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THE ISSUE: Progress made but more effort needed

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

THE ISSUE: Progress made but more effort needed

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Is enough attention being paid to the benefits of social and digital media?

Ordinary citizens use digital and social media daily in the region. But is its potential as a major benefit to business and the overall economy being fully exploited?

This is a question that researchers in many countries continue to examine. An increasing number of companies are also looking for ways to benefit from the various social and digital media platforms.

Eric Schwartzman, a digital communications advisor to multinational corporations, government agencies, multilateral entities and non-governmental organisations, examined some of these issues last year in a study he was contracted to undertake for the Inter-American Development Bank.

“While social media is just one component of a digital strategy, healthy conversations are well underway about sustainable business development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin Americans don’t just check the news, weather, sports and family events online. They discuss business too,” he found.

“So if you’re in the private sector in the region, look for opportunities to find and insert yourself into conversations on social networks at the right time to establish yourself as a trusted resource, develop your new business pipeline and ultimately steer purchasing decisions.”

Schwartzman added that “digital access is fast becoming a global consumer expectation”. For example, he said 51 per cent of Latin American consumers said the quality of Internet banking services influenced their decision when choosing a retail bank.

“The data is in. Businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean are investing in social media.  It is no longer a question of ‘will social media affect my business?’ The question now is ‘How do you get in the game?’,” he said.

In a new study Connected Society – Digital Inclusion In Latin America And The Caribbean, the GSMA, which “represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide”, said while “the mobile market in Latin America and the Caribbean is maturing rapidly”, “there remains significant potential to bridge the digital divide by bringing mobile broadband services to the wider population”.

“More than 300 million people in the region still do not subscribe to mobile internet services and the penetration is even lower for mobile broadband, with nearly seven in 10 people lacking a mobile broadband subscription,” the report stated.

Interestingly, the coverage gap in Latin America and the Caribbean is relatively small, with only about ten per cent of the population, or 64 million people, living outside the footprint of 3G or 4G networks. However, 57 per cent, or 360 million, of those Latin Americans who have coverage do not use mobile broadband.”

In a report issued last year, Caribbean & Company said Aruba was ranked as the most popular digital destination on a list of 35 Caribbean islands. Barbados was ranked at ten on that list. The rankings were based on data including social media followings, website inbound links, and third party rankings.

Commenting on the findings, Caribbean & Company founder Ursula Barzey, said: “Caribbean destinations like most throughout the globe spend millions each year to attract new and returning tourists to the region. Many of the marketing campaigns are via traditional television and print media, but we are starting to see more marketing activity online.”

In addition to Aruba, the islands ranked higher than Barbados were Aruba, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Martinique.