What comes to mind when I think “MEXICO”? Hmmm, let’s see: Drug cartel violence, Illegal Immigration, gorgeous beaches, sombreros, and margaritas—yes, in that order. And, I suspect that there are millions more who share this mindset. The Cluetrain Manifesto tells us that “markets are conversations”– if drug cartel violence is leading the conversation on Mexico then that doesn’t bode well for the Mexican brand. But unfortunately that is what I found–the vast majority of social media related content about Mexico centered on (drum roll, please) drug cartel violence! And, Twitter was the turf that seemed to be getting the most action.
Apparently, Twitteros (Mexicans who tweet) post tips on Twitter warning people of places to avoid and when, in order to steer clear of the cartel violence. Meanwhile back at the compound, cartel members are using Twitter to threaten enemies, intimidate the public, and disseminate coded messages to their associates carrying out nefarious purposes. Then, on top of that you have the Mexican government attempting to basically shut down access to Twitter in efforts to stop people from posting tips revealing locations of police barricades and other such policing tactics. I should mention that Twitter is not the only social media platform prevalent in Mexico that has been high-jacked by the country’s unflattering issues. Mexicans are using Facebook for the same purpose as well.
Now, I’m not saying that drug cartel violence is the only topic of conversation for Mexicans using social media. It’s just that it was right up there during my search. But, when I dug a little deeper (beyond the cartel violence and illegal immigration), what I found was some statistics that can offer a glimmer of hope for the Mexican brand in the realm of social media.
According to 2009 statistics, internet penetration in Mexico is approximately 27.2% (112.4 million people) and is fast-growing. What this means for Mexico is that it has a wider audience to engage and disseminate content that will enhance the reputation of the Mexican brand. A more pertinent statistic is that this growth is lead by young people who are heavy influencers; users age 15-24 represent 48% of Mexico’s internet users. And, at this point in time Mexico’s social network users are on for “personal” use—meaning they are not on to participate in special interest-type groups. But, here lies the vast opportunity for Mexico to engage its most influential citizens in a collective effort to rescue the Mexican brand. The market for special interest engagement via social media has yet to be developed in Mexico. So, there’s no competition for users’ attention if the Mexican government were to launch a robust campaign to get its young citizens engaged and committed to re-branding Mexico as a culturally rich land of breathtaking beaches; thereby minimizing the damage to its brand image bestowed upon it by negative issues.
This re-branding campaign should be initiated by the Mexican government or a government-related entity such as a tourism board; and it should simply entail getting users to create and share content that focuses on the positive and fights against the negative. This means launching groups of Mexicans and supporters that speak out against cartel violence while working to create and highlighting positive growth and development for Mexico. Mexico must tap into its social media market of young influencers and take on the drug cartels which are relentlessly damaging the Mexican brand– just as Colombians took to social media against the terrorist group FARC. The Colombian citizenry’s public outcry against FARC started with one fed-up Colombian suddenly, bravely creating an anti-FARC Facebook group; in less than one day the group had 1,500 members and ultimately hundreds of thousands more joined. If it worked in Colombia, it can surely work in Mexico.
Now, I realize that the war against the drug cartels and issues such as illegal immigration won’t be tackled by social media groups alone. But, social media should be a weapon in Mexico’s arsenal, sitting right alongside government policy and militaristic policing. Only then can Mexico really be the brand personified by beaches, margaritas, and sombreros.