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No longer the forgotten step-child of South African internet activity, a study by Fuseware and World Wide Worx has found that along with e-mail, news, and banking, South Africans have now also embraced social media as a core pillar of their internet activity.
Twitter has seen the most dramatic growth in social networking in the past year while BBM has been 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,” says Michal Wronski, a 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.”
According to Fuseware, an analysis of their “extensive database of Twitter usage,” in conjunction with World Wide Worx’s consumer market research, shows that there were more than one million Twitter users in South Africa in mid-2011.
This figure constituted a 20-fold increase in a little more than a year.
“One of the drivers of growth of Twitter is the media obsession with the network,” says report co-author Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.
“Most radio and TV personalities with large audiences are engaged in intensive campaigns to drive their listeners and viewers to both Twitter and Facebook.”
Explaining Twitter’s exponential growth, Goldstuck also said that the social network, “coming off a very low base, is therefore seeing the greatest growth”.
As in the global environment, not all Twitter users are active users, with only 40% tweeting, with as many simply watching, following and using it as a breaking news service.
MXit remains the most popular social network in South Africa, with approximately 10-million active users. Its demographic mix, however, runs counter to its image as a teen-dominated environment.
No less than 76% of the male user base of MXit and 73% of female users are aged 18 or over.
A surprising finding emerged from analysis of Facebook data. Of the 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,” says Wronski. “Once BBM picked up significant traction in private schools, for example, many teenagers who had previously flocked to Facebook, opted for BBM’s greater immediacy.”
While LinkedIn, aimed at professional users, also reached the 1.1-million mark, it came off a far higher base — but still saw 83% growth of South African users from 2010 to 2011. Of these new users, some 10% are business owners.
Consumer research analysed in the report revealed that future intention of usage of most social networks is strongly related to age. The younger the user, the greater the intention of usage.
“This is only one of many micro-trends shaping social networking,” says 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.”