White Paper III – Social Networks in Latin America

The Social Networks in Latin America (Download PFD)

The global phenomenon of social networks is landing in Latin America. Techcrunch recently published an article about Sonico describing it as the largest and most unknown social network in the region.
Social networks are the foundation of the Web 2.0 – would be the equivalent of the traditional Web portals – and consist of sites where users can create a profile and contact other people. These users produce content that can be shared with other members within the network.

However, so far it has not been dimensioned clearly the impact that social networks are taking among Internet users in the region, because the debate is been driven to a purely impressionistic one. With focused on providing conclusive data about this phenomenon we analyzed data from ComScore.

Internet Users in Latin America

According to ComScore – a paid subscription service that audits the Internet audiences – the number of Internet users in the 5 major countries of the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico) approached 46.3 million in January (2008). The internet users from the above mentioned period is 16% higher than the 39.8 million internet users in January 2007.

If we consider also the Puerto Rican and US Hispanics Internet Users the number jumps to 66 millions, with the same growth rate since January 2007.
The audience from the main social networks (bebo, facebook, friendster, hi5, mySpace, Orkut and Sonico) is approximately 29.6 million in 5 Latin American, reaching the 64% of the total internet users population, which means that 6 of each 10 internet users in the above mentioned Latin American Countries are using one of the mentioned Social Networks.
The Puerto Rican and US Hispanic audience from the above mentioned social networks is about 15.2 million, or 77% of the Internet Audiences from the mentioned Markets. Since the penetrations of the Puerto Rican and US Hispanic markets are higher we would infer that the penetration from the Latin American markets will tend to reach those levels.
However, while total Internet users Market grew 16% during the last year (in both regions), social networks grew 48% among Hispanics and Puerto Ricans and 103% in the Latin American analyzed countries.
Social Networks Hispanic users

The biggest Latin American Social Network

If we take into account all the audiences (Latin America, Hispanics and Puerto Ricans) the Social Network with the largest number of users at the beginning of this year was Orkut with 13 million of users, followed by mySpace with 12 million and Sonico with nearly 8 million.
However, there is a very peculiar phenomenon regarding social networks in this region: they have a regionalized presence. For example, Orkut is huge in Brazil but has no significant presence in the rest of the countries from this region. The same happens with mySpace which is the largest social network among Hispanics and Puerto Ricans, but no so in the rest of the Latin American countries (nevertheless its audience is pretty high in other Latin American Countries).

Social Networks Audiences in LATAM

The Social Network with the highest growth during last year, considering only the five Analyzed Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico), was Facebook with 4152% (From 52 thousand users in January 2007 to 2.2 million in January this year) however is in the fifth place if we consider the number of users in the region.

Since Facebook launched its Spanish version become the Social Network of the moment, with an unbelievable growth, and even when its traffic is comparatively low it tends to be in the first or second place.
Among consolidated social networks hi5.com had the highest increase with 72% (from 2.2 million to 4.2 million) over the same period of time.
Orkut, which is the most visited Social Network in Latin America mainly because of the Brazilian traffic, grew only 27% from 10.1 to 12.9 million users.
Regarding Sonico, it has a pretty particular situation since it was launched on the second semester of 2007 and reached the second place behind Orkut with 7.3 million users at the beginning of this year.
On the other hand, the social network with the highest growth in the US Hispanics and Puerto Rican markets last year was Facebook with a 251% (from 872 thousand users more than 3 million in early 2008), followed by hi5.com and Orkut increase their traffic in 80%, hi5.com with more than 1.3 million users, and Orkut with, in second place with just a hundred thousand users. My space, the undisputed queen in this market, grew by only 26% during this period.
Social Networks audiences - US Hispanics and Puerto Rico


It is clear that the audiences had been distributed among the social networks using a socio-cultural and linguistic criterion. While Orkut is the Brazilian Social Network, mySpace is the one for US Hispanics and Sonico is the social network among Spanish speakers Latin Americans.
Mexicans are fairly distributed among hi5.com, Sonico, mySpace and facebook. We can also infer that the Mexicans living in USA may also use those Social Networks to be in touch with their friends and family.
Social Networks profiles

Finalmente, Bebo y Friendster son las dos redes con menor presencia en la regi


  1. This is an excellent article! I wonder what kind of audiences ComScore has registered for the English,Spanish and French Speaking Caribbean. Very informative post.

