Facebook’s Spanish-Language Market Marked by Fragmentation, but Promises Opportunity

By Susan Su Comment

Editor’s note: The following analysis is based on data from Inside Facebook Gold, our research and data membership service covering Facebook’s platform and advertising ecosystem.

Today we look at Facebook’s second-largest language market, Spanish, which reached 71.4 million users this month according to data from our upcoming Facebook Global Languages Report.

We’ve previously discussed Facebook’s growth by country market — many readers now recognize the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and Turkey as Facebook’s top countries.

But what about language markets? For advertisers, marketers and developers creating content for Facebook that they hope will reach beyond the US, UK, Canada and Australia (some of Facebook’s most expensive ad locales), language markets are as relevant as country markets — if not more so — because linguistic translation is the first, and in some cases, only step in content localization.

In a recent interview with Inside Social Games, Wooga’s Jens Begemann noted that some audiences outside the US are using Facebook in English to such a wide degree that they’ve discontinued app localization for those market’s other languages. In Indonesia, for example, the audiences that matter are using the site in English anyway. This same logic applies to marketing and advertising campaigns on the site — if the users that matter to a given brand reasonably reachable via English, then costly localization efforts become moot.

However, this is where Spanish diverges from Indonesian, Tagalog, Hindi or other languages that predominate in emerging markets. Different countries, as we’ve previously noted, have different degrees of linguistic homogeneity. Latin America’s nations happen to have a high degree of Spanish-language saturation, according to our per-country language data. In other words, Spanish language is the gateway to users in dozens of Facebook’s fastest growing markets.

Not localizing to the site’s second largest language results in a jarring user experience at best, and missed acquisition opportunities at worst.

As noted earlier, Facebook’s Spanish-language market has now grown to encompass 71.4 million users worldwide. The Spanish-language market holds a unique position: it has grown to a size that’s almost three times larger than the next closest contender, French, and has already achieved a third the reach of English,

Interestingly, growth in the Spanish-language audience on Facebook has taken a markedly different trajectory than it did for English-language audiences on the site. While Facebook began as a college-oriented site sparked in American institutions, it has since spread more evenly through most of Western society, reaching both young and old. But among the many Asian and South American countries that are driving Facebook’s growth now, youth is the driving force.

Some 56.9 million of the total 71.4 million Spanish-language audience on Facebook are users under 35. That equates to roughly 80 percent of this language market being categorized as ‘young’ users. When we compare this split to Facebook’s prototypical country market, the United States, we see that the under 35 group comprises just 61 percent of the total.

One challenge in creating content for the Spanish-language market as a whole is the high degree of both demographic and national fragmentation of this audience. The market itself includes over 20 countries spanning four continents. While many of these countries are part of Latin America, some notable ones — Spain and the United States — are not. As a result, the countries that create Facebook’s Spanish-language market end up encompassing local markets with divergent degrees of economic development, Internet penetration, and Facebook penetration.

Only six of the Latin American countries can individually offer up more than a few million users.

The Spanish-speaking world has long since resigned itself to dealing with this national fragmentation, of course. The commonality of language has the potential to enable any content creator — advertiser or otherwise — to reach a vast number of far-flung local markets.

Facebook users in the countries noted above have language in common, but what other characteristics do they share? Could age demographic substitute for nationality for the purposes of marketers and developers on Facebook? Insofar as that question addresses taste and preference, the answer is probably yes. Advertisers, marketers, and developers should know that they are not just targeting Spanish-speakers on Facebook, but also, and almost by default, Spanish-speaking youth.

One way to prove that youth is indeed the driving force in Facebook usage for most Spanish-speaking users is to look at preferred social games.

While it would be inadvisable for us to make a direct comparison between player preferences in the United States and the various Latin countries, there are some general trends that we can pick out with the help of past coverage.

For instance, a game like FarmVille, which trends to older players, has relatively few fans in our sample of five Latin countries — achieving just 11.4% of the United States’ total fan base. However, Hotel City, which we recently found trends to young players, has a much stronger base, proportionally, with the Latin countries offering up 83.5% of the US’ total fan base for that title.

Many top applications like Farmville or Hotel City boost traffic through paid acquisition channels like Facebook’s self-serve ads. For these developers, user acquisition costs versus traffic value is a key question that is taking on new dimensions as Facebook’s major markets approach saturation.

In our next article in this series, we’ll take a look at some average CPC and CPM rates for the Spanish-language market on Facebook, and see how advertisers can use fragmentation to their advantage.

Comprehensive demographic and growth data for all of Facebook’s major language and country markets is available through Inside Facebook Gold, our research and data membership service tracking opportunities in the Facebook ecosystem. To learn more, or join the membership, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.

Chris Morrison contributed research and analysis to this article.