Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Social Media in an Impoverished Mexican Town

I just returned from a vacation in a Akumal, Mexico. Akumal is a small town about one hour south of Cancun that survives almost entirely on eco-tourism. It is a place of great scenic beauty, but tremendous societal shortcomings. The picturesque beaches, caves, rain forests and tropical fish can be overshadowed at times by the meager shacks, lack of sanitary water and high frequency of crime. This was most noticeable on the only main road between Akumal and Cancun. It was on this road that I passed one tourist destination after another all behind great walls that mirror the magnitude of Fenway's "Green Monster" and are designed to keep out the "dangerous locals." Tourists are reminded that there is danger by the teams of security guards armed with semi-automatic machine guns.

Maybe it was because I was re-reading "Groundswell" or maybe it was because I was curious about the digital capacity of a place that had such a sharp contrast bewteen beauty and squalor, but I asked some of the locals about their use of social media. I wasn't surprised to hear that social media is not a commonly used technology in Akumal. When I said the word "Facebook" to a group of four guys it was returned with two confused looks, one indifferent response and one "oooh Facebook, ci." I inquired what that meant and found out that the lone guy in the group that knew Facebook wasn't a member, but had seen adds where brands communicated that they were on the social media platform. They were more concerned about buying their groceries, fixing their palm roofs or paying for a new bicycle tire (their primary method of transporation) than the computer or mobile technological devices it would take to operate social media. There also wasn't much need to connect with the outside world. In Akumal, most communications happen face-to-face and there isn't much need to communicate with people that you wouldn't see in person.

This isn't a grand revelation, nor will it affect marketers in any way. Brands aren't marketing their products to people that can't afford them. This revelation did give me pause to ask "why am I so wrapped up in a technology that only a small percentage of the world can truly use the way it is meant to be used?" Sometimes, in the world of business we move so quickly that we don't stop to think about the big picture. I think it is important to put some perspective in what we do and think about if the people in a place like Akumal, Mexico care about the tasks we devote 50 plus hours a week to.


Kay Walten on January 13, 2010 at 10:50 AM said...

I live in Akumal, and have been here for over 17 yrs. When we go from a community that did not have telephones, only two TV's in town, and spotty electric, to this day in age where there is internet, and kids are texting on their cell phones, I would say "we've come a long way baby". And although social networking is not common, everything in due time.

The world of brand marketing reaches in places you would think near impossible. I have been kilometers in the jungle where people live in a palapa with a dirt floor, no indoor plumbing, but they had satellite TV and the boys were in Nikes, and the girls had Kitty Kitty backpacks. They are aware of the big wide world, and they want the same thing we all do, peace, happiness and working so their kids can have a better life.

PS the crime does not have the "high frequency" as you mention.
We generally have little or no violent crime. More petty thievery than anything.

Twitter: @locogringocom
Fb: Kay Walten


Jake Rosen on January 13, 2010 at 11:50 AM said...


I really appreciate your thoughts. I was simply commenting on the conversations I had while there. You are absolutely right about technology. I saw satellite television on every home.

I saw no actual crime and apologize if my post came off in that way, but that does not mean that I wasn't warned a dozen times by cab drivers and hotel managers about it. It truly caught me off guard when I saw a team of 20-25 military men armed with machine guns doing random stops on the highway.

Akumal is an amazing place and one that I would return to over and over again because of how accommodating and nice the people are. I was simply trying to convey that digital media marketers can reach a lot of people, but maybe not everybody.

Thank you again for the comment. I'd love to hear more about the area.

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Who? Why?

Social media often becomes a rat race. Who has the newest technology? Who has the most friends or followers? This blog is designed to slow it down a little and remind people that at its core, social media is about relationships and conversations.

Jake Rosen
Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard

The content on this site reflects my own opinions and not necessarily those of my employer.


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