Social Media in Colombia: people love it, local businesses are still not sure
A strange gap seems to exist between the way Colombian people use and love social networks, and the relatively small effort Colombian businesses put into implementing social networks in their own communication and marketing strategies.
We would like to take a deeper look into the subject, and analyse recent reports and assess the existing opportunities for young social media experts in the country.
Colombian internet users: what do they do online?
Colombia counts from 27 to 30 million Internet users – out of a population of 48 million people – something that puts the country at fourth place for household Internet access among the Latin American nations (after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina).
To achieve this position, the government has invested significantly in huge infrastructure projects in recent years: a strategy which made it possible for the great majority of the population to be reached by broadband connections.
At the same time, several programs aimed at bringing young people and adults closer to the digital world have been established over the years, providing computers to local communities and organising workshops and courses.
These strategies have led to the amazing fact that 70% of the population accessed the Internet from September to November 2013, and 78% of them connected daily (report published by IAB Colombia, November 2013).
With these achievements regarding internet accessibility and increased use, it’s not at all surprising that when it comes to measuring Internet habits, the number one choice for Internet users is interaction on social networks.
As stated in a ComScore report (picture above) 5.76 hours per month are spent on social networks, in this order of priority:
- Facebook (there are about 20 million Facebook users in Colombia)
More recent reports seem to suggest that Colombia is the seventh most active country in the world when it comes to social networking, with an average of 8.5 hours per month per person. This precious information demonstrates the huge potential that exists for any clever enterprise that wouldn’t want to miss the chance of presenting itself in a proper way on the internet.
However, despite being a country showing stunning growth in the use of social networks, Colombian companies are paradoxically only now starting to look at social networks as a big opportunity to promote their activities, to increase brand awareness and to establish contact with their stakeholders.
Reality check: companies are missing a chance
The fact is that companies still privilege print media and audiovisuals over social media when it comes to reaching users. Global News Group, a Latin American company involved in digital and classic media monitoring and analysis, affirmed that in Colombia 100% of enterprises still use print media, and 90% turn to radio and television to spread their ads and product releases.
Fernando Pinzón, president at local marketing agency Competencia Plus, commented at El Espectador that even though 8 out of 10 Colombians use the Internet and the country records the highest levels of social media use, less than 10% of enterprises measure their impact on social media channels and their implementation is taking way too long.
Social networking has been partially assimilated in large corporations’ media & marketing planning but in a country with a high percentage of small and medium-sizes business, the trend of integrating those practices into daily activity is still at a minimum. This gap is, according to the experts, due to high costs and lack of education.
The measures taken so far
The positive aspect is that the government is well aware of the technology deficiencies within the business sector. The Ministry of Information Technology and Communication (Min TIC) has the objective to really increase the use of the internet by means of an ambitious project called Plan Vive Digital in order to reduce poverty and generate employment.
To achieve the objective some measures have been undertaken so far: the strategy aims to enable small entrepreneurs to learn the tools of communication technology. A free course teaches them how to handle technologies and social networks and also how to create a web page to make their business more visible and competitive.
The Ministry wants to certify the digital competencies of over 75,000 micro-entrepreneurs by mid-2014, whereas last year 118,638 took advantage of the program.
Will they really use it?
All in all, despite the positive efforts the State has made in reducing the digital gap by connecting more people, providing communities with technology infrastructure and enabling citizens to use it, the numbers show that what Colombia misses is a general culture of social media usage among business experts.
This would really allow them to take advantage of the opportunities social networking offers in terms of visibility and communication with the millions of users that use social media channels daily. This really is a great challenge for a country that has already taken some big steps towards Internet democratisation.