One of the findings contained in the SA Social Media Landscape 2015 report, released yesterday by World Wide Worx and Fuseware, shows that Facebook is the first high-tech service or platform in South Africa that has seen exactly equal take-up by males and females.
In a market where there is still a small male bias in the use of the Internet and e-commerce, the results underline the extent to which social media has become mainstream.
The headline findings, announced in September, had showed that Facebook remained the most popular social network in South Africa, followed by YouTube and Twitter. The study excludes instant messaging services.
Of those Facebook users whose gender is identifiable, 5.6-million males and 5.6-females use the platform.
"This is a clear sign of both the maturity of the platform and its mainstream use as an everyday tool rather than as a high-tech choice," says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of technology market research organisation World Wide Worx.
"From a marketer's point of view, an equally significant finding is that, of a total of 11.8-million South African users - 22% of the population - 8.8-million access it on their mobile phones. This means that targeting Facebook users is not a matter only of marketing on the Facebook web site - its mobile properties are probably more important."
Mike Wronski, managing director of analytics company Fuseware, points out that the Facebook user base is beginning to resemble the South Africa urban population. "The highest growth in the user base is seen in three key economic hubs, namely Johannesburg (55%), Pretoria (49%) and Cape Town (44%). Interestingly, Nelspruit continues to show high growth, at 40%."
The single biggest platform for Facebook from a phone operating system point of view is Android, growing from 1.26-million in 2013 to 3.2-million in 2014. BlackBerry has fallen from the top position to second, but dropping only marginally in user numbers, from 2.6-million to 2.4-million. Windows Phone is beginning to emerge from below the radar, rising from 124,000 to 260,000. iOS remains in third place, remaining relatively stable at 580,000 users.
Feature phones still in the game
"More important than the operating system numbers, however, is the split between feature phones and smartphones," continues Goldstuck. "Five million Facebook users still use feature phones. While smartphones only just dominate - at 5.6-million - it is clear that a large Facebook user base is still on a basic device."
The single most commonly used handset for Facebook is the Nokia Asha, with 1.78-million users. In distant second and third place are the BlackBerry Curve 8520 at 660,000 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 at 400,000.
"This last statistic is also significant, bearing in mind the S4 is a premium device - underlining its social appeal in South Africa," says Goldstuck.
Wronski points out that South Africa bucks the global trend of younger users reportedly falling dramatically as a proportion of the user base. "There is much debate about teenagers abandoning the platform, but it's not yet a factor in South Africa. The 13-18 age group remains the single biggest on Facebook, with 2.5-million users."
For more information, go to www.worldwideworx.com