  2. Interesting article, but that Sonico site is a scam and it should not be next to Facebook and the others.

  3. Hi Jeff:

    We didn’t made judgements on social networks. Our aim its only to provide reliable information on their audiences as well as their profile among latinamericans.

    If you want develop a more profound explanation on the subject we really appreciete.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Justo, have you read the comments made on the Sonico techcrunch article? They are not all what they say they are as they converted old users from their other sites so the traffic isn’t real. They have also lied over and over again about the total number of active users and have not given any engagement information to anyone. Its just a bunch of spam (spammico) and is looking more like a spanish Tagged.com than anything. Its worth giving it a second look for the sake of “reliable information”. There are tons of more interesting social networks in latin america that you didn’t even mention such as badoo (very popular for dating), modyo (twitter), vostu (sort of like ning) and neurona (they are like the local linked-in).

  5. Thanks Ingrid, I’m glad you found it useful.
    Jeff and Marina, thanks for your opinions. We know exactly the peculiarities of the social networks in this market and I think you are missing some variables in your analysis.
    The people from Sonico had several properties and they decided to join them in just one place where people could find everything together…a social network called Sonico. So they just integrated all their properties in one with all the services (Social Network, birthday alerts, etc). When they integrated all the traffic in one property the users from each particular property were drive to the same landing page “Sonico” and were asked to complete their profile in order to be a Sonico Member. Once they completed that information, they become users from Sonico and not anymore from each particular property. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, that was just what really happened.
    From know on, that is all Traffic from Sonico, and not spam.
    You can do agree or disagree with their strategy and product quality, but saying that all their traffic is spam is at least incorrect.
    Thanks again for your comments!!!

  6. I dont think anyone is here to question the amount of traffic or strategy of any company, but the QUALITY of the traffic they have built is very low. It is well known that Sonico spams peoples inboxes through importers or lists and i am sure they are probably buying cheap users and visits. That is not a real community like Facebook that has grown in places like Colombia and Argentina organically and virally. Same goes for Orkut and like any world-class social network they do a decent job of making public information about the quality of their users. I think that if you are including someone like Sonico in this report, then you have to include Tagged, Netlog and other communities that are built around spamming and have huge user bases in Latin America, probably even larger than Sonico’s, they’re just not that active at all so its very misleading…You did a great job of outlining the growth of sites like FB in the region but as pointed out before, its important to separate quality traffic from garbage…

  7. Hi Marina:

    Thanks for your comments. I really want to point out two things we have in mind when we wrote the post.

    – First: we only analyze “social networks” in latinamerica it means sites that offer a platform that allow to create a personal profile as well as aplications for information interchange with friends (sites as fotolog are not considered social networks from this point of view, as well as sites in other regions).

    – Second: we are trying to provide reliable data on their ammount of users, is for this that we rely on comScore panel. It provide us with an accurate estimation on the number of unique users that visited those sites during last january.
    This figures is nothing to do with registered users as well as information self-provided for networks administrators.

    I hope this comment will bring more light on our article.

  8. Hi Marina, thanks for your thoughts and for visiting again. In part you are right, we are just analyzing traffic here, actually we were very clear about that, and we also do agree about “traffic is not enough to understand an online project” (Actually it goes against my own theory of Analytics 2.0) but this study in particular was mainly focused on traffic. Why? Because as you may know it is very difficult to get internal information from the above mentioned companies in Latam (Even when we would love to).
    On the other hand, the part I think you are not right, is when you say that everybody knows that Sonico is an spammer Company. I mean, I heard about that before, but from very, very informal sources. I have my own profile in Sonico and I don’t find it spammer at all. I’m not saying that “Sonico is NOT SPAMMER” or “Its traffic is very qualified” but I don’t have any formal information confirming that.
    This blog is visited by lot of people that trust in its content, so I must be very responsible about the information I post here. I mean I cannot say “Sonico’s traffic sucks” just because “Everybody knows it”.
    I hope you understand my point. If you have some information from a relevant source that want it to share with us it would be very welcome.
    I would also like to invite the people from Sonico to tell us a bit about the quality of their traffic. We wont tell anyone 😉

