Teenagers in South Africa have certainly not abandoned Facebook as social media platform, a trend happening globally. In fact, the 13 to 18-years-old group are the biggest in the country, numbering over 2.5 million users.
World Wide Worx and Fuseware have just released their popular annual Social Media Landscape Report with its headline findings reporting that Facebook is the most popular social network in South Africa, underlining the fact that “social media has become mainstream”. YouTube is second, and Twitter comes third.
An interesting fact to emerge was that Facebook has an equal number of male and female users “in market where there is still a small male bias in the use of the Internet and e-commerce”. There are 5.6 million male users, and 5.6 million females.
“This is a clear sign of both the maturity of the platform and its mainstream use as an everyday tool rather than as a high-tech choice,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology market research organisation World Wide Worx.
“From a marketer’s point of view, an equally significant finding is that, of a total of 11.8-million South African users – 22% of the population – 8.8-million access it on their mobile phones. This means that targeting Facebook users is not a matter only of marketing on the Facebook web site – its mobile properties are probably more important,” he says.
Fuseware managing director, Mike Wronski, says Facebook’s user base in South Africa reflects the urban population. “The highest growth in the user base is seen in three key economic hubs, namely Johannesburg (55%), Pretoria (49%) and Cape Town (44%). Interestingly, Nelspruit continues to show high growth, at 40%,” he says.
The research shows the single biggest platform for Facebook from a phone operating system point of view is Android, growing from 1.26-million in 2013 to 3.2-million in 2014. BlackBerry has fallen from the top position to second, but dropping only marginally in user numbers, from 2.6-million to 2.4-million. Windows Phone is beginning to emerge from below the radar, rising from 124 000 to 260 000. iOS remains in third place, though, remaining relatively stable at 580 000 users.
“More important than the operating system numbers, however, is the split between feature phones and smartphones,” says Goldstuck. “Five million Facebook users still use feature phones. While smartphones only just dominate – at 5.6-million – it is clear that a large Facebook user base is still on a basic device.”
The visual revolution
Goldstuck and Wronski report that the fastest growing social media platforms are visual in nature. The number of YouTube users rose by 53%. By August 2014, YouTube had reached an active user base of 7.2-million South Africans, making it second only to Facebook’s 11,8-million in social network use in South Africa. Instagram by 65% over the past year from 680 000 active users in 2013 to 1.1-million in 2014.
“We’re seeing the beginning of the visual revolution in online usage in South Africa,” says Goldstuck. “The global rise of video is now making itself felt here. Once the cost of mobile data comes down for the emerging smartphone market, video will become a dominant medium, strongly supported by other visual media.”
Wronski says every social network has its own dynamics. “The secret for companies trying to leverage social networks lies not only in numbers of uses, but also in how heavily those users engage in these networks. Twitter has more intensive engagement than Facebook, despite having substantially fewer users,” he says.
Twitter’s previously dramatic rise has slowed down, although still growing healthily by 20% in the past year – to 6.6-million users. The professional network LinkedIn has leaped by 40%, to 3.8-million users in South Africa.
Mxit has fallen from 6.5-million active users a year ago to 4.9-million in August 2014. But it has among the most engaged users of any social network in South Africa, with the average user signing in five times a day, and spending 105 minutes a day on the network.
Social media in business
World Wide Worx and Fuseware surveyed 65 of South Africa’s biggest brands. Most of the major brands are using Twitter and Facebook – respectively 95% and 92% – while YouTube and Instagram are likely to see the biggest first-time use by brands in 2015.
Just over half of these brands – 51% – intend increasing their social media budgets in 2015. The biggest focus of social spend will be on content marketing (73% of brands), followed by multimedia content (60%).
“Content marketing and influencer marketing are two big trends corporates are embracing as the market matures,” says Wronski. “For the brands, this makes social media more challenging than ever before, but it is going to enhance the consumer experience of social networks.”
Social media stars
Nadav Ossendryver, who founded the Kruger Sightings website when he was just 15, was presented with the award for building his wildlife sightings service into the most viewed YouTube channel based in South Africa.
The Kruger Sightings YouTube channel had reached more than 75-million views by the end of August 2014. In September, it passed the 80-million mark. The next biggest South African-based YouTube channel had 53-million views at the time.
““People are drawn to passion,” said Ossendryver. “If you make videos on topics you love, those people will watch. I have always been in love with wildlife and have wanted to share that love through the means of sharing people’s experiences.”
The previous South African YouTube leaders, drummer Cobus Potgieter and teen-appeal comedian Caspar Lee, are no longer based in South Africa. Ossendryver, who is now 18, is currently preparing to write his matric exams.
Presenting the award after the release of the research findings, Goldstuck said Ossendryver was an example to big brand marketers of how to build a community through compelling content.
As Goldstuck says, “It also proves that one individual with a powerful vision can achieve what even the biggest marketing budgets cannot.”
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