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#SML18: Profiling the social media user in South Africa

Arthur Goldstuck presented the SA social media landscape report at Marketing Mix's Social Media Landscape Briefing 2019 a few weeks ago and in the second part of his presentation, he discussed what the South African social media user looks like.
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What's happening in the app stores

To profile the South African social media user, Goldstuck wanted to show us what apps are being downloaded by South Africans. This information gives you context as to where significant growth and activity will take place in social media.

#SML18: How SA brands are approaching social media

The first part of World Wide Worx's Arthur Goldstuck's SA social media landscape presentation he shared with us at Marketing Mix's Social Media Landscape Briefing 2019 last week...

By Juanita Pienaar 24 Oct 2018

Google Play app store

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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The free downloads data shows the vast majority of the apps are either social media or apps that help reduce data use. YouTube Go, for example, came from nowhere and was only launched in the last year, and already there is massive demand for it because it reduces data overheads and data-use substantially, within the apps themselves. Facebook Lite and Messenger show that there is huge demand amongst people who can't afford data to use the light and free-to-use options.

Opera Mini is also a browser that reduces the use of data significantly. Instagram is another indicator in the social media user base in South Africa. Then there's also the Capitec app, the one bank that is included into the top downloads. It again speaks to the changing nature of the social media user base and the mobile base user in South Africa. As you can see, the lower end of the market, which is predominantly Capitec's user base, is coming into the data environment quite strongly.

The top paid app currently is Minecraft and it remains one of the top mobile games in the world, but when it comes to top grossing apps, it's Candy Crush and Toon Blast. Dating app, Tinder is at number 3.

IOS app store

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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In the IOS app store, on the free app side, you don't see the light apps. You don't see YouTube Go or Facebook Lite or Opera Mini here. What you do see is Discovery, which tells you where Discovery's user base primarily plays. In fact, Goldstuck says when Discovery does their own surveys, they find that they have a high proportion of iPhone users and therefore their development tends to be iPhone-biased. So the mindset at Discovery is very much geared towards the upper end of the market.

The other interesting free downloaded app on iOS is Snapchat. What this is telling us is that Snapchat is big, but is mostly used by more affluent kids.

Goldstuck says the top grossing apps on iOS are the most interesting because you see the real world application of the phrase, 'Netflix and Chill' - the top two spots are occupied by Tinder and Netflix. LinkedIn also makes the list, which shows that the users tend to be at the upper end of the market, since they are willing to pay for their LinkedIn accounts.

Insights from user bases and user trends

Instant message providers
What is very clear from the data collected with regards to instant message providers is the dominance of WhatsApp, but also how significant Facebook Messenger is in the high-end space. Initially, Facebook Messenger was seen as clunky and WhatsApp as far simpler and far more effective, but along with the light version of Facebook and the zero-rating of Facebook Lite and Messenger, massive growth was experienced by Messenger.

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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Age penetration per instant messaging tool showed that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use instant messaging and the older you are, the more likely you are to use SMS.

Facebook numbers in South Africa showed 21,000,000 users and 38% penetration. This shows the impact that Facebook can have on social discourse in this country and therefore also its responsibility in this country.

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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Goldstuck then moved on and showed us demographics in terms of regional breakdown which indicated that the number of Facebook users in Johannesburg is substantially bigger. What's interesting is to see the dramatic growth in the smaller centres, Port-Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, East London and Nelspruit. This speaks to the greater penetration of Facebook thanks to Facebook Lite and Messenger.

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Moving on to the age breakdown and age growth trend - this showed that the youth market (13-18) was still very strong Facebook users. The highest penetration is in the 31-40 bracket. These stats show that the youth have not abandoned Facebook, and certainly not in the mass market. You might find that the more affluent youth have moved over to Snapchat and Instagram, but overall the youth market in SA was still significant.

Twitter has recently deleted millions of accounts. For some reason, this has hammered their share price because all they could see was reduced numbers. But what we should actually see in this is a platform with great integrity because of fewer fake users.

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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What is most interesting to note looking at the Twitter numbers is the proportion of Twitter users outside of the United States. 79% (4 out of 5) of Twitter users are outside of the USA. So, when you see a substantial falling within the USA with the overall user base having grown by almost 2%, it tells you that outside the US, growth is still quite strong. South Africa follows that same trend, not as strong as in Instagram-type numbers, but certainly stronger in terms of the perception that Twitter is declining.


LinkedIn's growth in SA is on par with the way it's been growing internationally. 6.8 million users, in terms of user base, brings LinkedIn very close to the Twitter and YouTube user bases in South Africa. The problem with LinkedIn is that the level of highly active users is relatively low compared to other platforms. People don't come back to LinkedIn every day.

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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From the demographics presented, Goldstuck concluded that most of LinkedIn's growth happens with users that work for SMEs. What that means is that small businesses are catching up to the power and utility of LinkedIn as a professional network.

Previously, just a year ago, LinkedIn was still very male-oriented: 2 million to 1.6 million. In 2018 it turned out that a significant number of new users were female. So, there was a significant number of new female members than male: 600,000 to 400,000. But in terms of overall numbers, there are still more males than females.

Property of Arthur Goldstuck.
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Instagram has shown substantial growth since last year. The last time it delivered such dramatic growth results was in 2015 when it more than doubled. It's up 73% in the past years, and there are a lot of factors behind that growth:

  • Greater use of awareness
  • Greater use of brands
  • Mass promotion by brands across Instagram
  • The commercialisation of Instagram
  • The ability of video on Instagram / live stories

Instagram, as a platform, has evolved significantly for the consumer but even more significantly for the marketer. Marketers are pushing their customers to Instagram in a big way because they find it such an effective way to reach those customers. It is also seen as a powerful tool for public relations.

Arthur Goldstuck's presentation formed part of the research that was shared at the Social Media Landscape Briefing 2019 in Cape Town on 18 October. If you have any questions, you can contact him via email on and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow World Wide Worx on Facebook and Twitter.
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About Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is an editorial assistant for the Marketing & Media news portal at and is also a contributing writer.