  9. All interesting points. Here are a few thoughts on what has been said-

    Justo: to address your first point on the criteria for a social network, based on what you’re telling us, there is no reason why Tagged and Netlog shouldn’t be included in this report as they are 10x the size of a Sonico and a good chunk of their users (in the millions range) are in Latam. Check out Tagged’s comScore – at 40m+ users, even at a very conservative 10% of their traffic coming from Latam (check out the report below) and they already have more users than FB in the region!


    Juan: informal sources? try the respectable web 2.0 community at large 😉 personally, the only information I have is my experience and that of my friends who have gotten continuous unsolicited spam messages from Sonico (it’s part of my junkmail filter along with Tagged spam mail).

    But let’s leave alone the “everybody knows it” theory and get back to what Sonico actually claims – 8 million+ users in 6 months? Sure, you can definitely buy that many users in Latin America if you really wanted to. Do you really need their own internal information to attest that it didn’t grow through spam? Just for reference, it took Facebook about 1 year to get to 1 million users in the most viral market/conditions possible. You do the math. It’s not that “everybody knows” what other people are voicing here about Sonico, it just that there is no other explanation for it (unless they’re so great and their technology is so fantastic that a whole country just woke up one day said “we’re all joining sonico!”)

    The point here is that if you’re publishing a report on Latin American internet “traffic” for social networks, you have to paint the complete picture. You guys missed out on 2 opportunities to make this report truly reliable:

    1) Showing other sites such as Tagged and Netlog if you are willing to include someone like Sonico because have just as much traffic/users if not more.

    2) Making valued judgement calls on the quality of the traffic. There is no excuse such as “we don’t have that data”. I believe comscore does a good job of making it public and they periodically release engagement data for these communities. If some sites choose not to publish that data, then maybe you should ask yourselves why.

  10. Marina, I’m reading your comment and I must say I’m pretty confuse. In some parts of the text you manage relevant and formal information, but in some others you use a very informal one.
    I just can’t imagine presenting a report to someone that is managing a Corporation with information like:

    Source: My experience and that of my friends who have gotten continuous unsolicited spam messages from Sonico.

    I do not agree with you regarding your information sources and how you use them. Sorry, but I just can’t.
    What I wont ever do is just communicate information just because me, my friends, or the blog I visit says that. That is just your, and your friends experience and I’m not sure is a sampling that represents the total population. I gave you the chance to present relevant data about what you are saying about Sonico and your answer was as informal as the previews one.

    In the paragraph that starts with “But let’s leave alone the “everybody knows it” theory and get back to what Sonico actually claims – 8 million+ users in…”. You are just trying to drive us to believe your theory just using inferences. You say, It took 1 year to FB to get 1 million users, then you infer that it is not possible that Sonico reach that traffic in a shorter period. Your inference sounds fine, and it is ok if you are chatting with friends in a bar, but is that text proving anything? No, unfortunately nothing. Why Unfortunately, because as I told you in the previous comment, I want to believe your theory, believe me, I really do but I just can’t. At least not with the provided information. You are also missing, If I’m not wrong Sonico was a network that was integrated into a unique property (Social Network), and that could explain (I say “could” because I don’t have Attitudinal information, just behavioral as all the information from Comscore) the reached traffic in a record time.

    I really want to support your theory, but please give me information that the people that visits this blog can trust in.

    Again, I’m not saying that what you are saying is not true, I just have no relevant information to support that theory.

