(U//FOUO) U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Portugal

The following report is part of a series of Social Media Landscape guides produced by the U.S. Department of State for its U.S.- European Media Hub which is described as connecting “European audiences with U.S. policymakers and perspectives.” The Media Hub, which is located in Brussels, Belgium, is part of the International Media Engagement Office of the U.S. Department of State. The report was produced in March 2010. See also:

U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Hungary
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: France
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Latvia
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Spain
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belarus
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belgium
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Italy
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Romania
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Norway
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Finland

For USG Official Use Only

Social Media Landscape: Portugal

Portugal at a glance

  • At 37%-42%, internet access rates are significantly  lower in comparison with the rest of Europe
  • In 2005 the government announced an ambitious IT investment program for academic institutions to improve nationwide internet access
  • The consumption of digital content outweighs the creation of content online.

I.                 Executive Summary

Portugal is currently behind many of its European counterparts in terms of social media penetration and usage. However, there are promising signs that the current generation of young people (16-24 year olds) are benefitting from the government’s ambitious 2005 Technology Plan.

The 5 most popular newspaper websites

  • O Público
  • Correio da Manhã
  • Jornal de Notícias
  • Diário Económico
  • Jornal de Negócios

Social media usage in Portugal is growing and it is recognized by organizations as a useful communications tool, particularly amongst consumer brands. Although, the government has invested heavily in schools IT infrastructure, it is yet to embrace social media as part of its overall communications strategy and there remains great potential for the government or political parties to fully utilize social media. Similarly, there are cases of media outlets engaged in social media activity, although these are the exception, rather than the rule.

The 16-24 year old age group is leading the digital movement in Portugal; it is this group which has benefited most from the unprecedented level of government investment However, it is important to recognize their predecessors, the 25-34 year old age group are also heavy users of the Internet.

Currently, the consumption of content (e.g. reading blogs, watching online videos and social networking) outweighs the creation of content. However, there is a well-established and vibrant community of Portuguese bloggers.

Whilst those aged between 16 and 24 years old are increasingly IT literate, currently a large number of the population are not and this coupled with Internet access which is below the EU average has implications for the business community and wider population.

The combination of a supportive Government and burgeoning group of young people and students means that Portugal has great potential to participate in the online conversation, however it may take another generation before the full effect of the government’s investment plans are felt.

II.              Access

  • Internet penetration in Portugal is estimated to be between 37%-42%
  • Mobile phones ownership is close to 100%
  • The vast majority of people access digital content through computers (87%), whilst 48% access via their mobile phones and 5% through gaming consoles

Internet penetration in Portugal is estimated to be between 37%-42% which is significantly below the European average. However, the emerging population of young professionals and students is seeing growth and particular groups of people, such as 16-24 year olds (87%) and 25-34 year olds (69%) frequently access digital content.

There is a significant number of people who own mobile phones in Portugal and penetration is close to 100%, with only marginal segments of society not owning a cell phone, such as people with low incomes, the elderly and those who deliberately refrain from purchasing a cell phone.

The vast majority of people access digital content through computers (87%), whilst 48% access via their mobile phones and 5% through gaming consoles. The great majority of people (80%) access digital content at home, 41% at work and 31% at another person’s home. Other locations where people go online are academic institutions (20%), public libraries (9%) and Internet cafes (7%). As with most European nations, Internet usage is most common in densely populated areas and Portugal is no different with 55% of people living in Lisbon and 44% of people in the Algarve region regularly using the Internet. Going online is a popular activity for many people and using search engines (81%) is a popular activity, along with reading news websites (56%) and using social networks (35%).

Social media platforms

The primary platforms for social networking are Hi5 and Facebook. These networks are both used for private messaging, keeping in contact with friends and sharing videos and photographs. Currently, Hi5 is the largest network in Portugal with 2.5 million users and the majority of its users are aged under 18 years old. However, due to Hi5’s popularity with young people there have been concerns raised about the privacy and safety of youngsters online. In contrast, Facebook has experienced rapid growth over the last 12 months, has 1.5 million users – and is expected to surpass Hi5 as Portugal’s favorite social network in the next year. Whilst Hi5 remains popular with younger people, Facebook is currently the leading social network amongst people aged over 25, as well as young professionals.

