook has made some in-roads in Brazil, now touting more than one million users and growing. Numbers doubled in May alone, according to

Graphic courtesy of

Graphic courtesy of

Still, Orkut reigns supreme and companies looking to break into the Brazilian market should take note.

Connected Brazilians enjoy spending time online, according to the State of the Media Democracy study by Deloitte. The study polled people online from Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and found:

“The most eye-opening comparison came from Brazil — where consumers spend approximately 9.8 hours a week watching television but almost double that — 19.3 hours a week — pursuing personal/social interests online.”

All too often companies throw up their profile on social networking sites and think that will drive business and buzz. They couldn’t be more wrong. Companies should carefully consider the brand implications and the necessary requirements for success before even starting. After my own research, these are tips for Orkut (with some borrowing from Facebook tips that apply) that I think companies should follow:

1. Consider whether you want to be on Orkut. A search of major brands on Orkut results in many unofficial fan pages. Ask yourself: is. it worthwhile to join in the conversation to hear what my customers are saying? Will I find an audience? Do I have the time to devote to this venture?

2. Before committing, make sure your target audience is on Orkut. If you’re trying to reach a targeted audience, you may even want to consider putting only one of your products on Orkut, not the whole brand.

3. Speak the local language. Do not go into a Brazilian market speaking English. Most American-born brands have an entirely different approach and language when marketing in other countries. Follow the same rules.

4. Choose your image wisely. This is the “face” you will be showing to the online world. Is it the best representation of your brand?

5. Be complete. Don’t skip on your profile. You may not consider it worth your time to give such details, but your customers will appreciate it.

6. Reach out to your existing fans. There’s no denying they’re out there and they’ve likely used your logo and link to your site, but shutting it down or ignoring it could do more harm than good. Make them your friends.

7. Join Communities associated with your product or with your industry. Rather than wait for them to come to you, find them first.

8. Answer questions, start conversations. Get Orkut users to turn to you for expert advice, suggestions, and information by participating on your site and in communities.

9. Respond promptly. If a friend contacts you, acknowledge and answer soon. Nothing is worse than having your customer send a scrap or a testimonial and ignore it.

10. Reach out, make new friends. Connect with people online and build your audience base. By friending people, you could become friends with their friends.

11. Keep active. There may not be news to report or advice to give, but you should still find a way to stay active on Orkut by sending messages or visiting communities or posing questions. Your activity will be seen as interest and that will make your brand stronger.

12. Don’t shy away from your critics. There will likely be negative communities out there. There is nothing wrong with correcting incorrect information or offering to solve a customer service issues that they might have had. Sooner or later, your critics may even find your profile. Respond appropriately because ignoring them will not make them go away. But realize, at the same time, that some people may never like your brand.

Silence isn’t Golden: Brazilians are Passionate about Having a Voice

July 19, 2009

In my readings this week, I came across astounding facts and figures across the board proving a high level of engagement of internet users from Brazil.  The first of John Bell’s three major insights about social networking in Brazil is that Brazilians are adopting social media faster than any other world market.  Also, according to comScore, Inc., 85% of Brazilian internet users visited a social networking site in September 2008 (a 9% increase from 2007).  Brazilians make social networking a priority in their everyday lives, it’s no wonder that they pay the highest cell phone bills in the world including above the global average for use of their phone to connect to the internet.

When threatened with the potential of any one of their social media tools to be taken away (for example YouTube and blogs), Brazilians have proven themselves fit for the fight.

In late 2006, an inappropriate video of TV personality, Daniela Cicarelli, with her boyfriend on the beach surfaced on YouTube.  Instead of reacting like other celebrities have in the past by going into seclusion for a period of time and releasing a statement through her publicist, Daniela Cicarelli decided to fight against YouTube…to the death.  YouTube tried to withdraw the clip from its site, but file sharing made it impossible to clear it from the internet completely.  After months of attempts to delete the viral video, in January 2007, the Supreme Court ordered YouTube to find a way to permanently block the video from being uploaded, and, to immediately shut down their site unless this is completed.  According to Daniel Cicarelli’s Wikipedia page, “Brasil Telecom, Telefonica and other ISPs implemented such a block, leaving all YouTube’s IPs inaccessible in Brazil.”