    You are right that our report is not showing all the picture. Analytics 2.0 says that in order to have the total picture we must have four different type of information, Behavioral (Comscore), Attitudinal (for example, Surveys), Temporal, and Enviromental (information about the environment in which the rest of the information was generated). Unfortunately we don’t have Attitudinal information that we can trust in, and unfortunately, Comscore has NOT attitudinal information. Why it is important? Because if you want to know if the users from Sonico thinks that Sonico is spamming them, the only way to know that is just asking them with a correctly implemented survey (a correct generated sampling, etc)

    On the other hand I was really surprised with you comment “You guys missed out on 2 opportunities to make this report truly reliable”. This report’s objective was providing information about the Social Networks market (yes a blog is also a Social Network if you want it to, but you know exactly what kind of Social Networks we where analyzing) in Latin America, and all the people (excepting you) found it really useful so nothing so the objective is achieved, not missed. The only problem, at least to you, is that the report is not talking specifically about the point you are interested to, actually this is not a report about Sonico in particular, even when now Sonico gained more importance with this discussion.

    I really appreciate and found so interesting your opinions and really hope having you back soon.

    Finally, I repeat the invitation to the people from Sonico. The “doors” of this blog are are opened to you and we would love if you could help us understand the situation that is exposing Marina.

  11. Juan,

    What I am hearing from you is 2 things regarding my posts:
    1- The information I have given you is not substantial enough or lacks evidence.
    2- My (constructive) criticism of this report is invalid because the other social networks that I mention are not social networks but blog or I am too focused on Sonico, (a company which already has generated enough controversy here in this blog and elsewhere as pointed below).

    Let me begin by addressing the 2nd point because it is the most surprising to hear your response and the most relevant one to anyone reading this discussion board or your report:

    When you say that “this report’s objective was providing information about the Social Networks market” and then go on to basically insinuate that the other social networks in Latin America that I pointed out to you were missing from your report because they are “blogs” and that I “should know”, then I must ask you to please refresh your browser one more time:

    Tagged.com and Netlog.com ARE full-scale social networks. They fullfill the same functionalities as a Sonico AND they have just as much IF NOT MORE traffic than them in Latin America. If you are calling these guys “blogs” and are telling everyone here that their traffic isn’t worthy of being in this oh-so complete report from a “behavioral” metric such as Comscore, then you need to do a bit more research on this or we are clearly have different ideas as to what is a social network.

    One more clarification on this, you mention that I’m only interested in mentioning Sonico. It’s not that I’m out to criticize Sonico exclusively, I actually think they have done a good job of merging separate internet companies, showing traffic (whatever the quality might be) and they’ve certainly put on a good “show” for a young network, but I think they are a good example to look at in terms of the flaws of this report has where others that are bigger/just as important/on the same level than them don’t get mentioned. You start to wonder about the objectivity of this report on what you call the “behavioral side”. Maybe it’s because they are local and you want to support a local player more. But keep in mind that you’re publishing a report that claims objectivity and people believe that, especially investors and the international community at large like myself who is interested in the Latin American market. I’m sorry but you have no excuse on this one. Please take it as constructive criticism and a way for you to improve for the next time. The web 2.0 world will thank you for it!

    Finally, the first issue you mentioned where you label my information as “irrelevant” and that I have no data. Sure, a lot of it is based out of subjective data such as me getting spammed by Sonico or comparing it to quality, organicly built communities such as Facebook. But most of my previous posts have included DATA and reference points such as comscore links. I made it very clear how the report is flawed, how it could have been better (what’s done is done) and the comments on Sonico are voiced by not just myself (scroll up on this page and you’ll spot a few more) but they have been present EVERYWHERE in the tech-blogosphere. Like all things in web 2.0, the juice, the substance, is in the commentaries section. Just read Techcrunch’s review of Sonico and how it got shredded to pieces in the commentary section. You might want to also follow this Spanish blog which has the same kind of backlash against the lack of information they provide and just how reliable the data is:


    Again, this is not about Sonico, they have enough questions to answer on their own. It’s about suggesting how the “Behavioral” data could have been improved, we don’t just measure a social network’s importance by the number of eyeballs because these eyeballs might be worth nothing at the end of the day. I meant it is as a way to improve for the next one. That’s why I said the report is not that reliable- it’s also about a tech blog doing its research and defining things better before publishing such a report.

