Facebook-brazil-thumbUntil recently, if you asked a Brazilian marketer to describe her content strategy, the response would likely have included the words “Likes” and “Facebook” and not much else.

While in North America there are dozens of B2B marketing webinars every week, here in Brazil this tactic is almost ignored.

E-books are only now showing up as marketing tool. Mobile adoption has been rising quickly but most brands are only beginning to perceive it as a content platform. For the most part, these tactics have been left aside to prioritize Facebook. But things are finally starting to change.

First there was Orkut

To understand why Facebook is such a popular marketing channel in Brazil, you need to understand why Orkut failed.

Brazilians cut their social media teeth on Orkut, the soon-to-be defunct social network owned and operated by Google. Launched in 2004, Orkut was an instant phenomenon. An ongoing study of social networks by Vincos.it shows it was the most widely used social network in Brazil until 2010.

But just because it was popular, doesn’t mean everyone loved it. Nicknamed “the slum of the internet,” Orkut was compared to Brazil’s lawless favelas because of its lax privacy rules and security breaches. To top it off, Orkut never had a strong business model and provided few advertising opportunities, which kept brands at a distance.

So when Facebook appeared on the scene with solutions to all of Orkut’s problems, it quickly became Brazil’s network of choice, brands included.

Brazilians continue to love the network. Adoption is among the highest in the world. Today, Brazil is the third most active country on Facebook after the U.S. and India.

This Google Trends chart shows Facebook's (red) rise in popularity over Orkut (blue). In May 2009, Facebook had about 400,000 active users in Brazil. By 2012, that number had swelled to 36 million.

This Google Trends chart shows Facebook’s (red) rise in popularity over Orkut (blue). In May 2009, Facebook had about 400,000 active users in Brazil. By 2012, that number had swelled to 36 million.

The rise of the social vacuum

Predictably, a bevy of digital agencies popped up to help brands connect with users as social media, especially Facebook, matured. Facebook became the dominant means of brand communication in Brazil, especially among international brands.

But in my experience working with clients, recently brands have struggled to accumulate fans and ‘Likes’ at the same rate as those early high-growth years.

I know, it’s pretty much the same everywhere, but what sets Brazil apart from other markets is that those efforts on Facebook were not aligned with other tactics. In most cases, there were no other tactics.

In December 2013, a survey by my company, Tracto, in partnership with the Content Marketing Institute found that 69 percent of Brazilian B2B companies believed Facebook to be the most effective social platform. In the North American edition of the same survey, LinkedIn ranked first followed by YouTube and Twitter.

The problem is that this deliberate tactic of channel restriction is a waste of talent. And Brazil is full of talent.

Our journalists and advertisers consistently rank among the best in the world. Our marketers understand how to create compelling content (Dove’s award-winning “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign was created by Ogilvy Brazil). What they have less experience with, especially in the B2B space, is results-driven work.

New realities, new strategies

In 2012, Tracto conducted a survey with more than one thousand respondents and found that only 11 percent of content marketers prioritized sales or brand equity. The remaining 89 percent were more concerned with unique visitors, fans, ‘Likes’, followers and retweets.

This neglect of quantifiable results was fomented by the meteoric growth of the Brazilian economy between 2007 and 2012. Budgets were fat. All a marketing department or agency had to do was drum up an impressive social media presence to satisfy clients.

Since 2013, however, economic growth has sputtered and accordingly, marketers have begun to cope with the pressure.

There’s a local proverb that says, “God is Brazilian.” I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I can guarantee that this popular saying lasts only until that moment when a company’s CEO says, “show me the money.”

This is what’s happening right now. Economic pressures are forcing content marketers to realize that Facebook also has its downside: It’s a store that sells fans and ‘Likes’ for a reasonable price, but without a consistent content strategy, millions of fans or followers means absolutely nothing.

At the same time, online retail is exploding in Brazil. According to the National Association of E-commerce, total online sales are expected to reach U.S. $17.6 billion in 2014, up from U.S. $8.1 billion in 2011, meaning there is more opportunity than ever for content marketing to drive sales.

Diversify and conquer

Scup, one of the principal social media monitoring services in Brazil, is a great example of the changing tide. In 2013, the company launched an educational hub called Scup Ideas. Aimed at the B2B community, users can learn about best practices in digital marketing via its events, e-books, videos, podcasts and reviews.

But most notable is the plan behind it. Before publishing any content, Scup’s marketing team defined lead generation as their main goal. Now 60 percent of the company’s leads come from Scup Ideas – not their Facebook page.

Scup Ideas provides educational insight for potential customers and digital marketers.

Scup Ideas provides educational insight for potential customers and digital marketers.

In this scenario, content marketing emerges not as an option but as a solution. The 2013 survey we conducted with Content Marketing Institute found that six in every ten companies expect to grow their content marketing budgets in the next 12 months. Seven in ten companies expect these investments to bring them more business.

For the first time, content people are aligning their work with the sales funnel. The CEO’s message is clear: “we still have budget, but don’t forget: You have to show me the money.”