By 26 October 2011 | Categories: news


While the sales of virtual goods may not be as popular in South Africa as it is in China, social media certainly has no shortage of followers. According to a new study released by World Wide Worx and Fuseware, South Africans have embraced social media as a core pillar of internet activity, along with e-mail, news and banking.

Not surprisingly, MXit and Facebook lead the way in user numbers, while Twitter has seen the most dramatic growth in social networking in the past year. According to the report, entitled South African Social Media Landscape 2011, BlackBerry Messenger also emerged as the fastest growing network in the second half of 2011.

“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,” explained Michal Wronski, managing director of information analysts Fuseware and co-author of the report. “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,” he continued.
Good Tweetment

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. According to the report, this is a twenty-fold increase in a little more than a year.

However, Fuseware and World Wide Worx achnowledged that, as in the global environment, not all Twitter users are active, with only 40% tweeting. The majority of Twitter users were likely just watching and using it as a breaking news service.

Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director of World Wide Worx and report co-author, explained that one of the drivers of Twitter’s growth is the media obsession with the network. “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,” he elaborated.

Face off

A surprising finding emerged from analysis of Facebook data. 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,” explained Wronski. “Once BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) picked up significant traction in private schools, for example, many teenagers who had previously flocked to Facebook, opted for BBM’s greater immediacy.”
LinkedIn, on the other hand, which is aimed at professional users, also reached the 1.1 million mark. It still enjoyed 83% growth of South African users from 2010 to 2011. Of these, 112 000 or 10% were business owners.

Mxit mix up

The more surprising result, according to the report came from MXit, which has remained the most popular social network in South Africa, with approximately 10-million active users. Additionally, its demographic mix runs counter to the popular image of MXit as a teen-dominated environment. The report found that no less than 76% of male users and 73% of female users are aged 18 or over. Earlier this year, a new look afforded to the social network saw new registrations increase by 25%.
Age, however, does play a large role in social network adoption, as consumer research analysed in the report revealed that future intention of usage of most social networks is strongly related to the age of its users. The younger the user, the greater the intention of usage was expected to be.

To the point
“This is only one of many micro-trends shaping social networking,” added 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,” he concluded.
In related news, global information and measurement company Nielsen released a report on the impact of social media, citing its growing popularity in a range of arenas.



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