#SONA2016: social media full of sound, fury…and Nando’s

On Thursday night people across South Africa were alternately glued to their TV screens, watching president Jacob Zuma deliver his 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA), and their mobile screens tweeting about said address.

After the drama of the 2015 address, expectations were high for this year’s edition. And while there may have been less drama inside the house — COPE’s ejection and the EFF’s walkout seemed fairly par for the course on the night — there was plenty enough action to set social media alight.

In fact, data put together by social media insights company YouKnow shows that SONA 2016 exceeded last year’s social media high water mark by 35% with 345 964 on-topic conversations on the day.

That’s pretty significant, especially when you consider that overall conversation on South African social media only grew 4.9%.

“What’s most interesting is that while Twitter growth in South Africa has been fairly flat, we’re still seeing significant year-on-year growth in SONA conversation,” says YouKnow MD Kelving Jonck, something which he says is “a possible indication of increasing political awareness and involvement.”

The bulk of this conversation took place during the speech, dropping off sharply thereafter. In part, YouKnow says, this is because the address ended so late and in part due to lack of tangible discussion points for the social media community.


Leading up to SONA (6-7pm) the majority of the conversation focused on MPs who were singing while entering parliament. Between 7-8pm the single biggest conversation topic was “point of order” which gained widespread interest (and even enjoyment) as the EFF and COPE disrupted the sitting. By 8pm, the conversation focus changed to look at “Project Hydrate” (which the president commended) and by 10pm the conversation all but died out.

Drought dodger

It should hardly be surprising then that, of the major topics covered during the speech, the drought dominated social media conversation. Much of that conversation however consisted of people criticising governments failure to provide relief to the most affected areas.

Racism and Zuma’s assertion that South Africa should only have one capital city were the next most popular points of discussion, both on 23%. And while education was a big topic coming in to SONA2016, it was only the fourth largest point of online discussing during the address itself.

SONA Conversation topics

While conversation was driven by all corners of South Africa, a very large percentage (66%) of the conversation originated from Gauteng with 19.45% originating from the Western Cape. Next highest was KwaZulu-Natal at 6.9% of the total conversation. Most notable differences between the two main areas (Western Cape and Gauteng) is that Gauteng had relatively higher interest in “Zupta” and Julius Malema, while the Western Cape had a disproportionate interest in Mosiuoa Lakota.

Gauteng SONA

Are you chicken?

When it comes to brand reactions on the night, Nando’s was the big winner. After 46 minutes of posting on Twitter the fast food outlet became a trending topic in its own right, on the back of the cheeky kind of tweets it’s become renowned for.

When the EFF — led by Julius Malema — left the house, the former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader warned that the next time he came back in, Zuma would not be president. Seldom one to be taken lightly, at least some South Africans are wondering who they’ll be tweeting about next year.



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