Latin America is an increasingly attractive region for brands looking to expand their global footprint. With economic growth forecast at 3.6% for 2012 compared to the predicted 0.3% contraction of the European economy, the appeal of Latin America to global brands is evident.

And Brazil is the jewel in any global brands’s LATAM portfolio. Named the 6th largest economy in the world, Brazil is a prime market to target for brands looking to enter this region.

The growth of social media use in Latin America is expanding in parallel with the economic growth. In Brazil, 76 million people  have internet access, and over 60% of this group are users of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Brazil Facebook infographicInfographic by Datatrends on Posterous

With a growing group of “digital middle class” consumers – who are the most engaged social media group in Brazil -brands have an opportunity to directly reach this financially, upwardly mobile consumer through a social media-driven communications strategy.

But making the most of this opportunity will require careful planning in order to best navigate the unique nuances of Brazil’s social media landscape. Keeping the following thoughts in mind can help point brands in the right direction:

1. Understand the unique shape of Brazil’s social media landscape

Brazil’s social media boom is not evenly distributed geographically, with most growth in Rio de Janiero, Sao Paulo and the southern areas of Brazil. Brands should ensure that their content is developed in line with the regional hotspots in Brazil’s social media landscape, to ensure relevance for the unique cultural compositions found in each region.

2. Work with the nuances of Brazil’s digital culture

Brazil has a strong TV culture which has informed its digital culture. According to a report from Marketing Week, Brazilians are the 6th-biggest viewers of YouTube. Understanding this can lead to big content engagement success, as seen with Nissan’s campaign Pôneis Malditos [Damn Ponies], which after being distributed through YouTube, led to a doubling of vehicle registrations.

3.Leverage Brazilians’ heavy social media engagement

High social networking engagement, across multiple platforms appears to characterise the Brazilian social media landscape. Top social media sites include Google-owned social networking site Orkut, Twitter, and Facebook, with the average Brazilian maintaining 231 social networking friends. Brands that take advantage of this high social networking activity can quickly develop traction for their online campaigns.

For example, Diageo leveraged the heavily networked social media friendships Brazilians have when it promoted the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project through social networking creating an one million-strong fanbase.

Ultimately it will be good old-fashioned research that will allow brands to fully tap into the potential in the Brazilian social media market. As we have learned at FACE, no matter what stage a market’s social media landscape is at, understanding both the channel growth patterns and the social drivers shaping the growth of these channels are key to successfully engaging with consumers online.

Alongside social media monitoring, applying more sophisticated tools such as FACE’s brand graph and online communities can help brands stay ahead of the curve in this dynamic, evolving space, to ensure they are able to make the most of new developments as they emerge.

For an expanded version of this article please follow this link to ESOMAR’s RW Connect blog.