According to Econsultancy’s latest Internet Statistics Compendium, Latin America’s users spend the most time on social networks with a total of 7.6 hours spent per month, ahead of Europe and North America with 7 and 6.4 hours respectively.

Despite this trend, the same report also revealed that Latin America has among the lowest social network penetration in the world with only 25% of the population using them.

A study conducted by Comscore found that out of the top 25 most engaged countries in the world, 7 of these are in Latin America including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and of course Brazil.

Missed Opportunity?

Despite these trends, most businesses in Latin America aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to market to the most socially engaged region in the world and incorporate social in their business.

On Facebook alone, 5 out of the top 10 largest audiences are in Latin America but only 39% of companies have a presence on Facebook as opposed to 54% globally. On Twitter only 32% of companies have an account, much lower than the 65% global average. The numbers are even more disappointing when looking at You Tube and blogging presence.  

One of the main reasons for the poor participation of brands on social media channels is the lack of Internet infrastructure in many Latin American regions and the heavily marked social divisions that prevent the average consumer from having a presence online.

Another obstacle, perhaps due to culture customs, is the insistence of Latin American companies on having one-way communications with customers and hesitancy to be criticized in an open forum. The social media explosion also brought to Latin America its number of gurus, making brands hesitant of jumping into the social media bandwagon. 

There is Hope 

The increase of mobile penetration in Latin America should result in a boost to social network access and may further incentivize brand participation on social networks. According to Luis Fernando Martinez, Social Business & Strategy Consultant at FuneStrat in Mexico:

Mobile offers fast and easy access to social networks for the average consumer, which in turn may eventually translate into the further presence of brands.

As more and more Latin American brands participate in social media, more businesses may decide to get their feet wet and create a solid strategy on these channels. As Marco Arias, Cisco’s Marketing Program Manager for Latin America, puts it:

Consumers already decided to make a change in how they consume and share information. It’s time that brands do the same and actually incorporate social into their business model.

Businesses in Latin America that seize the opportunity of interacting with the planet’s most engaged users will become pioneers and certainly gain from the benefits of having a social business.