As of 2022, Brazil still is the largest market of WhatsApp outside of Asia: the instant messaging app was estimated to have around 147.37 million users in the country in 2022, accounting for more than 54 percent of its user base in the entire South American subcontinent. The app is by far the most used social media platform in Brazil and is virtually present on almost every smartphone in the country. More than 96 percent of the Brazilian population is an active user of the messenger, while 35 percent appoint it as their favorite social media platform. But WhatsApp means much more than just messaging in Brazil.
’Zap-zap’ and the Brazilian lifestyle
Popular enough to be nicknamed ‘zap-zap’, the messenger app is used by more than 90 percent of smartphone owners in Brazil to exchange text messages and by 83 percent to exchange images and voice messages. Its usage has also expanded beyond personal communication: although the app itself quickly turned into a channel for direct communication with brands and companies, the release of its business spin-off in 2019 brought an alternative for small and medium-sized companies to interact with customers, thus creating the demand for the WhatsApp Pay service to operate with financial institutions like banks, credit cards, and cooperatives.
Despite all of this, WhatsApp plays a central in the country’s political discussion and communication, especially during the 2018 general elections, with the example of the extensive usage of bots supporting then-elected president Jair Bolsonaro in a campaign against his opponent Lula and the Worker’s Party. The impact of the app on the country’s politics led to a cooperation between the Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court and WhatsApp for the municipal elections in 2020 will also be replicated for the Brazilian general elections in October 2022 that will choose who occupies the highest political chair in the country.
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Research expert covering internet & gaming in Latin America and Spain