Social Networking in Latin America: The Personal Culture of Business


I’m a Brazilian who has lived and worked in Miami for the past 13 years. And thanks to the international nature of my professional and academic careers, I’ve been able to make connections with people from all over: from Rio to New York, Lima to Miami, São Paulo to Mexico City, Boston to Bogota.  And like many people, I use Facebook to stay connected.

After a while of not receiving new Facebook friend requests, this past week I received three new invitations to connect – all from my colleagues at JeffreyGroup Brazil. I accepted them without thinking twice. In fact, I’d say that at least a third of my Facebook friends are people that I’ve worked with in the past – either from Globo TV when I was still in Brazil or from Discovery Channel Latin America here in Miami.

If you’re from the U.S., adding colleagues as Facebook friends may sound strange to you. Generally speaking, we don’t mix friends and work in the U.S. this way. You may think, “I don’t want my boss to know that the real reason I look queasy in a meeting is because of the hangover from the night before.” We arrive at the office in the morning, we work; we go home. That’s how we do business.

In Brazil and Latin America business is often done a bit differently. Culturally, it’s actually OK to connect on Facebook, to share photos of your kids, a video from your last trip or even post a joke (especially in Brazil, where we pride ourselves on our sense of humor). We enjoy learning about our co-workers’ lives, our business partners’ stories. In fact, I’m Facebook friends with the receptionists, the assistants, the managers – all the way to the presidents and CEOs of the companies where I’ve worked!

When I was on the “client side” of the business, I managed several marketing campaigns aimed at different audiences in the region. Countless times, I’ve seen American companies trying to push brands, products and services using a “one size fits all” approach. It didn’t work. Success only came when we partnered with local associates – people and businesses that lived, breathed and really knew the local differences and were able to help us adapt and customize the approach and messages. Here at JeffreyGroup we know that. It’s hard to do business in Latin America if you don’t know Latin America. You really can’t communicate effectively in Latin America if you don’t master each local culture, local language, and, most important, the local relationships – and yes, they change A LOT from country to country.

I remember a meeting I had with top executives from a global software company in São Paulo about five years agowhen I was working at a Miami-based IT consulting company. The meeting started at 9 o’clock and we were planning to speak about the companies’ joint marketing plans for that year. For almost 40 minutes the four executives and I only spoke about my personal life. They wanted to know more about my kids, my wife, my life in the US – they laughed, they cursed – it was fun. I was a bit nervous though – I needed some answers and these people were “wasting” so much time with all that nonsense! In the end, however, we worked out all the details, we had a marketing plan in place, and the business was done. After receiving many hugs and kisses I remembered: I’m Brazilian and that’s how we do business in Brazil.

And, yes, now they are my friends on Facebook too.