MIAMI — The social unrest in Brazil earlier this year was the backdrop for exploring the way social media fosters movement and the ultimate impact on affected brands at the 2013 Global PR Summit.    

Flavio Castro, a partner at Brazil-based FSB Comunicações, interviewed journalist and author Cristiane Correa, drawing upon research from IBOPE that showed 78% of the thousands of the mostly college-aged demonstrators who took to the streets in June to protest economic malaise, used social networks to decide whether to go to the marches and about the same number took to Facebook to persuade friends to come.  

“Similar to Occupy Wall Street, this movement started first on the Internet and then moved offline,” Castro pointed out, with the demonstrations igniting from the #vemprarua hashtag. 

Eventually, the movement became too broad and, at which point brands were targeted, especially banks and international companies, he said. Brazil’s global image took a hit as well and approval ratings for politicians dipped.        

“Companies that were attacked didn’t respond,” said Correa. “I don’t know if they just didn’t know what to say or if they were afraid that if they responded it would be worse.” 

Even though the movement has lost considerable momentum, sponsors of next year’s FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games - both taking place in Brazil - are thinking of crisis plans, the panel noted.