Brazilian internet user response was huge.  Brazilian YouTube users created a website to boycott Cicarelli, and refused to support MTV and any advertised product, unless Cicarelli left the company.  MTV received more than eighty thousand angry e-mails.  Additionally, many blogs and even Orkut groups were created protesting the banning of YouTube because of Daniela Cicarelli inability to be private in a public area.  Finally, after 2 days, the judge withdrew the ban on YouTube in Brazil, but the public outrage was already unleashed.  Brazilian internet users have already chosen their side.

Another example of Brazilian’s strong emotional ties to their social media occurred during the 2008 local elections.  Specific regulations were released preceding the 2008 local elections which banned bloggers from participating the in the conversation. Paula Goes sums up the situation in her Global Voices Online blog:  “Two of the regulation’s articles have especially raised blogger’s eye-brows, starting with the very first article:

“The electoral campaign for the 2008 regional elections, even if through the Internet or other electronic devices, will be subject to the terms of this resolution”

And second the 18th article, which states:

“The electoral campaign on the Internet will only be allowed on candidates’ purpose-built web pages intended exclusively for the campaign”

Add to these lines the decision that any campaign for the 2008 local elections will only be allowed from July 6, even on the Internet (in fact it has already started on social networking websites and blogs), and stir up this mix of misinformation.

Will netizens be silenced?”  – The answer, as Paula soon learned, is no.

Before these regulations were withdrawn, there was a blog that was censored as part of this regulation.  A journalist-blogger named Pedro Doria blogged that he would like Fernando Gabeira to run for mayer of Rio de Janeiro.  He believed that his campaign would work with the help of the blogosphere and bloggers who would help spread this message and convince Fernando Gabeira to run.  However, by May 2008, Pedro and other bloggers were censored by the government and forced to take down the promotional banners they featured on their blogs supporting Fernando Gabeira.  The Rio de Janeiro Regional Electoral Court demanded the banners be taken off, or else Gabeira’s candidacy would be banned.

The outcry from Brazilian netizens was, again, huge.  However, almost overnight, Brazilian blogger Thalles Waichert announced to the world that this decision has been reversed.  Paula Goes sums up his statement (written in Portuguese): “in an overnight U-turn, the Justice decided that bloggers are now welcome to debate and express their opinions and candidates can now also use social networking tools to promote their campaign. He concludes that together the blogosphere is stronger than ever.”

Translated into English, Thalles Waichert passionately states in his blog, “Look… how curious that bloggers arguments forced a change in the rules of this year’s election! This is the greatest point…”

Indeed, Mr. Waichert.  The power of many is astounding!

Brazilians cannot be silenced.  They are passionate about their voice in social media.  Work with them, not against, and you will go far.


King of all Social Media

July 19, 2009


Howard Stern may be the self proclaimed king of all media. However, Brazil’s Marcelo Tas very well may be the king of all Social Media.  A TV celebrity known for his quick wit and engaging interviews that can range from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Marcelo has a hugely popular blog on Brazil’s UOL.  He also  ranked number one in Brazil with the number of followers on Twitter according to twitterholic and 284 within the entire Twitter universe with 173,043.  Less than six month ago, he had just a mere 18,000 followers (BTW…Howard Stern only has 56,000 followers).

 However, what makes Marcelo so appealing to marketers is his acute awareness on how to harness social media. In March, Marcelo became one of the first celebrities to sign a major endorsement deal with the social media giant.


 Telefónica SA recently approached him to help pitch the Spanish telecom company’s new fiber-optic Internet and TV service in Brazil… Digital agency iThink, in São Paulo, conceived the Twitter campaign and signed Mr. Tas. Telefónica’s fiber-optic service, called Xtreme, is geared to heavy Internet users and is available to only 370,000 homes in Brazil. A TV campaign would have reached too broad a public, says the company’s marketing director, Luiz Carlos Pimentel. According to iThink, Mr. Tas will limit his Telefónica-related “tweets” to about 20 a month.


