I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the online space down south of the US border and beyond.For the most part, it appears that social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook and making some decent inroads into Latin America.No, I do not have empirical data for you to use to verify my assertion, all I have is anecdotal data from seeing more and more people tweeting in Spanish and seeing more and more of my family members on Facebook.I realize that this is not a representative sample, but I can tell you that on the surface, it appears that the people that are able to access the internet in Latin America are definitely getting on to the social media outlets, I’d almost dare say on a daily basis.Why is it important that my family is on social media?Because the majority of them had never been online before. They’d never bothered with blogging, with Googling for anything, nor with buying anything online. The internet was not something that they were interested in. Now, because of the social media tide, most of my aunts, uncles and cousins, specially my cousins, are online and using Facebook daily.I know that there are lots of other outlets out there like “Hi5” and the local Spanish language networks like “q’oobole” and “quetal?” and several others all vying for a piece of the social pie.The big player making a move almost everywhere except for Brazil (where Orkut still reigns supreme), appears to be Facebook.What does all this mean?To me, it means that there is a huge opportunity in Latin America.Recently, there was a social media conference in Mexico City called “SM Latam.” The conference looked to explore, teach and spread the word about social media and how to use it for creating connections and for increasing your business ROI.I didn’t get a chance to go, and I only found out about the conference after the fact, but the fact the conference even happened makes me happy.What didn’t make me happy was that a lot of the speeches, as far as I can tell including the keynote, appear to have been delivered in English. On the surface, it looks like the majority of the attendees to the SM Latam event were at least bilingual. This made me realize that most of the writing on websites that deal with social media is also written in English.My question became: What about the rest of the people in Latin America that are not bilingual?Lots of people that have small to medium sized businesses of their own that could benefit from using social media don’t speak English. Who’s reaching out to them?From monitoring the #smlatam feed on twitter, I was able to figure out how to say some terms in Spanish. From the feed, I was able to ascertain that:
Social media in Spanish is “social media”
Fan page in Spanish is “fan page”
Web analytics in Spanish is “web analytics”
In this age of network or no-work the need for a social network presence is imperative. And just what is a “social network?” Well, if you have to ask that, you have to have been under the nearest rock for the last five (or at least two) years.Social networks are how the world communicates today. Facebook and MySpace are the new social meeting, greeting, reconnecting, and marketing forums of this techno-world we live in. Facebook, started by a 25-year-old Harvard dropout morphed from its original college campus based demographic to an internet absorbing phenomena that boasts an average of about 550,000 new members a day world-wide (Time, 2009). And what was the biggest reason for the Facebook BOOM over the last two years? You guessed it, Baby Boomers! MySpace, a significantly raunchier alternative to Facebook, a social networking website whose headquarters is located in Beverly Hills, California was at one time the most popular social networking site internationally (Wikipedia, 2009). However, with the more mature 40-something crowd discovering the media and marketing possibilities of these social networks, not to mention connecting with old glory-day buddies, the more grown-up look of Facebook soon pushed the flashy and pimpy aside.Social networking sites now abound in such a plethora of categories and formats that they are listed by the top 25 for the year. Facebook is number one (of course) with MySpace and Twitter following close behind.Twitter, now there’s another concept entirely. Not only can you post every passing thought that enters your brain, but others can choose to follow your “tweets” as you chirp along. What business executive wouldn’t want to peep proudly every fanciful business venture that zaps across his corpus callosum? And how can one live not knowing that their dear Aunt Gertie made it safely out of the bathtub?WordPress allows Tom, Dick, Harry, Peter, and Paul to all have their own informative blogs on just about whatever subject the fellas can dream up. With Google, Yahoo, and Ning an individual can create an entire little online forum empire. There are also several truly, entirely business oriented networking forums such as linkedin.com and PartnerUp.com.Social networking is not just limited to personal socialization, marketing, and business. It is becoming a huge and integral part of all forms of education. Online universities are one of the fastest growing internet presences today. Traditional universities are creating online curricula to supplement their in class lecture and in some cases entire courses are being developed for online presentation in lieu of traditional classroom instruction. Moodle and Joomla are just a few examples of interactive online presentation software that have social networking capabilities.Needless to say, developing an online presence is imperative for any business in the online marketplace today. On a personal level, forums like Facebook and MySpace are actually keeping families connected and reconnecting old friends. People post memorials for loved ones to leave messages and pictures, sometimes it’s the only way to talk to your temperamental teenager.