07/17/2014 12:06 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2014

Latam's Online Voice, Louder During 2014 World Cup

Last month, I had the honor of participating at the Quartz "The Next Billion" forum, an event gathering global leaders from innovative companies (including Facebook, IDEO, Amazon Web Services, to name a few) to discuss the implications of new technologies on the next generation. The interconnectedness brought by the internet is a fast-growing reality affecting all demographics. One segment worth attention is Latin America, and the online trends booming now among today's generation. A look at the 2014 FIFA World Cup provides a snapshot of Latin America's online voice and rise of the middle class, as well as amongst the growing Hispanic population.

Brazilian World Cup Bringing People Together

The 2014 Brazil World Cup has just come to a close -- the very first world cup in history to be part of the real-time era. Football ("el fút") is of course huge in Latin America, and we're not surprised that it's especially big on social media.

According to CNN and Twitter data, the 2014 World Cup was the biggest social media event to date. This happened not only because Latin Americans are some of the most social-media-engaged in the world, but we also saw for the first time in history how the athletes themselves became part of the conversation. This recent infographic by Mediabistro, points to the fact that 3.6 billion people (or half of the world's population) were expected to watch the World Cup teams, with the most Twitter followers for teams Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, with 1.46 million, 1.45 million and 823,000, respectively.

The same will inevitably hold true in the U.S., a country in which the word "Football" refers to a completely different sport. Yet, for the first time, the country was united by their US soccer national team; just check out this depiction of social media activity during the U.S. vs. Portugal match.

E-commerce in Emerging Markets - Latam's place

Often, China and India (huge markets) and Africa (untapped potential) come to mind with the notion of e-commerce in emerging markets. There's probably less general understanding of what Latin America represents. We can think about Latin America as a market of nearly half a billion people, with twice as much disposable income per capita as China -- or four times that of India. Think about it as a fast-evolving middle class, and a young population (some countries like Mexico, Peru, Colombia have over 30 percent of their population under the age 15).

The World Cup showed the huge e-commerce potential and purchasing power in Latin America. Shakira, Nike and Samsung made a huge roar in ad time-not just during halftime; fans are watching the commercials on YouTube. Furthermore, a study by Mindshare reported that this year in Argentina, football fans watched the games on more than one screen -- with more than half expected to watch on the internet and 21 percent watching from mobile devices.

Hispanic America(s)

With the growing number of Hispanics in the U.S., the Latin American market should be catching the eye of American companies. If it were a country, the Hispanic population in the U.S. would be the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to recent census figures, one of every four kids born today in the U.S. is Hispanic. In itself, the Hispanic market in the U.S. represents the 15th largest consumer market in the world. It should not come as a surprise then, that Univision, the Spanish language network with broadcasting rights for the World Cup, drew over 80 million viewers during the tournament.

Undoubtedly, having a better understanding of Latin America can offer a deeper understanding of the needs and wants of the U.S. Hispanic market. However this understanding is just half of the puzzle -- it is a market that is both bilingual and bi-cultural. They watch fútbol and American football. They watched the World Cup with true passion, but will also never miss a Super Bowl or the World Series.