The most popular social media platforms in South Africa

 ·30 Jun 2023

Facebook is the biggest social media platform in South Africa however, TikTok is quickly gaining on it.

This is according to the South African Social Media Landscape 2023 study by brand intelligence consultancy Ornico and market research house World Wide Worx.

The study used a mixture of data from the Ask Afrika’s Target Group Index (TGI) – which surveyed close to 25,000 respondents – and Ornico and World Wide Worx’s own survey of social media usage by South Africa’s biggest brands,

The study said that Facebook dominates the social media space in South Africa, with 56.7% penetration among South Africans aged 15 or over in urban areas.

However, TikTok has seen rapid growth and surpassed Instagram into second position at 30.6%. TikTok’s appeal also extends past its under-15 target audience and is making major inroads in the 15+ market.

Instagram is in third with 27.6%, and, despite its troubled takeover by Elon Musk, Twitter is in four at 22.5%.

LinkedIn is far behind in fifth at 14.7%, however, its penetration is still healthy for a platform that does not hold much youth appeal.

“The youth audience is key to social media in South Africa. When a platform like TikTok, which has deep reach among those aged under 15, breaks through to this extent in the older youth market, as well as among young adults, we can see the landscape undergoing a significant shift,” said Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx.

The study also highlights the correlation between the popularity of a social media platform and the proportion of highly active users.

Facebook is the leader in this respect, with nearly eight out of ten total users being highly active.

TikTok and Instagram also have high levels of user engagement, whilst LinkedIn has the smallest proportion of highly active users across the “Big 5” social media platforms.

In addition, the study also looks at the impact of privilege on social media usage, with most platforms showing a strong correlation between race, socio-economic level (SEL), and general usage, as well as highly active usage.

“For example, TikTok’s one weakness is the extent to which its penetration is correlated with socio-economic level (SEL),” said Goldstuck 

TikTok’s penetration at the highest SEL totals 57% of the population segment, but in the two lowest SELs it drops to below 8%.

Elsewhere, the study noted that Twitter saw a massive decline in the number of major brands that use the platform for marketing – dipping from 69% to 63% and well below the 2019 high of 88%.

“One of the big shifts measured in the survey was in the proportion of companies at the highest spend category and those at the lowest. Almost the exact percentage of decline in those spending more than R50,000 a month, a 9% drop from 22% down to 13%, was applied to the increase in the lowest category,” said Oresti Patricios, CEO of Ornico.

“The survey saw a 10%, rise from 54% to 64%, in the percentage of those spending less than R10,000 a month. Interestingly, this coincided with a similar rise in the proportion of companies using social media as a means to lower cost of communications, from 20% to 27%.”

When asked if social media brought brand returns, positive responses remained steady at 65%, Patricios added.

“When asked to specify returns, one stood out above all others: Brand awareness. While it did lead the way last year, at 60%, it thoroughly dominated, with 91% citing this benefit.”

He also warned that artificial intelligence (AI) could see bots taking control of social media platforms.

“As we witness the increasing integration of AI-based technologies into every facet of our online existence, we are inadvertently surrendering the right to our internet freedom to unconscious algorithms,” he said.

“Once a space where the human touch prevailed, social media now veers toward a future where we engage with bots, moderated by bots, and our very opinions are shaped by bots.”

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