Instagram is the fastest growing social network in South Africa (but not the biggest) and social media managers who’ve abandoned LinkedIn would do well to take another look at it. As expected, the public still likes celebrities and sports stars more than just about anything else on social media, and while Twitter’s growth is slow, it’s imminent demise continues to be overstated, because South Africans still use it to air grievances and debate issues the mainstream media fails to.
These are some of the key findings of the Social Media Landscape report for 2016, released on Tuesday morning at an event at the Bryanston Country Club in Johannesburg by research firms World Wide Worx and Ornico.
Follow for follow?
The number of local Instagram users has jumped 31% from last year to 3.5 million users. That’s a massive decrease from last year (when user numbers in SA grew a staggering 133%), but still makes the Facebook-owned image and video sharing service the fastest grower in South Africa.
“It’s still smaller than the rest [of the social networks], but growing strongly, says World Wide Worx boss Arthur Goldstuck, who presented the findings. “And, in terms of brand engagement, it’s one of the key platforms in South Africa.”
Goldstuck says this year the ten most popular local Instagram accounts all belong to celebrities and entertainers, where previous years saw at least a few photographers make the cut. “That’s kind of sad,” he says, adding that the top ten is no incredibly homogenous, and one has to dig down in the rankings to find accounts that are popular because of their artistic merit.
But wait, there’s more bad news. Employers, your staff are using your resources to feed their feeds. “Most posts to Instagram happen between 8am and 3pm on weekdays,” Goldstuck says, with usage plummeting thereafter.
It talks to how people are using data,” he says. People are using work resources to post “high-quality images” while they’re happy to use less data demanding services like Twitter after hours. “The cost of posting will decide what you post when,” Goldstuck explains.
The good news, though, is that engagement on Instagram is some of the best of any social network. Especially if you’re a car brand. Mercedes and Ford dominate South African social media, and Instagram is no exception.
The book of faces
More than a quarter of South Africans are now on the great blue time-suck (or as it’s officially known, Facebook) with the vast majority (12 million) of the total users (14 million) using the network on mobile devices. Local Facebookers are most interested in entertainment-related content, but Goldstuck says what’s most fascinating to him is that technology content is incredibly popular.
“Tech stories used to mark you as a geek, but today, technology is completely mainstream in South Africa,” he says. Goldstuck adds that claims that teens don’t use Facebook any more are exaggerated. “There are fewer teens using Facebook than in previous years, but they’re not abandoning the platform. If you’re trying to reach that market and not using Facebook your missing a big opportunity.”
ITube, MeTube, YouTube
Goldstuck calls YouTube the “gateway service” to getting users to take up video-on-demand services, and says South African user numbers have grown to 8.74 million users in 2016, an increase of 6% from 2015. It’s still much slower growth than previous years (the growth between 2014 and 2015 was 15%), but that no doubt has to do with the cost of mobile data. Umm, #datamustfall?
What are South Africans watching on Google’s video service? The top five accounts for views are Kruger Sightings (which collects videos of game, not of dead politicians or gold coins), Die Antwoord, SABC digital news, eNCA and News24.
In 2014, 6.6 million South Africans were using Twitter, last year that grew to 7.4 million. This year, there are 4% more users than last year for a total of 7.7 million. “Despite the slow growth, engagement on Twitter is up,” says Goldstuck. “Twitter is a key element of public debate in this country,” he adds. “It’s seen as the avenue for expression and for airing viewpoints that normally wouldn’t get a public airing. It’s almost an alternative to mainstream media for many South Africans.”
Pointing to the #FeesMustFall campaign, Goldstuck says it started on Twitter and has shown us “the massive impact a mere hashtag can have on the public experience”.
Unlike many social media platforms, where office hours are peak posting time and usage drops off once people have left the office (and have to pay for their own data), Twitter usage takes off around 8am, and continues right through the day, peaking around 9pm (#OutrageNeverSleeps). The figures for busiest days show weekends are the quietest with usage peaking on Wednesday.
“I’ll add you on LinkedIn”
No, it’s not a #FiveWordsToRuinADate, it’s a phrase as many as 900,000 South Africans may have uttered in the last year. Last year there were 4.6 million local folk using the social network that receives the most ridicule of the lot, LinkedIn. That represented growth of 20% from 2014, and that growth doesn’t seem to be slowing. This year, there are 5.5 million local LinkedIners, which is an increase of 19% from 2015. Yeah, we’re pretty surprised, too.
“That’s massive for what’s positioned as a professional network,” Goldstuck says. “It’s an indictment on brands that have moved away from LinkedIn. Because it isn’t cool, social media managers tend to avoid it.”
In a country with massive unemployment rates, it’s little wonder the social network that’s most likely to get you hired is enjoying enormous growth compared to those like Facebook and Twitter that are definitely more likely to get you fired.