This year’s edition of the (South African) Social Media Landscape Report is out, in case you did not know.
As always, the report is packed with many great findings and insights.
In addition, there are 51 pages full of the latest data on performance of the 7 main social networks in the country.
While taking a deep dive into this section of the report, the question in my head was: SFW?
The question SFW inspired this eNsight, meant to translate the 51 pages from data to insights that brands can use.
Table of Contents
About the data found in the Social Media Landscape Report 2021
For perspective, the 51 pages of social network data found in the report make up 41% of its volume.
Giving credit where it is due – the social network data I am referring to were supplied by Ask Afrika, one of the partners in the compilation of the Report.
The data include the usual – number of people on social media (25 million, or 42% of the population), growth versus least year (14%), and the use of mobile devices to access the social networks (98%).
The data go further to include 7 user demographics the insights that brands can leverage for their social media strategies.
The 7 social media user demographics are: gender, age, race, incomes, education, geo-location, and living standards.
The rest of this eNsight will be about flipping these demographic data points into insights.
Findings and insights from the social network data
Before I am able to address the SFW question, let me share my analysis, key takeouts and thoughts.
Analysis of 51 pages of data found in the SA Social Media Landscape Report 2021
I extracted the data from the 51 pages, and analysed the stats across the 7 social media user demographics.
For ease of reading and navigation, the details for each demographic are minimised.
Just expand each demographic by clicking on it to access the details accordingly, and click on it again to minimise the details as you may require.
Out of 100 South African social media users, 58 are male and 42 are female.
LinkedIn and Twitter are the male domain, while Snapchat is the female domain.
It will soon become clear that there is an economic link to the ability to access social media in South Africa, where females make up a large portion of the poor majority in this country that is one of the highest unequal societies in the world.
The two biggest age groups for Mzansi’s social media users are 25-34 and 15-24.
The dominance of the 24-35 age group is more pronounced for Snapchat, which also has the youngest user profile (15-24).
Youtube has the oldest user profile (44+).
Facebook has a fair spread of users across the 15-64 year olds.
Tiktok has a much older profile and LinkedIn a much younger profile, than I expected.
The racial profile of South African social media users in the graph above points to these platforms being for those who can afford, an observation which will be verified by income, education, geo-location and LSM data.
See how the social media racial profile differs to the country’s racial profile in the graph below:
Of the 4 races in the graph above, the Whites are massively over-represented on social media, while the Blacks are under-represented.
A special mention:
The phenomenon of #BlackTwitterSA is alluded to in the SA Social Media Landscape Report 2021.
However, the contribution by Blacks to Twitter users, when compared to the other 6 social networks, does not obviate the impact of the movement that is denoted by the hashtag above.
Of the 14 income brackets that formed part of Ask Africa’s market research,
- A third of South African social media users come from the 4 highest income brackets, while only 12% come from the bottom 4;
- the R50K income bracket has a noticeably high contribution to the average – the second highest after the R3-5.999K bracket overall;
- both the top 2 income brackets by contribution are also above the average on LinedIn – the only social network with this combination, and also the platform leading with the highest contributions for both these brackets.
I must admit, I did not expected the performance by the R3-5.999K bracket on LinkedIn.
Does the income segment confirm my observation expressed under racial profiles? Yes, to a large extent.
Can we deduce anything about the race linked to the income brackets? Let’s dig further and see if the picture becomes clearer.
Out of every 100 South Africans on social media, 32 reside in townships and 68 reside in towns and cities.
The South African living conditions were designed by the White Apartheid government of old to put Black people, who were stripped of everything including their dignity, in townships, and White people, who the government of the day made sure that they had the economic means, in towns and cities.
While some Black people have since “migrated” to previously White-only locations since 1990, many are still trapped in townships swimming in a sea of poverty.
So, this segment of data also confirms that social media in South Africa is accessible mainly to those who can afford.
A lot has been written about Living Standards Measure (LSM). I shall not get into the debate for or against this segmentation tool in this eNsight.
You can Google the topic if you are interested in the debate.
LSM by race
After an intensive Google search and almost giving up, I came across Southern African Business Review 2002 that breaks down the LSM’s 1-8 by race based on a 2001 report by South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF).
Here is the reproduced graph:
Using the old data from SAARF as an indication, it is clear that Blacks’ living standards are at the bottom of the rung, next and higher up are Coloureds, followed by Asians and Indians.
Whites are at the top of the rung by a discernible margin.
Have things changed much since 2001?
Yes, but Whites still rule the LSM roost, as suported by corroborating evidence that is not hard to find.
Let me summarise
Access to social media in South Africa is influenced by economic circumstances, which are directly linked to gender, race, age, incomes, living standards, location, and geo-data.
Besides the seemingly unabating race-based economic realities, the age-old issue of high cost of mobile data in Mzansi keeps raring its ugly head.
The country where Nelson Mandela comes from is ranked 136th out of 230 countries in the world at $2.67 per 1GB, with Israel leading the pack at only $0.35 per 1GB.
Mouse over the interactive geo-map below to check out the price/GB of any country you choose!
It is fair to note though that South Africa’s cost of mobile data has come down over time, thanks to intense price competition between the mobile operators.
The country has since improved its global ranking, from being one of the countries with the highest cost of mobile data 10 years ago.
And SFW for brands?
Yes, I know that South Africa’s economic circumstances have got worse due to COVID-19.
However, turnaround can be expected as vaccination of the nation gains momentum, and the economic clock starts ticking again.
I do anticipate that the upside of this dreaded disease – the shift by consumers to running their lives on digital media – is not going to be reversed.
Bear in mind that Mzansi has a 98% smartphone penetration among the 16-64 age group – according to Global Digital Report 2021, and you can couple this with the already existing hand-me-down culture that ensures wider distribution of these gadgets, including to the poor.
Therefore, Internet penetration, and by extension social media penetration, are set to exponentiate in poor communities; lured by the increasingly competitive data prices as mobile operators fight for share of wallet, and driven by FOMO – the need to get onto WhatsApp and Facebook so as to never miss out on juicy scoops that get shared widely on these platforms on a daily lately.
Clearly then, relevant brands must expect sustained growth of new media consumption.
And the implication is that they [the brands] must get ready with strategies and resources, and be able to meet the consumers where they are.