BUENOS AIRES: Social media usage has experienced explosive growth in Latin America, with Brazilians now having the highest number of online "friends" in the world.

A report from TNS, written by the research firm's Latin America ceo Wander Meijer, shows that the typical Brazilian has 231 social network friends, while Latin Americans have an average of 176. The global average is 120.

"It is not just all work for the Latin Americans on the Net – they are well-known for their sociable nature and it is not a surprise that they have embraced social media like no one else," the report added.

"For social networks, Brazil continues to be the leader in the use of almost all forms of social media, not just in Latin America, but the world."

But this trend has not been driven by Facebook, the world's largest social media platform.

Instead, 94% of Brazilian social networkers have an account with Orkut, a Google-owned platform, while 38% have joined Twitter and 36% Facebook.

In all, 80% said their "favourite" social network was Orkut. Facebook and Twitter were well behind on 7% each.

When asked which network they intend to join in future, over half (53%) of Brazilian consumers said "none", while 26% said Twitter - the next most popular response - and 15% Facebook.

According to data cited in the TNS report, Latin America accounts for 5% of the world's population and over 10% of its internet users.

The region's internet penetration rate has reached 38% of households, above the global average (33%) and well ahead of other fast-growth markets such as emerging Asia (23%).

Internet access is spreading fast across the region, with total usage growing by over 20% in Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico last year. Chile remains the best-connected nation in the region, with 50% of the population now online.

More generally, internet access in Latin America, as with other fast-growth regions, is being driven by smartphones rather than desktop or laptop PCs. This reflects the patchy nature of much fixed-line infrastructure.

New users - particularly those defined as "bottom of pyramid" (BOP) consumers - are also particularly likely to engage deeply with online content.

TNS data show that the typical user in the developed world spends around six hours a week on the mobile web. This total rises to 11 hours in fast-growth economies.

"Once the BOP has the opportunity to access the Internet, their level of engagement with the medium is particularly high as they rely on it for a much wider range and criticality of applications than the upper income consumers," the report stated.

Mobile is also conducive to social media use, with the typical mobile web user in Brazil having a total of 357 social media friends.

Data sourced from TNS; additional content by Warc staff