Can Facebook Capitalize on Brazil’s Thriving Mobile Market?

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Much has been said about the Brazilian mobile market as of late, as entrepreneurs, investors and corporations continue to peg Brazil as the next big thing in basically everything, technology or otherwise. Though the country’s economic growth has slowed, it still remains remarkably strong as Europe and North America continue to deal with ongoing crises and downturns.

The mobile sector in Brazil is quite strong – in fact, earlier this month, Forbes published a post from Movile’s Eduardo Henrique naming the country the next hot mobile market. With over 250 mobile users to date, Brazil is certainly impossible to ignore. One main pillar of Henrique’s argument was Brazil’s Facebook explosion – an interesting point considering Facebook’s struggles to define itself in the mobile realm.

Brazil a Bright Spot

There is no denying that Brazil has taken quite a liking to Facebook. The country now boasts 50 million Facebook users, coming in second only to the United States. While the social network stalling in many parts of the world, Brazil, alongside Indonesia and India, has proven a bright spot. Use of Facebook in Brazil is growing at a monthly rate of 146%.

Corporations, of course, have not taken this lightly and are making big pushes to connect with Brazilian consumers through the social network each day. L’Oreal, Nike and Smirnoff rank in the country’s top 10 brands on Facebook, an indicator that international brands are making special note. And with mobile penetration in Brazil currently at 15% and growing, these companies will be looking to connect on both computer and mobile fronts.

Henrique does point out, importantly, that mobile users spend more time on Facebook (441 minutes per month) than those connecting through computers (391). Considering Brazil’s mobile expansion, this is important to note. However, he brushes over the cloud surrounding Facebook’s potential and ability to monetize in the mobile arena.

Mobile Migration Missteps

Over the past few months, Facebook has struggled to define its mobile strategy. The company only launched mobile ad capabilities in February, and up to now, most efforts have come in the realm of “Sponsored Stories,” an effort to attract consumers and please worried investors watching the Facebook stock tank on Wall Street. These ads appear directly in users’ newsfeeds, just as comments or photos posted by friends.

Currently, Facebook reports generating US$500 thousand per day from mobile ads, but considering its continued experiments with mobile strategy, it’s likely that neither its stockholders nor its executives are satisfied with its performance. And while Facebook’s App Center is promising, the trend of deflection among its key mobile talent is startling. There’s no telling whether Facebook will prove as strong on mobile devices, in Brazil or anywhere, as it has on PCs.

Time to Move and Shake

Facebook had better get moving, though, if it wants to hold its place at the top of the heap. In June, 102 million people accessed the social network solely from a mobile device – up 23% from the number it reported in March. And as prices of smartphones and data plans in Brazil continue to come down, it’s likely that Brazilians will opt for purchases of mobile devices over computers at an increasing rate.

Brazil’s mobile industry is most certainly a huge opportunity for most, but what’s not clear yet is whether it will be for Facebook. As the World Cup and Olympic Games approach, more and more brands will seek advertising avenues in the country. But if Facebook is unable to define a sound mobile strategy, will it still be at the top of anyone’s list?

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Emily Stewart

Originally from the United States. Degree in Comparative Literature & Society from Columbia University. Background in marketing and communications, including copywriting, translation, editing and content creation. Localization experience. Twitter @doblackshoe