MySpace and Orkut also have a number of young fans, although these are marginal networks mostly used for music and arts related profiles. In terms of professional networking The Star Tracker is a highly visible niche network aimed at Portugese people working abroad. With the support of the Portugese President it was developed by Jason Associates, a talent management consultancy and has over 20,000 users, many of whom have senior positions within leading organizations.

Blogging is also popular in Portugal and in 2008 there were 200,000 bloggers, mostly using the Blogspot, Sapo and WordPress platforms. Blogging as an activity rose to prominence due to several high profile people including broadcasters, journalists and politicians maintaining blogs.

III.            Organizational Use

  • There has been rapid growth in organizations using social media as part of their communications strategy, however overall usage is low
  • The Government is yet to fully utilize social media

Social media etiquette

There have been instances of online astroturfing by organizations in Portugal, a famous example being when cell phone operator Optimus rebranded.

Shortly after the rebrand many positive comments started appearing online praising the company’s new image. However, it soon became apparent that the comments were being written by Euro RSCG employees, the advertising company behind the rebrand project.

Although, these actions were widely condemned online these did not translate into any offline negative outcomes.

There has been rapid growth in organizations using social media as part of their communications strategy, although it is mostly being used to broadcast news, rather than being fully utilized as a tool for engagement and two-way communication. In line with most European countries it is the marketing and public relations industries leading the way in social media usage. Generally, social media is being used by consumer brands as a communications tool with some examples of engagement and interaction, although it is primarily one-way broadcasting.

Corporate brands are beginning to use social media, although they are typically slower to react than consumer brands.  Public sector organizations have not advanced to the same level of social media usage as their commercial counterparts. Whilst, NGOs are beginning to appreciate the value of social media and it is increasingly being used as a tool for interaction and outreach activities, although NGO usage overall is low. There are recent examples of companies engaging in social media, for example mobile operator TMNs Facebook fan page, Tivoli Hotels Twitter account and Telco’s customer support Wiki. However, many of these activities are stand alone projects and are not part of a coordinated communications strategy.

Government & Political parties

Currently the Government does not engage in social media activity to any meaningful level and most usage is limited to broadcast features, such as RSS feeds. The only notable exception is a blog by the Secretary of Internal Affairs. When the blog was first written it was perceived as ground-breaking, however now it is now poorly maintained and waning in popularity. Whilst, social media usage by the Government is low, this presents an opportunity for engagement that is yet to be fully seized by the Government or political parties.

Journalists on Twitter

  • José Manuel Fernandes – Former Managing Director of Público
  • Lucian Alvarez – Political Editor at RTP
  • Henrique Monteiro – Managing Director at Expresso
  • Pedro Santo Guerreiro – Managing Director at Jornal de Negócios
  • Paulo Ferreira – Deputy Director at Público

There are some instances of social media being used for specific projects by public agencies, local authorities or government, as opposed to being part of an overall strategy. A recent example is a blog by Armamar city council which was created after the 2009 election, however it is low on content and poorly maintained.

Offline networking

2009 saw large growth in social media being used as a tool to organize offline events in Portugal, including networking events, social media conferences and informal gatherings. There were cases of Twitter users creating theme or geographic based events to promote individual events; while bloggers have also participated in conferences on social media or specific topics, such as Upload 2.0 and BarCamp.

News media

There has been a high level of social media adoption amongst journalists, with many utilizing it to broadcast news and create personal brands on platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. There are cases of the media too using these platforms to promote content and breaking news. The majority of media outlets do not currently incorporate blogs into their present offering, with a couple of exceptions including RTP, iOnline and Público.

Whilst, Portugal has a low level of Internet penetration in comparison to other European nations, the Portuguese government has taken steps to address this issue and we are now starting to see a generation of young people at ease with the digital world. This is due in part to an ambitious modernization programme undertaken in 2005, by the government, entitled: the Technology Plan. This strategic initiative centred on three elements: access, infrastructure and services. Over the last 4 years the government launched the e-U project which set out to modernize university IT infrastructures, web services and implement wireless Internet access. e-U Laptops was a sister project which subsidized laptops to university students and was later introduced to high schools. In addition, a special laptop was developed for children to enable them to gain technology literacy skills at an earlier stage.

