By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Facebook has overtaken Orkut as Brazil’s most visited social networking site, according to analytics firm comScore. The figures shows that in December 2011 Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had 36.1 million unique-user visitors, securing the top spot from Google’s Orkut, traditionally the most popular social network in Brazil, which attracted 34.4 million visitors.

Facebook most popular in Brazil
More and more of Brazil's online population is now using Facebook, but many maintain their Orkut accounts, too; photo by David Castillo Dominici/

Facebook has surged in popularity in Brazil over the past year: visitor numbers are up 192 percent year-on-year. Orkut only expanded five percent in the same period.

Brazil is now the fourth biggest Facebook user, after the U.S., India and Indonesia, and the numbers of visitors in the country is only set to grow.

Alex Banks, comScore’s managing director for Brazil, said that the country has always been a particularly social market, but that despite this, Facebook adoption had traditionally lagged in the market.

“That has all changed in the past year, during which the site has tripled in audience size as engagement has grown sevenfold to assume the leadership position in the market,” said Banks.

Windows Live Profile took the number three spot with 13.3 million visitors (up thirteen percent), while Twitter came fourth with 12.5 million visitors (an increase of forty percent). New competitor Google+ saw 4.3 million visitors in the same period. The figures exclude public computers, such as in internet cafés, or access from cell phones or PDAs.

The amount of time Brazilians spend on Facebook has also skyrocketed, with the average visitor spending to 4.8 hours on the site in December 2011, as opposed to just 37 minutes a year earlier.

Brazil’s social network market as a whole increased by twelve percent to 47.4 million unique visitors – or 24.3 percent of the population, which suggests considerable overlap between the various sites.

Social media logo cluster - ranked for Brazil
Social networked sites, ranked by popularity in Brazil; image by The Rio Times.

University student Bruna Silva is one of these “overlappers”, and still has both Orkut and Facebook:

“I started using Facebook because the majority of my university friends were using it. There are more university people there, who share different kinds of information than you find on Orkut. I only keep my Orkut account active because it’s easier to keep in touch with my relatives living in more rural regions, where it’s still more popular,” Bruna told The Rio Times.

“But I think this will change as most people have now discovered Facebook; it’s just a question of time and getting used to it,” she added.

Although the migration to Facebook is certainly underway, some users described a hesitation to move, citing reasons such as Facebook lacking the “communities” feature that Orkut has.

Analysts at comScore revealed more specific information about Brazilians’ Facebook habits: female users averaged more time on the site at 5.3 hours compared to 4.1 hours for males.

In December, 30.6 percent of visitors were aged 25 to 34, while the 15-24 range on average spent the most time on the site: 6.2 hours each. Geographically, those in Rio de Janeiro and Brasília spent longest on the site, although São Paulo accounted for more than one-third of all Facebook visitors.

Facebook and Orkut were both launched in 2004. By October 2011, the majority of Orkut’s users are based in Brazil (59 percent), whereas the U.S. had the majority share when it first became available.

Brazil had the fifth largest social networking population in the world, and until now was one of a number of significant markets, such as China, Japan and Russia, where Facebook did not lead the local social network category. Facebook now has over 800 million members worldwide.

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