South Africans embrace social media

26 October 2011

South African internet users have embraced social media as a core pillar of their online activity, a new study finds. MXit and Facebook have the most user numbers, while Twitter has seen the most dramatic growth in social networking in the past year.

The study, entitled “South African Social Media Landscape 2011”, was released this week by social media monitoring firm Fuseware and researchers World Wide Worx.

“The question of how many South Africans use each of the major social networks comes up so often, it became a priority for us to pin down the numbers,” Fuseware MD and report co-author Michal Wronski said in a statement this week.

“The data was collected through a combination of Fuseware’s analysis of social network databases, information provided directly by social networks, and World Wide Worx’s consumer market research.”

Personalities driving Twitter growth

An analysis of Fuseware’s extensive database of Twitter usage, in conjunction with World Wide Worx’s consumer market research, shows that there were 1.1-million Twitter users in South Africa in mid-2011 – a 20-fold increase in a little more than a year.

“One of the drivers of growth of Twitter is the media obsession with the network,” said World Wide Worx MD and report co-author Arthur Goldstuck. “Most radio and TV personalities with large audiences are engaged in intensive campaigns to drive their listeners and viewers to both Twitter and Facebook.

“The former, coming off a very low base, is therefore seeing the greatest growth.”

As in the global environment, not all Twitter users are active users, with only 40% tweeting, but probably as many simply watching, following and using it as a breaking news service.

MXit remains most popular

MXit remains the most popular social network in South Africa, with approximately 10-million active users. Its demographic mix runs counter to the popular media image of MXit as a teen-dominated environment, with no less than 76% of the male user base of MXit and 73% of female users aged 18 or over.

A surprising finding emerged from analysis of Facebook data, which shows that of approximately 4.2-million Facebook users in South Africa (by August 2011), only 3.2-million had visited the site in the year-to-date.

“This is partly a factor of many users moving on once the novelty of the site had worn off, as well as a result of the fickle nature of the youth market,” said Wronski.

The study also found BlackBerry Messenger to be the fastest growing network in South Africa in the second half of 2011.

“Once BBM picked up significant traction in private schools, for example, many teenagers who had previously flocked to Facebook opted for BBM’s greater immediacy.”

Business owners using LinkedIn

While LinkedIn, aimed at professional users, also reached the 1.1-million mark, it came off a far higher base – but still saw 83% growth of South African users from 2010 to 2011. Of these, 112 000 or 10% are business owners.

Consumer research analysed in the report revealed that future intention of usage of most social networks is strongly related to age – the younger the user, the greater the intention of usage.

“This is only one of many micro-trends shaping social networking,” said Goldstuck. “MXit, Facebook and BBM statistics illustrate, for example, that as social networks become more mainstream, their penetration within all age ranges deepens.

“This, in turn, will result in the continual flattening of the age curve as social networks mature.”

SAinfo reporter

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material