How to be where your consumers are

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Report | Online Search Behaviours | be where consumers are | June 2021 - Banner

I know you probably heard this many times before, but it is worth repeating: in this era of digital communications, brands need to follow consumers, and not hope that consumers will go to channels that suit them [the brands].

Why do I need to repeat the statement above?

Because, data show that this message has still not sunk in, at least with some brand custodians, as this eNsight will show.

Or, is it because the brand custodians to whom the shoe fits do not know how to go about identifying digital channels where consumers are?

No worries. Dr Data is here to help :)


Data: the blunt instrument used to beat South Africa?

My focus for this eNsight is South Africa, my country of birth.

Table of Contents

REFRESHER: Internet Penetration in South Africa is decent

First things first.

6 in 10 South Africans are on the Internet. As Graph 1 here below shows, this is above the global average.

To make sense of the significance of this finding, compare Mzansi to the world’s top 45 countries by Internet penetration.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Report | Internet Adoption | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 1

The only other African country with Internet penetration above South Africa is Morocco, where 7 in 10 citizens have access.

How do Internet consumers search for brands?

Key question, do you agree?

According to the Digital Report 2021, 6 in 10 Internet users in South Africa use social media to search for brands, and this is higher than the global average of 4.5 in 10.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Report | Online Search Behaviours | be where consumers are | June 2021
Figure 1

Here below is a breakdown of online channels used for brand research by Internet consumers.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Online Channels for Brand Search | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 2

Put differently, data show that social media are the second most important online channel for brands to connect with consumers.

How do the age and gender profiles of social networkers for South Africa compare to global averages?

This is a key question for brands whose target markets have distinct demographic skews.

Here is the answer for South Africa:

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Report 2021 | South Africa | Social Media Age Profiles | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 3

Comparing South Africa’s social media age group profiles (Graph 3) to global averages (Graph 4):

Graph 4

The social media’s age group profile trends between South Africa and global averages are similar, with the bulk of social networkers found in the 18 to 44 age group.

However, Mzansi’s females have higher social media presence than the global average overall. 

How do the contributions of age groups 13-64 for social media compare to total population in South Africa?

Here goes:

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Social Media Penetration | Age Groups | South Africa | Digital Transformation | July 2021
Graph 5

Clearly, the 18-34 age group leads the social media trend in Mzansi.

And which social networks are the consumers using?

The Global Digital Report 2021 provides the answer.

Graph 6 below displays the global averages of biggest social network platforms.

Graph 6

China’s presence in the leading 46 countries for use of social media has resulted in strong showing of a fair number of the world’s most populous country’s social networks – QQ, Douyin, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou, in the global average rankings. 

In South Africa specifically, Whatsapp tops the charts as the most used social network, and Twitter completes the top 6. See the rankings in Graph 6 below.

Graph 7

Female presence in South Africa’s top 6 social networks?

And how does the presence of females in South Africa compare with global averages across the top 6 social networks in Graph 7?

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Report 2021 | South Africa | Top 6 Social Networks in South Africa | Female Gender Profile | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 8

Females in South Africa are more active on social media than the global averages.

Unfortunately, the Digital Report – my main source of data for this eNsight – does not have gender breakdown for WhatsApp. 

A brief note: Facebook is making great strides with business applications

Facebook announced ground-breaking developments and updates for enabling businesses to leverage Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger and WhatsApp at its 2021 annual conference that took place place in early June.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Facebook F8 | WhatsApp Business API | be where consumers are | June 2021
Figure 2
Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Facebook F8 | Instagram Business API | be where consumers are | June 2021
Figure 3
Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Facebook F8 | Facebook Messenger Login | be where consumers are | June 2021
Figure 4

Is your brand already interacting with customers on any of the Facebook platforms? Now it can do more!

Now that I have shared data on South African consumer profiles on social media, and their top 6 social networks, how are brands gearing up to follow them [the consumers]?

The best indicator is the advertising spend. 

Does advertising spend indicate brands know where their consumers are? 

Graph 9 below shows how brands have been using advertising spend across the various communication channels to date.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Total Ad Spend in South Africa | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 9

Graph 9 shows that only 21 out of 100 South African Rands are expected to be spent on the Internet in 2021, and this same amount will be spent on TV. 

The Internet’s contribution increased by a third since 2018.

When you combine the projected ad spend for all digital media for 2021, it comes to 23%.

The breakdown of digital advertising spend can be found in Graph 10 here below. 

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Contributions to Digital Ads in South Africa | be where consumers are | June 2021-
Graph 10

Is the 23% allocation of total advertising spend to digital media good or bad?


Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams, have you been analysing these digital trends?

As I have been doing in this eNsight thus far, I shall compare South Africa’s digital ad spend performance with global averages so as to get an indication.

Is South Africa’s digital advertising spend in line with global average?

Graph 10 says it all.

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Digital Ad Spend | be where consumers are | June 2021
Graph 11

The finding can be expressed in eight words: “South Africa is way below the global average”. 

Ad Spend Sources:

Key takeouts

South Africa outperforms the global averages in the following 3 metrics:

  • Internet penetration (Graph 1); 
  • search for brands using social media (Figure 1); and
  • social media presence by females (Graph 3).


4 stats that show how South Africa’s digital adoption rates are growing ahead of global trends

However, Mzansi underperforms the global averages when it comes to digital advertising spend, which suggests that the country’s brands are not putting their money where their mouths should be (Graph 11).

On a parting shot: questions for brand custodians in South Africa

Time to test whether your brand is where its consumers are.

Answer the following questions:

  1. What is the age group of your brand’s consumers? Compare your answer to Graph 3 and Graph 5.
  2. Do your brand’s consumers have a gender skew? Compare your answer to Graph 8.
  3. Which social networks is your brand most active on? Compare your answer to Graph 7.
  4. What is your brand’s main digital marketing objective?
  5. What is the contribution of digital to your brand’s advertising spend? Compare your answer to Graph 11.

Marrying your answers to the data I shared in this eNsight provides clues.

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