Connected Schools was another initiative which modernized IT infrastructure and equipped all primary and high schools with broadband Internet access. It was not just students who benefited from this government intervention, but academics who were targeted via the B-On initiate, a web portal developed to integrate all academic research portals and decrease the cost of academic research and collaboration.

As well as equipping many 16-24 year olds with IT skills, the government has also developed a range of web portals and now provides online web services including a Citizen, Tax Payer, Company and Voter’s portal, all of which enable users to quickly find information and interact with different government agencies.

There is a desire amongst Portuguese organizations to embrace social media and follow the lead of US companies. However, at present there is a tendency to focus too much on having a social media presence, rather than how it can effectively be utilized.

IV.          Legal & Ethical

  • There are few instances of copyright lawsuits, and these are largely instigated by corporations, rather than individuals

The Portuguese legal system incorporates privacy and intellectual property rights legislation derived from the European Union. Consequently, intellectual property laws cover digital content and are mostly focused on protecting the rights of organizations within the music, video and literature industries. Over the last few years Creative Commons licenses have been translated into Portuguese and these are slowly being used by bloggers and social media users.

Portugal follows EU privacy and confidentiality laws, however these have yet to be fully tested as there has not be a case involving local blogs hosted in foreign territories, such as WordPress or Blogspot.  Data Privacy is managed by CNPD – the Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados (Data Protection Commission), while SPA – Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores (Authors Society) oversees the intellectual property rights of authors. Whilst, protection of intellectual property may be enshrined in Portuguese law, legal enforcement and prosecution remains very limited and this issue is exacerbated by a lack of legal knowledge by IP owners, as well as skills or resources to instigate a claim. Whilst, there are sporadic cases of litigation taking place, copyright laws are seldom fully enforced within Portugal. Most law suits involving social media are related to defamation and personal image protection, rather than intellectual property. Cases involving defamation and image protection are brought to court under the Penal Code, which does not make reference to digital content.

There have not been any cases of people losing their jobs due to misconduct on social media platforms; however there have been instances of staff being disciplined for inappropriate behaviour, a recent example being TAP pilots who discussed sensitive issues on Facebook. This was widely reported by the media and initiated a discussion on what are the boundaries between private and public comments online. However, at present there is no regulatory framework developed to handle social media legal cases.

V.             Local factors affecting digital content

The great majority of online conversations are held in Portuguese, whilst English is occasionally used if the conversation involves people from other countries. Organizations seem to adhere many of the social media rules of etiquette established in the US, such as listening first, then interacting whilst being open and transparent. However, there are instances of organizations failing to target bloggers appropriately and it is important to appreciate that most Portuguese bloggers are part-time and do not appreciate overly commercial approaches.

Whilst, there are few laws specifically governing social media, there are rules of etiquette and certain preferences that Portuguese people have. For instance, they generally dislike fake profiles on social networking sites, illegal use of copyrighted material and online advertising.

Over the last 12 months, the main topics of online conversation have centred around the general election. There have also been discussions taking place regarding privacy and regulation of blogs, but these have normally been in response to events taking place internationally, rather than domestically. Within popular culture, soccer and political news and events are discussed heavily both on and offline. Sport discussions typically focus on team results and major news, whilst political discussions are usually issue based, for instance the budget, legislation and scandals. The most popular blogs relate to sports, politics and women issues, whilst technology, media and entertainment blogs are also prevalent.

There have been examples of social media being used to generate support for particular causes, which typically focus around political campaigns. A recent example is the amendment to legislation by the government allowing gay people to get married. Both the pro and anti-gay marriage lobby utilized social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to present their views, organize events and publicize online petitions.

VI.          Principal data sources

–         Instituto Nacional de Estatística: http://www.ine.pt

–         Autoridade Nacional das Comunicações: http://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=993336

–         Agência para a Sociedade do Conhecimento: http://www.umic.pt

–         Google News: http://news.google.pt

–         Marktest Netscope: http://www.netscope.marktest.pt

–         Blogómetro: http://weblog.com.pt/portal/blogometro/

For USG Official Use Only

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