Latin Interactive World : “Digital Power Houses” – Sonico

In the last chapter of our “Pan-Regional Advertising” series appearing in “The Latin Interactive World,” Psicoxfp’s Leandro Santoro shared his company’s strategies and objectives.

Portada continues the series with Tomas O'Farrell, partner and Chief Marketing Officer for Sonico, one of the leading social networks in Latin America. O'Farrell is responsible for marketing and development of the company's digital properties. In this interview, he talks to Portada about Sonico’s expansion in Brazil, its marketing campaigns, and how the company manages its advertising.

At a Glance:

Name: Sonico

Country: Argentina. Founded in July, 2007.

Audience: 46 million users

Languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Offices: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Miami (U.S.)

Investors: DN Capital

Employees: 70 in Argentina, 8 in Brazil.

Site Features: Social network

Portada: How would you describe Sonico?

Tomas O’Farrell: “Sonico is Latin America’s social network for helping people organize their lives online. It allows people, organizations and brands to connect with each other in an easy, useful and entertaining way, while at the same time keeping control over their privacy options.”

Portada: What sets you apart from Hi5, Facebook, Myspace, etc.?

Tomas O’Farrell: “What distinguishes us is that Sonico works in much the same way as real life. We could say that what sets us apart are the ease, simplicity and privacy of our social network. We have three profiles that allow the user to choose what they want to share: A public profile, which offers greater exposure; a more personal private profile; and a professional profile. The idea of offering different profiles is an attempt to replicate the various areas of people’s personal lives, offering them the chance to share their different sides through three distinct profiles.”

Portada: Who are your investors?

Tomas O’Farrell: “Sonico received $6 million in financing from prominent angel investors and DN Capital, a market-leading private equity firm with presence in London and Palo Alto, California.”

Portada: How many users do you have? What is your user breakdown?

Tomas O’Farrell: “We have 46 million users. Our highest percentage comes from Brazil, with about 10 million users (22%), followed by Mexico with 7.5 million users (17%), Colombia with 5.5 million users (12%), and Argentina with approximately 4 million users (8%). The rest come from Peru, Spain, Venezuela and other countries.”

Portada: How would you define your user profile?

Tomas O’Farrell: “Sonico’s user profile is broader than one would think or expect. For example, 75% of active users in Argentina are 25 or older, and in Brazil the same demographic hits 71%. At Sonico, all age groups are active. The user breakdown by gender is 50% female and 50% male.”

Portada: How do you structure your marketing campaigns to attract so many visitors?

Tomas O’Farrell: “Our product is geared to users. Our best tool is to focus on making sure the user likes the product and feels safe using it. Every week we add a new feature to keep up with changing pace and dizzyingly rapid growth. We always strive to be on the cutting edge of the next thing. Aside from this, the user is only looking to find more people.”

Portada: How do you handle advertising?

Tomas O’Farrell: “We look for brand presence in the social network. We have several ways to achieve high brand exposure through “virtual gifts,” banners, layers and public pages for the brand, as well as “brand weeks”— where the brand gets access to all users who log in for a week, which is great for targeted launch campaigns.”

Portada: Who are your biggest advertisers?

Tomas O’Farrell: “In the U.S. Hispanic market, our biggest advertiser is cable provider Dish. In Argentina, our main advertisers are mass market, auto, telcoms and cell phones companies, for brands such as Nokia, Genious and McDonald’s.”

Portada: Angel Gambino has worked for Bebo— what did he learn there that you believe can be applied to Sonico?

Tomas O’Farrell: “As Sonico grew, it made sense for us to assemble a high-level team and recruit first-class talent. Alexander de Freitas, Manager for Brazil, worked for more than 10 years at Wal-Mart as Director of Sales, and his entrepreneurial experience also includes a vast knowledge of the digital advertising market. Angel Gambino, our VP of Business Development, is driving our strategy for acquiring better content and better applications."

Portada: It has been said that in countries with high crime rates, social networks provide too much personal information that helps facilitate crime. What is your opinion on this?

Tomas O’Farrell: “I think the benefits of social networks are many, and Sonico is very focused on minimizing risks. By offering three profiles, this makes it very difficult to access users' private information and ensures privacy. Because people care about whom they share their information with.”

Other articles in the “Digital Power Houses” series:

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