In Brazil, Facebook is a Small But Viable Contender Against Orkut

[Editor’s Note: The data cited in this article is excerpted from Inside Facebook Gold, our membership service tracking Facebook’s business and growth around the world. Visit Inside Facebook Gold to learn more about our complete data and analysis offering.]

Around the world, there are a few major markets in which Facebook stands at a disadvantage to other social networks. In 2009, these markets looked impregnable; this year, however, we’re seeing signs that Facebook could get a foothold in even the most intractable countries.

Last week, we wrote about South Korea. This week we’re looking at Brazil, which stands alone in South America both for its language, Portuguese, and its distinctive culture.

And it  stands out online for another reason: its wholehearted embrace of Google’s social network Orkut. It’s possible that Brazil is now Orkut’s last bastion, as signs are suggesting that Facebook may have outgrown Orkut in India.

Beating Orkut isn’t such an easy task in Brazil, where Orkut likely has around 50 million users, or roughly 25 percent penetration for the country of 192 million people. That’s about equal to what Facebook has in its most penetrated large South American market, Argentina.

But Facebook has been making significant progress this year. With the latest June figures, the social network has added 2.4 million new users in Brazil through the first six months.

By our projections, Brazil should have about 14 million Facebook users by next year if it continues growing at current rates. However, growth is not typically linear for Facebook in new markets. If it can keep growing in Brazil, that number could easily be doubled, making Facebook about half of Orkut’s size.

The operative term is “if”. With a total Facebook penetration of just 2.5 percent, Brazil is anything but a sure bet. Facebook’s own advantage lies in the fact that Google seems to be concentrating its attention on creating a new social networking alternative in the United States — though in the process, the company may lose its single strongest market.

Full data on Facebook’s audience growth throughout Europe and in countries around the world is presented in the July 2010 edition of the Facebook Global Monitor report, available through Inside Facebook Gold. An Inside Facebook Gold membership also includes data on language growth, audience demographics by country, and user behavior stats for the Facebook business ecosystem. To learn more about membership, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.