Colombia: The New Frontier of Social Media

By: Will Nesbit | @notwillnesbit

Internet usage is on the rise in Colombia: the country boasts the third largest percentage of total population online in Latin America, falling just short of Mexico and Brazil, and has seen exponential growth in the information sector over the last decade. In 2010, under the Santos administration, the Colombian Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies launched a massive effort, Vive Digital Colombia, to achieve “widespread internet usage” by 2018. Colombians have been quick to adapt to their nation’s rapidly expanding digital infrastructure and economy despite initial obstacles the government faced in convincing the general public, especially the country’s rural population, of the internet’s practical usefulness in their everyday lives.

A corollary of the internet’s expansion in Colombia has been a step outside of the business world and into the popular realm in the form of a substantial boom in social media use. As Escobar’s legacy fades, upper and middle-class urban Colombians are getting hooked on a new drug: Facebook. In November 2015, there were more than 24 million active Colombian Facebook accounts, primarily of users between the ages of 15 and 35. According to statistics provided by the social media powerhouse, the average Colombian is on Facebook for 13 minutes a day.

Facebook is not the only social media platform to see success in the emerging Colombian market. YouTube has become widely popular, with the average Colombian user watching 126 videos a month. This is again however, an audience composed mostly of 15 to 35 year-olds.

Though Instagram and Twitter both have a presence in the country as well (Colombia has the 12th highest number of Twitter users in the world), they have not been met with the same success that YouTube and Facebook have experienced. Whether this is due to a lack of penetration into the market or more vague level of social interaction than that of Mr. Zuckerberg’s brainchild can be left to individual interpretation.

One thing is certain however: as Colombian social media explodes, the opportunities are ripe for capitalism to sink its teeth into a medium in which the average user has not yet mastered the art of ignoring advertisements with the proficiency of their American counterpart. Studies have shown that newer users are more likely to interact with ads. With hundreds of new accounts created every day, Colombians on Facebook and YouTube are ready to be reached in greater numbers than ever before.