Brazil is the perfect market for endorsing via social media.  It is one of the fastest growing internet markets with 197 million people and 68 million on the internet (35%).  A June 2009 social media indicates Brazil is the fifth-largest nation of Twitter users making up two percent of all users and the highest percentage of users of all of the non-English speaking countries. Celebrities, soccer clubs, and politicians have all embraced Twitter as a viable medium where engaged users and influencers can drive marketing, news, and communications.

In our pop culture celebrity centric world, it isn’t a bad thing for celebrities to use their influence.  As long as the celebrities, like in Marcelo’s case, are doing the twittering themselves and not Telefonica’s tweeting for them.  Moreover, marketers and celebrities should make sure their products are relevant.  Marcelo deal is with a fiber optic service which makes sense for a social media guru, but if Ronaldinho tried endorsing Belissima Sim, a Brazilian Diet Pills, it loses all relevance to the audience.  Overall, Brazil’s engagement in social media is influential and the growth makes it a viable option for marketers. 

Over the Moon for Overmundo!

July 19, 2009

overmundoRecent data from comScore’s World Metrix audience measuring service reveal that Russia and Brazil had by far the most engaged social networking audiences in the world in May 2009. According to the data, the typical Brazilian networker dedicated 6.3 hours in May using online social networks and viewed over 1,220 pages.

Top 20 Highest Engagement Social Networking Country Audiences*
Ranked by Average Hours per Visitor*
May 2009
Total Worldwide, Age 15+ – Home & Work Locations
Source: comScore World Metrix
Country Average Hours per Visitor Average Pages per Visitor
World-Wide 3.7 525
Russia 6.6 1,307
Brazil 6.3 1,220
Canada 5.6 649
Puerto Rico 5.3 587
Spain 5.3 968
Finland 4.7 919
United Kingdom 4.6 487
Germany 4.5 793
United States 4.2 477
Colombia 4.1 473
Mexico 4.0 488
Chile 4.0 418
Ireland 3.8 462
Turkey 3.7 427
Venezuela 3.7 454
France 3.6 526
Australia 3.4 374
New Zealand 3.4 386
Switzerland 3.2 430
Italy 3.2 39

*Out of the 38 individual countries currently reported on by comScore around the world.
**Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

With so many active internet users in Brazil, it is no surprise that Brazilians have created a way to talk about their culture using web 2.0 tactics.Overmundo, launched in March 2006, is a web site dedicated to the arts and culture in Brazil. The site was created by Dr. Ronaldo Lemos to solve an interesting problem – coverage of Brazilian culture, especially by the traditional media, has been focusing primarily on the two major cities of the country, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. So the majority of cultural scenes in other parts of the country were either ignored by traditional media or covered from the perspective of the two major cities, in many cases as something “exotic”.

To address this problem, Overmundo was built both as a community and a software tool the site currently has 29,000 active collaborators spread all over the country and is visited by approximately 30,000 unique visitors per day. Overmundo consists of the largest community of people in Brazil aimed at promoting a and never ending conversation about the Brazilian culture. Individuals and groups from all over the country write articles, post pictures, films, music, texts, describing their own places and communities, and creating national visibility for cultural events and scenes all over the country.

The idea behind Overmundo was to empower artists, journalists, webloggers, cultural groups and anyone at large to provide their own views of the Brazilian culture, and also about cultural scenes in their own regions. Each story that appears on Overmundo is the output of a complex community process which involves several opportunities for community participation. Stories are posted in draft and wait a minimum of 48 hours before being brought live. During that two-day wait, readers can offer suggested edits to the story, as well as vote on whether or not it should be published on the site. If a story reaches the specified voting threshold it gets published.


Overall, I think Overmundo is a great idea and a really great way to get the citizens of Brazil involved in telling their own stories and sharing their culture through social media. Based on everything I’ve learned I do think the site requires a pretty high level of engagement from readers to make the system work, but based on the fact that it is in Brazil I think it will remain successful because there’s such widespread usage of social networking sites in Brazil.