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JasonHeadShot,croppedBy Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

Looking for the world’s hottest markets for Internet and social media activity? It’s not North America, or Europe, or even Asia. The real action is in Latin America.

ComScore recently released a study detailing some of these trends. Among the most impressive: Latin America had the fastest-growing Internet population of all regions in the world, growing 12 percent between 2012 and 2013, and reaching more than 147 million unique web visitors as of last March.

So what are all those Latin American users doing online? The study, as well as a ComScore infographic, provide the details:

MediaBistro also recently published some research by Semiocast into where active Twitter users reside. Topping the charts was the United States, but #2 (ahead of the U.K., Canada, and Japan): Brazil.

Research firm SocialBakers underlines this trend, reporting 88 percent growth in Facebook use in Latin America in 2012, with Brazil alone adding 20 million users.

digital-consumer-central-latin-america-comscore

A Youth Movement

So let’s see… social networks, music, gaming. Based on these numbers, you might think that Latin American young people are the ones really driving Internet growth. And you’d be right.

Among the worldwide population, users age 15-24 make up about 26 percent of Internet users. In Latin America, they’re 32.4 percent. And in Colombia and Venezuela, they’re approaching 50 percent of all online users. Combined with the 25-34 age bracket, people under 35 make up 60 percent of the Internet users in the region.

In general, Latin American youth spend 32.5 hours per month online. (For reference, the global average is 26.2) In the past year, Latin American Internet usage has even eclipsed Europe; the region is now second in the world in average hours spent online, behind only North America.

Leading the Way in Social TV

Given the relative youth of Latin American Internet adopters, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re adopting new tech trends more quickly than users in other parts of the world. This is especially true for social TV, which is growing in Latin America more quickly than anywhere else in the world.

Check out this great presentation assembled by Swiss media analyst firm The Wit – World Information Tracking for the MIPTV-MIPCOM. Over the course of the latest fall TV premiers, Latin American watchers eclipsed all other countries in their Facebook and Twitter TV chatter.

Like the larger social media numbers, Latin American countries (Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina) make up five of the top 10 largest social TV markets in the world, and Brazil is the world’s #1 country for TV talk on social networks.

In fact, if you’re a big proponent of social TV in the U.S., you may even be feeling a little left out. Both Europe and Latin America are embracing social TV more quickly, and with more users.

Online Selling and Advertising

With growth in Latin American Internet and social media usage, of course, comes growth in digital advertising and commerce. ComScore reports that online advertising in Brazil grew a whopping 97 percent in the past year, reaching 130 billion display ad impressions. The biggest Latin American digital advertiser? Netflix, with 2.7 billion ad impressions delivered in Brazil and 463 million in Mexico.

Want more details behind the numbers? MediaBistro recently published a fascinating infographic from IMS Corporate examining how five top global brands (Nike, Samsung, LAN, Fravega, and GM) are using Twitter to reach customers in Latin America.

Laying the Groundwork for a Latin American Web Revolution

A number of factors are fueling this amazing growth in Latin America. But among the most important are growth in network connectivity across the region. The Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts there will be 183 million Latin American households connected by residential broadband by 2017 and 436 million mobile users—using a total of more than 809 million mobile devices.

The numbers are staggering, and exciting for industry observers, social media and tech trend-watchers, and Latin American consumers alike.

Do you live or travel in Brazil or another Latin American country? What have you seen lately that exemplifies the new internet-connected generation of Latin American youth?

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