Written by Leila Ergo and Antonio Altamirano. This is the first of a series of posts analyzing the impact of Social Media in Latin America .
As discussed in a previous post, Twitter is growing fast in Latin America. Just as in other markets, Twitter’s growth has been mainly due to celebrities joining Twitter thus driving their fans to join in order to connect with their favorite celebrities.
But there’s now a huge factor that is unique to South America and that is quickly becoming a massive adoption driver for Twitter. Heads of State are joining Twitter and using it for good, evil or both. Not all presidents use Twitter in the same way or for the same purpose and not all presidents have achieved the same level of response from their people. Probably due to a lack of authenticity and transparency in their delivery style, but we will let you derive your own conclusions.
Let’s start by looking at Venezuela, Chile and Argentina. The Presidents of these countries have a verified Twitter account and are actively using it.
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela
Hugo is now @chavezcandanga
In April 2010, Chavez joined Twitter with the nick @chavezcandanga. In some countries in Central America and the Caribbean, “Candanga” means devil, but in Venezuela it is applied to a person able to mobilize the masses. Hugo Chavez demonstrated his ability to mobilize the masses by getting 64,000 followers within the first 24 hours after opening his account. As of today Chávez has 798,981 followers and counting. His follower growth has been light-speed fast.
Twitter grew 4.8% in Venezuela after Chavez’s decision to join. So it is conceivable that the president’s entry is driving Twitter’s growth. Even ComScore experts agree with this hypothesis, in their latest report.
Chavez decided to join Twitter to respond to those who began to criticize him from online platforms (blogs, social networks, etc.). Those who criticize him are the same people who were somewhat muted by the measures used by the Venezuelan government to censor and close several traditional media in the country.
However, Chavez strategy might have backfired. Carlos Jimenez, Director of the online polling firm Tendencias Digitales, notes that nearly 90% of the two hundred most-followed Venezuelans on Twitter are opponents of Chavez. Chavez joining Twitter might have indadvertedly lent more credibility to his opponents.
Sebastián Piñera, Chile:
The Earthquake, The Miners and Twitter
In 2008, President Barack Obama used Twitter for his own Presidential campaign. Since 2008, Obama has scored more than 5 million followers. As part of this strategy, Obama became not only the first president to use this platform but also the most popular.
Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s President, currently has more than 190,000 followers. Piñera enjoyed, for a fleeting moment, being the most popular Latin American president on Twitter (beaten only by Obama among presidents in the Americas), until he was overtaken by Chavez who currently has over six times the amount of followers that Piñera has.
Three major events in Chile helped Piñera to build a good relationship with his followers. It should be noted that Pinera is a great example of how a Head of State can use Twitter and innate influence to help the people and to drive change. For Piñera, Twitter is more about helping others than advertising himself.
- During the earthquake, Twitter’s Chilean community and Piñera’s own Twitter account were probably the best online channels to communicate news and information to the world and to raise money to help victims.
- Through his account, Piñera keeps his followers up-to-speed with the rescue efforts for the miners trapped 700 feet deep after a landslide in northern Chile.
- Chile’s Bicentennial is approaching and Piñera is using Twitter to organize and inform about the activities planned for the celebration. Check out his tweet below that translated says “Finishing up Bicentenario’s Tour. En route is a great concert of Desierto Florido at Pan de Azucar park in Atacama.”
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina:
Joins Twitter Too Late or Too Fast?
Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, quickly highlighted her presence on Twitter on classic media channels, despite the controversy it generated in her country. @CFKArgentina added more than 40,000 followers in just three days.
During these first three days, Cristina did not write a single Tweet. In an interview with the Argentine daily La Nacion, Orlando Adamo, a specialist in political communication, said: “It is not good that she did not write any tweets yet. This may be a strategy to keep expectations high, but if she does not appear on Twitter in a short time, that may damage the credibility of the same space that she decided to occupy”.
The Argentine context is very different compared to that of Venezuela or Chile. For this reason we are unable to know today what the reaction of people in the future will be, or if the participation of Cristina Fernandez will lead to a greater number of Twitter users.
So far, traditional media is spreading the first tweets from Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, which undoubtedly will encourage people to join Twitter, at least out of curiosity.
Here is a quick exchange that happened on Twitter between Cristian Fernandez de Kirchner y Hugo Chavez. Cristina congratulates Hugo for planning to celebrate Yom Kippur and Hugo replies by saying that he is very happy to hear from her and that it will be a great meeting.
In July 2010 the “Summit of the Future” was conducted in Costa Rica. There, the co-creator of Twitter, Dom Sagolla, said that Venezuela has increased its number of active users since President Hugo Chavez used the platform. Sagolla also cited Venezuela’s case as an atypical one compared even with that of Obama.
With regard to the overall picture in Latin America, Sagolla recognized that this platform has brought a revolution in the communication between presidents and the public.
We are far from fully understanding the impact that Twitter and other social networks will have in the South American political and cultural landscape. Though, we are completely sure that this marks a milestone in the streamlining of communication between Latin American leaders and the people.