    But now after your last post, more importantly, its about you understanding that your readers and the people like myself who are given the opportunity to post on this blog should be able to provide “anecdotal” information to complement that of the report and try to complete the picture. It’s when the anecdotal information repeats across multiple blogs and posts that you realize there might actually be some truth to it- especially when you don’t have internal company info or when comscore fails. I’m not asking to claim that what I’m saying is necessarily true, but you really ought to be accepting of others peoples’ criticism, as long as it doesn’t insult anyone. In any case, the truth does come out.

    Juan, the reality is that if you are the author/contributor of a tech blog you must be ready for feedback from your community and not attack it with a “you have no data” (when i actually did present it) or a “this is your opinion” when its backed by both a well-thought out analysis of a site’s traffic (it’s not rocket science, no matter how many internet properties you had before or how much traffic you are able to buy, you can’t claim millions of users everyday without any reason how or why) and the comments and anecdotal evidences provided by others in multiple other blogs as mentioned before.

    You will never see a contributor at Techcrunch rejecting people’s comments with evidence and thought and calling them all rubbish, this is an open forum and if you can’t take the heat then you shouldn’t be in this to begin with!

  12. Hi Marina, whow…what a post. As in your previous comments I say thanks. I say thanks because I definitely think (and actually I’ve mentioned it before) that any comment it is important.
    It is important to me, because as you said, it helps me to open my eyes when I’m losing a part of the picture. That’s why I was very surprised with your comment. I’m not saying that you cannot leave your opinion, PLEASE DO IT!!!. What I’m saying is that I cannot use an informal source for a formal Research, just that. I think it is very clear.
    If you read some of my posts, you can see that I write them in an informal way, relaxed and giving my opinions and thoughts about each topic.
    This post in particular was about a research we carried on in Analytics 2.0, so we were unable to use our informal sources and information, or even just give our point of view about Sonico (off course we have it).
    I hope you understand my point, and you are welcome to this post to give us your point of view whenever you want.

  13. really like marinas post(s)! does anyone have more info about Tagged in latin america? i would be interesting to see how many users they are and what they look like by age or geography. they say they add 400.000 users every day on their website. that is crazy!!

  14. Hi Analytics 2.0 audience. My name is Juan Pablo Sueiro and I am in charge of Sonico’s PR and Communications Dept.

    Marina, regarding the traffic quality issues you mention, let me state that Sonico has NEVER sent an unrequested mail to our users. Every mail we send is related to any specific action performed by the user or user´s friends. As a matter of fact, you can adjust your account privacy preferences in order to set different parameters for that.

    Once you are part of our community you can send an invitation to your non-Sonico contacts, but that’s a voluntary decision. Indeed, you can personalize the message you friends will receive.

    Under no circumstances we would mail users without their authorization. It wouldn’t be just spam; it would also be unethical.

    Sonico is a young social utility, but it has been developed for over one and a half year. Given our planning and the current Internet boom in LatAm (regarding networks), we knew that the project was going to grow exponentially.
    You can keep up with Sonico’s growth at our blog.

    As you mentioned earlier, different services like http://www.tupostal.com and http://www.cumplealertas.com merged into Sonico, giving their users the possibility (because you could continue using the other services without upgrading your account) to become part of a new and powerful community. There are no bought members, as you suggest.

    I hope this answer will help to clarify this interesting debate.

    You can contact me for any question regarding Sonico at pablo.sueiro @ sonico.com

    Thank you in advance.

  15. juan from snico: as expected from you guys, nice to get a another generic response…BORING.

    would be great to hear more about this quality of traffic you speak of. how active are your millions and millions of users?

  16. Hey, Its me or Vanessa Garcia, and Marina sounds like the same person? Juan or Justo: can you confirm that?

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