South Africans of all ages are scrolling through TikTok

  • Ornico and World Wide Worx have published the South African Social Media Landscape 2023 study this week.
  • While Facebook is still used by the highest number of South Africans, TikTok is gaining popularity among all age groups.
  • Businesses are also opting to use Twitter for customer support rather than marketing.

Very few social media platforms have been able to challenge the dominance of Meta’s Facebook. Launched in 2004 while MySpace was a dominant force, Facebook has grown to boast a daily userbase of roughly two billion people. That is a lot of eyeballs gracing Mark Zuckerberg’s creation, but these days the talk of the town is ByteDance’s TikTok.

It’s estimated that by the end of 2022 the platform had a monthly user base of 1.4 billion, and TikTok is just seven years old.

Ignoring the platform then is a big mistake and that goes for the local market as well.

On Friday, Ornico and World Wide Worx published the South African Social Media Landscape 2023 study. This study takes a look at the social media landscape in South Africa and where the eyes of the nation are.

“The data is based on Ask Afrika’s Target Group Index (TGI), which surveyed 24 744 respondents. Data is weighted to the population and represents 28.1 million South Africans. Ornico and World Wide Worx also conduct a survey of social media usage by South Africa’s biggest brands, and integrate the findings with several additional data sources, into one of the country’s most anticipated research reports of the year. The report is made available to the market at no cost,” the two firms explained in a press release.

The major takeaway is that TikTok’s popularity is on the rise, although this comes with a major caveat that we will get to shortly.

Facebook remains the number one social media platform for South Africans 15 years old and older with 56.7 percent of the population making use of Zuckerberg’s website. TikTok has now surpassed Instagram to take second place with 30.6 percent of respondents using the platform. Instagram has 27.6 percent penetration, Twitter 22.5 percent and LinkedIn just 14.7 percent.

“The youth audience is key to social media in South Africa,” explains chief executive officer at World Wide Worx, Arthur Goldstuck. “When a platform like TikTok, which has deep reach among those aged under 15, breaks through to this extent in the older youth market, as well as among young adults, we can see the landscape undergoing a significant shift.”

However, that caveat we mentioned earlier is a rather big one.

TikTok, while popular suffers from a major problem. That problem being that data is expensive in South Africa and video eats into data caps.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2023 study notes that TikTok’s penetration at the lowest social economic levels is below eight percent penetration versus a 57 percent penetration at the highest level.

Twitter use shifts

The upheaval at Twitter has seemingly frightened brands locally.

The study found that in an analysis of the country’s 100 top brands, there had been a significant decline in the use of Twitter as a marketing platform. The study found that only 63 percent of brands were using it for marketing purposes compared to 88 percent in 2019.

Instead of advertising, brands appear to be using Twitter for customer support.

“One of the big shifts measured in the survey was in the proportion of companies at the highest spend category and those at the lowest. Almost the exact percentage of decline in those spending more than R50 000 a month, a 9% drop from 22% down to 13%, was applied to the increase in the lowest category. he survey saw a 10%, rise from 54% to 64%, in the percentage of those spending less than R10 000 a month.  Interestingly, this coincided with a similar rise in the proportion of companies using social media as a means to lower cost of communications, from 20% to 27%,” Ornico chief executive officer, Oresti Patricios said in a press release.

We do wonder how long this use of Twitter for support will last as the platform increasingly looks to monetise every aspect of its business, especially as regards other businesses using its service.

TikTok though, is seemingly the place to be in South Africa, whether it’s watching people drink lettuce water to fall asleep or watching McDonalds lose control of a marketing campaign entirely, the short video app is grabbing the attention of more and more locals.


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