Social Media

Global Social Insights: The Social Media Consumption & Internet Penetration of Latin America

July 20, 2016

As brands expand their global reach, marketers face an increasingly complex ecosystem of digital platforms, people, and preferences. Globally-focused marketers must move beyond “one size fits all” messaging across countries, and toward a better understanding of regional differences in media consumption and behaviors.

Our Global Social Insights blog series aims to help marketers better understand trends in digital and platform adoption across the globe. This is the fourth post of our series, and covers Latin America. To read more about the series and for an analysis of Europe’s top social platforms, read Post I here. To learn more about the top social platforms in Asia Pacific, read Post II here. And for more on social platforms and Internet usage trends in North America, give Post III a look here.


Latin America presents opportunities for social media marketers to engage with younger, more mobile-centric consumers as compared to other regions.

The top five most frequently used platforms in the Latin American countries we analyzed – Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina – are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google+. Interestingly, two of these platforms are exclusively used for messaging, while a third (Google+) features messaging capabilities. The steady use of messaging platforms across Latin American countries reflects the accelerated growth of mobile within the region.

Facebook, which appears to be attracting older audiences and losing younger ones in North America and most European markets, experiences the opposite trend in Latin America. Over 50% of Facebook users across Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina are between the ages of 16 and 34. Additionally, in Brazil and Mexico, at least one third of all users of YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google+ are between the ages of 16 and 34. While in Argentina, one fifth of the users of these platforms are aged 16 to 34.  Across countries, less than 10% of 55 to 64-year-olds use the top social platforms.

Usage of top social media platforms across the three countries analyzed is relatively evenly split among men and women. WhatsApp users are particularly evenly distributed, with just a 52%/48% gender split difference in any of the three countries on the platform. The biggest divergence in gender is among Google+ users in Brazil, of which 57% are male and 43% are female.

Even with these demographic similarities across social platforms, each country varies in Internet usage.  Argentina boasts a high concentration of Internet users within its population, with three out of every five people using the Internet. However, when considering the total size of the 16 to 64-year-old population of each market, despite lower Internet usage, Mexico and Brazil present opportunities to reach larger consumer bases.

Latin America Internet Usage out of Total Population

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  • Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google+ are the five most popular social media platforms in all three countries. The steady use of messaging platforms reflects the growth of the mobile industry within Latin America, indicating an opportunity for marketers to further engage with these consumers and further highlights the need for digital campaigns that incorporate a mobile-friendly experience.
  • There is a relatively even gender distribution across all three countries and platforms. There are a couple of small outliers, but for the most part, there is no more than a 54% to 46% split in gender adoption. It is important for marketers to be conscious of targeting both men and women in this region because they are equally present on social media.
  • It is important to consider the value of both the market concentration and population size when determining a social marketing strategy and media plan in Latin America. For instance, Brazil’s Internet penetration hovers around half of its population, and the number of connected users far outweigh the entire population of Argentina – while Argentina has a higher percentage of inhabitants connected to the Internet. This implies that 1) Brazil presents an opportunity for marketers to reach more digital consumers (in relation to sheer population volume) whereas Argentina presents an opportunity for marketers to reach a more digitally-engaged population and 2) a media plan in Argentina should have a higher focus on digital channels, whereas a media plan for Brazil should have a more balanced approach for digital and non-digital channels.
  • Marketers should pay attention to and adapt their targeting strategies to align with the demographic nuances of social platforms, as common knowledge about social media usage in other regions like North America may not apply. For example, Facebook attracts a predominantly young audience to its platform in Latin America, a trend that contradicts norms in North America and most European markets.