South Africans love Facebook and Instagram – this is why you should care

Updated on 15 March 2016

Subscription Form (#66)

South Africans love Facebook and Instagram - this is why you should care

Research looking into the country’s social media usage has just been released showing that Facebook and Instagram are South African’s social media platforms of choice. But what do these stats mean for local brands?

SME South Africa speaks to Donovan White, a social media strategist at NATIVE VML to find out what brands can learn from how South Africans are spending their time online and how they should be using social media as marketing and positioning platforms.

The stats

The South African Social Media Landscape 2016 released last month shows that Facebook continues to dominate, with Instagram experiencing the biggest growth, rising a massive 133%, from 1.1 million in 2014 to 2.68 million.

The study, conducted by World Wide Worx and Fuseware is based on consumer data from seven major social networks and a corporate survey conducted among more than a hundred of South Africa’s leading brands.

According to the study, video sharing platform YouTube also increased its user base marginally with a 15% rise from 7.2 million to 8.28 million users.

White who has worked on major brands such as Nedbank, Pernod Ricard, Nestle, L’Oreal, and General Motors, says what’s most striking from the study is the “incredible growth in smartphone ownership,” he says, as well as how consumer behaviour is changing with regards to how they are weighing up access to and consuming rich content versus data costs.

‘And the country is finally getting over its social media ‘legacy issues,’ says White.

“Five hundred people engaging honestly and deeply, create a more meaningful impact that 50 000 that just like your content cause of huge budget”

“It took us how long to convince so many cautious marketers that social media was a necessity and we just got them accustomed to Facebook and Twitter. Brand managers are still quite cautious, asking their agencies to prove why they should be there by way of the numbers. ‘What’s the reach?’ ‘What’s the engagement rate?’”

Today Facebook and Twitter are the norm and against which marketers are comparing Instagram and Snapchat, he adds.


South Africa’s social media landscape.

White takes us through the 6 major takeaways to come out of the study and what they mean for your business’ marketing efforts and budget.

Facebook continues to dominate in SA

What the research says: Facebook is now used by a quarter of all South Africans. Facebook has grown by 8%, from 12 million to 13 million with 77% using it on their mobile devices. 

Smartphones are used by 7.9 million South Africans to access Facebook, while 1.6 million are using basic feature phones to do so. Tablets are being used to access Facebook by 1.4 million people – many of whom are also using their phones.

White on how brands should respond: Facebook keeps innovating and they keep placing the consumer at the centre of the user experience. They analyse data and how people behave before going out and adding or changing things up.

Because Facebook keeps innovating and giving the user a better and better experience from Reaction Likes to 3D Video, it keeps giving brands the opportunity and the platform to be innovative and tell their stories in better ways.

The rise of Instagram

What the research says: Instagram has more than doubled its user numbers in South Africa, and its 133% growth doubling an already high 65% growth in 2014. Instagram also shows the highest planned use by major brands for social networks not currently in use, with 24% [brands] saying they plan to do so in the coming year. 

White on how brands should respond: One must remember a couple of things here, Instagram may not be authentic to what your brand is about and creating quality content that users expect from this medium can be quite time and cost sensitive.

If the platform matches the authenticity of how the brand behaves, while it may result in lower reach,  you will be reaching the right people.

Think of it [Instagram] as an amusement park with 10 000 people walking around doing different things. Facebook and Twitter would be rollercoasters promoting themselves to you wherever you are over loud speakers.

Instagram would come to you in the line at the rollercoaster and enhance your experience, so when you get off the ride people see your face and want to join in. Instagram is not promoting rollercoasters to people who only like the tea cups.

Instagram allows smaller brands to reach their audience in an easy to find and segmented way.

Instagram makes that so much easier through hashtagging and suggested content based on what you already like and follow. It’s so simple and untainted, except for the new Instagram ads where we are seeing lots of financial brands trying to use Instagram as they would mass social media like Facebook and getting backlash.

Who is killing it on Instagram?

What the research says: The study shows that at present, 42% of major brands are using Instagram, with Mr Price (@MrPFashion) and Mercedes Benz (@MercedesBenzSA) having been the most successful with individual images.

White: General Electric is my favourite account on Instagram. They turn science and engineering into art. It’s beautiful, well thought out and  thoughtful. I like that they play with medium’s functionality to bring a unique experience.

Have a look at @GeneralElectric’s #CancerCantHide. They used filters so smartly in their visuals and it got people screenshotting their content and applying different filters to reveal a hidden message.

South Africans love mobile social media apps

What the research says: One of the key findings of the South African Social Media Landscape 2016 study is how deeply entrenched mobile social apps have become in South Africa. 

Social media apps have dominated free downloads on all three major app stores in South Africa, namely Google Play for Android, the Apple App Store for iOS, and the Windows Store. WhatsApp in particular is dominant, topping the list of both iOS and Android downloads. Facebook is second in free iOS downloads and third in Android.

White on how brands should respond: In app advertising offers a great opportunity, but remember to make the advertising authentic to the brand, to the medium and the user. Shampoo ads while playing The Walking Dead or Rise of Berk is not going to make me take notice or want to wash my hair

South Africans have an appetite for games

What the research says: When it comes to revenue games completely dominate the top ten lists for highest grossing apps on iOS and Android, filling the entire top ten on each, as well as the top eight in the Windows Store, says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

White on how brands should respond: We have been through the game phase before.

My advice is let the game and app developers stick to what they are good at and marketing communications people should stick to what they are good at. If the partnership between the two develops and there are advertising opportunities that result then go for it. Social marketers shouldn’t be scared to gamify their content, but don’t build games, leverage partnerships that are authentic instead.

How should brands be spending their marketing budgets based on the stats? 

White: Try get that targeting as tight as possible and if the content is as relevant to that target as possible, then there is no need for monstrous media budgets.

Of course with Facebook, their algorithms work to enhance the customer experience and not the brand’s experience – which has lead to a drop in reach and engagement, but there is no reason why major investments need to be made. Five hundred people engaging honestly and deeply, create a more meaningful impact that 50 000 that just like your content cause of huge budget.

Get Weekly 5-Minutes Business Advice

Subscribe to receive actionable business tips and resources.

Subscription Form (#66)

Feeling Stuck?