SA’s top social media, messenger services revealed

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 30 Jun 2021

The vast majority of South African social media users access these networks via mobile phones, with 98.5% accessing it via their mobile devices.

This was revealed in the latest insights from the SA Social Media Landscape Report 2021, unveiled this morning by World Wide Worx and Ornico.

The report examines the size and penetration of popular social media platforms and instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook Messenger and TikTok.

Detailing some findings from the latest report, World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck says the total number of active social media users in the country now stands at 25 million.

As a percentage, the number of social media users represents 41.9% of the country’s total population. South Africa’s estimated population stood at 58.78 million, according to the 2019 mid-year population figure released by Statistics SA.

“The change in the number of active users is quite high, up three million at the end of last year, as compared to the end of 2019,” Goldstuck says. There is “strong growth and strong level of active usage, but the clue to why people are so active is the extent to which they are using their mobile phones. They have access to social media wherever they are and at any time.”

In terms of the most used social media platforms, including instant messaging, Facebook-owned instant messaging platform WhatsApp takes the lead.

Goldstuck comments that this shows how WhatsApp dominates the social conversation and has become a key tool for brands, as well as companies that want to reach and communicate with their audience.

Closely following in second place is online video-sharing platform YouTube, which saw one of the biggest growth rates for an established social media platform over the past year.

Turning to social media network giant Facebook, Goldstuck notes the platform’s reachable audience, in terms of advertising, is 23 million. However, its user base is 27 million.

“This means a proportion of Facebook users are not highly active users – they are not using it every day, or can’t be reached via advertising. The proportion of increase in the addressable Facebook market is one million per quarter.”

Highly-engaged Instagram

Another popular platform is Facebook-owned photo and video-sharing social networking service Instagram, which leaped to the fore in terms of brand usage, states Goldstuck.

Instagram’s total local user base has surpassed 10 million. “[The number of] highly-active users is 7.1 million, and that is up from 4.7 million the year before.

“While the user base hasn’t shifted dramatically – it was nine million previously – the proportion of highly-active users has shifted dramatically. The reason is that brands are driving active engagement – the big migration has been from personalities driving Instagram to brands.”

Turning to LinkedIn, Goldstuck says the online professional network service had 7.5 million users in 2019. In 2020, there were 8.4 million LinkedIn users in SA.

“For what was already a mature platform and professional platform, this represented incredibly strong growth. People turned to LinkedIn to find jobs, to network, and to try and keep themselves going.

“Globally, there’s also been very strong growth from 610 million to 740 million users. South African growth in LinkedIn reflected the global growth.”

Twitter has also seen an increase in local users. In 2019, the popular social network had nine million, and passed the 10 million user mark in 2020.

“We are seeing similar growth as with Instagram, although it’s far more difficult to get to grips with marketing to a Twitter audience than an Instagram audience.”

Detailing some of the top hashtags and emojis on Twitter, Goldstuck says it’s a mix between the political, social, COVID-19 and the activities of entertainers.

The top two emojis are the one of laughter followed by the tears or crying emoji. The heart emoji also proved popular before the broken heart, with the thanks and prayer hands, as well as the sad face emoji also featuring.

“It’s a mix of emotions but the dominant emotion on Twitter for the past year was fun and laughter.”