Social media ‘breaking barriers’ in SA

4 October 2012

Social networking in South Africa has crossed the age barrier, the urban-rural divide, and even the relationship gap, according to new research findings from technology market researchers World Wide Worx and information analysts Fuseware.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2012 study, released this week by World Wide Worx and Fuseware, shows that the fastest growing age group among Facebook users in South Africa is the over-60s.

‘Reflection of Facebook going mainstream’

From August 2011 to August 2012, the number of over-60s on Facebook in South Africa grew by 44%, compared to less than 30% for those aged 30-60, less than 20% for those aged 19-30, and less than 10% for teenagers, the study found.

“This is a reflection of Facebook going mainstream in South Africa,” World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck said in a statement. “The younger segments are still far from saturation, but we’re not seeing the same heady pace of growth among the youth as before.”

Crossing the urban-rural divide

Both Facebook and Twitter have crossed the South African urban-rural divide, according to the study. The proportion of urban adults using Facebook is a little less than double rural users – but rural users are now at the level where urban users were 18 months ago.

Twitter’s urban penetration is a little more than double its rural penetration, but the rural proportion has also caught up to where the urban proportion was 18 months ago.

Facebook, Twitter numbers

At the end of August, 5.33-million South Africans were using Facebook on the Web, 2.43-million were on Twitter and 9.35-million on Mxit.

However, because Facebook does not measure mobile-only usage among those who have registered via their cellphones, the full extent of its penetration is significantly understated: primary research by World Wide Worx shows that 6.8-million South Africans access Facebook on their phones.

South African Twitter use measured in the study indicates that its user base had grown to 2.2-million by the end of June, or 100 000 new users a month since August last year.

Fuseware data, collected directly from Twitter through an API (application programme interface), shows that the number reached 2.4-million at the end of August, exactly matching the growth rate measured by World Wide Worx, and validating the earlier data.

Single users on the increase

Another of the study’s findings is that the number of single users of social networks in South Africa has grown faster than any other relationship group, by almost 25%, to reach 957 :000. The number of married and engaged users has each grown by 16%, while the category of those “in a relationship” has increased by 9%.

“Clearly, Facebook is filling a relationship gap in the lives of many South Africans,” said Goldstuck. “But social networks are also so much more – we see them playing the roles of communication, information and entertainment networks.”

Wronski added: “Social media fatigue has set in for the more over-active users, who follow too much, communicate too much, and vent too much. But most users are arriving in this world for the first time, and new users are going to keep coming. It’s mainstream today but, tomorrow, it will be pervasive.”

Other key findings

Other key findings of the study include:

  • Both Facebook and Twitter have grown at a similar rate in South Africa, at around 100 000 new users a month, for the past year.
  • LinkedIn has grown substantially, but at a slightly lower rate, to reach 1.93-million South Africans.
  • Pinterest is the fledgling among the major social networks, with only 150 000 users in South Africa.
  • WhatsApp has become the leading instant messaging tool among South Africans aged 16 and over, living in cities and towns, with a user base of 4.6-million.
  • The youngest mobile instant messaging tool to emerge on the measurement radar in South Africa, 2Go, has close to a million adult users.
  • The most common “check in” sites for Facebook in South Africa are airports and shopping malls.
  • The biggest tweeting day of the week is a Monday, with an average of 9.6-million tweets sent by South Africans on the first working day of the week. Friday is next, with 9.6-million, while Saturday is the slowest Twitter day, with 8.4-million tweets.

SAinfo reporter