Portugal Goes Facebook

The land that once ruled the seas is now sailing in different waters, and social media may be the new compass of the web navigators. More than two million Portuguese have registered on the world’s largest social network. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the most famous newcomer to Facebook. He added almost five million fans in just three days.

Facebook’s popularity in Portugal has increased rapidly. Over the past six months, the world’s most beloved social network more than doubled its number of users. More than 20% of the Portuguese population now has an account on the network. According to Facebakers, a portal providing up-to-date data and statistics about Facebook, one in two Portuguese Internet users has an account. 74% of users are between 18 and 44 years of age.

Although the networking site HI5 still enjoys a larger user group in Portugal, Facebook is catching up quickly. Facebook users already spend more hours on the social networking site than on any other. LinkedIn has also grown steadily in the country, while Twitter represents less than 10% of social media growth.

It is not easy to define the typical user of these networks because now basically all demographics, social classes, ages and genders are on the Internet, says Paulo Querido, a 49-year-old Portuguese new media consultant, journalist and writer. “I think it makes more sense to characterize the networks: Twitter is mainly a content-distribution network, Facebook is primarily an entertainment network, LinkedIn is primarily a network of professional interests”, he explains.

From the goal net to networking goals

The famous Portuguese soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo, also caught this “new media bug.” He recently announced the launch of his official Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter profile. The 25-year-old soccer star found a new way to connect with fans directly. In just three days, he attracted almost five million fans. He is the sports icon with most fans on Facebook, even surpasing David Beckham, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan. Only the late Michael Jackson, U.S. President Barack Obama and pop singer Lady Gaga have more Facebook fans.

Like Ronaldo, Portuguese journalist Débora Miranda uses social networks to keep in touch with family and friends. Currently living in Germany and working for German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the young reporter also uses social networks for organizing events and for job-related networking.

“Through Facebook I have arranged a VoxPop for a conference workshop, I have started a network of young European journalists, I have done flat-hunting while living in Brussels, and I keep myself updated on specific news channels and newspapers”, says Miranda.

An online future for communication

New Media Expert, Elisabete Barbosa

Paulo Querido estimates that social media usage will increase to account for up to 90% of the population. “Users who are not on the network correspond roughly to the economically disadvantaged. So is this track that will increase more in the future,” the expert predicts.

However, social media do not yet play a major role in the communications and public relations strategies of Portuguese companies. “Those who understand a bit about the situation are still a little bit lost on what to do,” Elisabete Barbosa, new media expert, blogger, and Director of Communication and Projects at LK Comunicação, explains.

Barbosa predicts that in few years, the communication between companies and the public will only occur through online channels, events, or experiences. “Advertising as we know it will disappear, and – as many experts already point out – it will no longer be a monologue but a conversation,” says Barbosa.

Is there any better place to engage in conversation than in social media? “Yes, there is, but not with such a wide range, so simple to use and so cheap,” she replies.

Despite such favorable predictions and despite its incredible growth worldwide, Facebook is facing at least one major challenge: how to manage user privacy. As Facebook servers continue to store huge amounts of personal information, governments and watchdog groups promise to keep an eye on the world’s largest social network.

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