Social Media Portuguese Style


Portugal, what a place; the friendly people, the delicious food, and the beautiful scenery.

Last month, I was lucky enough to spend a few days on the spectacular island of Madeira, about a 1.5 hour flight from the mainland of Portugal.

I was there for business, but it was pure pleasure, and gave me yet another reason to love my job.

Similarly to when I travelled to Vietnam, India and Hong Kong, I was really interested in how social media is being used in Portugal. Here are my three key observations.

Latest Figures from the We Are Social & Hootsuite Digital in 2018 Report

Social media use is lower in Portugal than in many countries, and is slowly increasing

Portugal has a population of 10.3 million people and 75% use the internet.  However,  only 55% of Portuguese internet users describe themselves as “active” social media users compared with 69% in Australia.

Social media adoption in Portugal is growing at a rate of 8% per year, which seems like a snails pace when compared to countries such as India which is growing at a rapid rate of 90%. 

As with all of the other countries that I have visited (and most countries in the world), Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Portugal and is used by 81.93% of social media users.

The second most popular social media platform is YouTube (5.11%), then Pinterest (5.06%) and Twitter (3.34%). Instagram is the sixth most popular platform used by only 1.26% of Portuguese social media users. Tumblr is more popular than Instagram in Portugal.

Me about to begin my online class from Portugal with my social media students in Australia

Fixed internet speeds are must faster in Portugal than in Australia

However, that isn’t saying much. According to the We Are Social and Hootsuite Digital in 2018 Report, Portugal ranks 14th in the world for its fixed internet speed of 54.5 mpbs and Australia ranks 24th with 25.9 mpbs.

The internet speed in Madeira allowed me to run an online class for my students back in Australia without a hitch, apart from the horror of the time difference. I have had more technical issues trying to run my online classes when I’m back in Australia; now I know why.

On the upside, Australia has the fourth fastest mobile internet speed (48.9 mpbs) whereas Portugal sits in 20th place (24.1 mpbs). I must say, that I did notice this at times when I was out and about.

Even though the wireless speeds were slower, restaurants, cafes and other venues generally had their WiFi passwords clearly on display for their patrons to log on. I wish this happened more in Australia.

Portugal is ranked 23rd in terms of the time spent using mobile internet.
Australia is ranked 35th.
| Source:
We Are Social

People spend more time using mobile internet in Portugal than in Australia, but it didn’t seem that way

One observation that I made during my brief time in Portugal, was that the locals seemed less attached to their mobile phones. When I saw groups of families and friends out for a meal, there wasn’t a phone in sight.

People sat and chatted with each other without being distracted. Whenever I saw anyone with a phone while I was out and about, they were usually on their own and were using it to speak to someone rather than to check Facebook.

However, I wasn’t in Portugal very long and I didn’t venture far, so my observations are purely anecdotal. Apparently the Portuguese spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes per day using mobile internet (it’s only one hour and 54 minutes in Australia) and two hours and 10 minutes using social media each day compared with one hour and 39 minutes in Australia. Maybe this is due to mobile internet speeds being slower in Portugal. It takes much longer to complete the same tasks.

Anyhow, at times, I felt self-conscious for being the only person having my phone out, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Goodbye, beautiful Madeira | Source: Dr Karen Sutherland
The view from the balcony of my Airbnb in Madeira


Overall, social media in Portugal reminded me of Australia around five years ago. Many businesses and individuals were still jumping on board, Facebook dominated (and still does), and we weren’t so attached to our smartphones, well, at least I wasn’t.

Things move quickly in the social media space, so it won’t be long before social media use in beautiful Portugal will be on par with Australia. Let’s hope it has a positive impact.

I would love to hear more about your own experiences with social media around the world. Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

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