Social media users in emerging countries want more than just flashy visuals

Brazil and India don’t share much common ground. But, along with the United States, they are the top three markets for Facebook in the world. While more than 156 million Americans have already adopted Mark Zuckerberg’s creation, only recently did almost 100 million Brazilians and Indians migrate from their favourite social media platforms to Facebook. The lack of understanding of the shifts in emerging markets destroyed the Google-owned social network, Orkut.

One important trend for Brazilians and Indians, despite their lack of common ground, is that most of what works online for the South Americans also works for the Asians. One example is Flickr, which became popular in both areas at the same time. Orkut was very powerful in these areas until 2010. When competition from Facebook started, they thought they would have an edge trying to appeal to the millions who left the working-class for the middle-class. Wrong decision.

Dealing with new global players isn’t easy and the consistent dehydration of the first social media platform had everything to do with the increase in the latter. The main reason for that is this: Brazilians and Indians wanted what they thought is fancier. As Orkut got too visual and insisted on using tools to create communities just for fun – a big asset they transformed into something really cheesy – Facebook gave them smartphone apps, a cleaner design and easier ways to post. Now it leads in both markets.

Until recently, Orkut, the creation of a Turkish Google engineer, had 66 million accounts. Almost 70% of those were dominated by users in Brazil and India. After Facebook’s attack the numbers stayed basically the same and the action now going on in the Google-based social media platform is slowing by the hour.

This is a very common mistake by international companies when they try to profit in emerging countries. They think that people want something more local and they assume that people who moved up in life want to bring all their supposed habits to the new level they go to. Not the case.

Orkut is now the third biggest social media in Brazil, after Facebook and YouTube. In India, it is second to Facebook. Operating with new players means stepping-up your product, not making lame visuals so they supposedly attract people who never used them.

Originally posted in the Interhacktives blog.

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email:

Posted on 23/11/2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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