The annual survey asked 118 South African brands how they are using social media, and what their social media marketing plans are for the year ahead. The Social Media Landscape Briefing 2018 presented the full results of the report, as well as statistics on the number of South Africans on social media platforms, to attendees.

The briefing also featured a number of speakers and panellists who discussed current topics related to social media, including instant messaging, South African apps, and the challenges that digital disruption poses to brands. The event, which is organised by Marketing Mix Conferences, was also held in Cape Town on Tuesday, 19 September.

media update's Nikita Geldenhuys attended the event, where Arthur Goldstuck, who heads the technology research and strategy organisation World Wide Worx, provided insights into the Social Media Landscape Report. One of the major findings was that 98.3% of the brands surveyed are now using social media. The survey also found that the number of companies with a formal social media strategy has declined.

Results also showed that 96.6% of the brands use Facebook, while 89.7% use Twitter, and that 71.6% of the companies use both LinkedIn and Instagram.

“The majority of spending is going into multimedia content and social media analytics,” Goldstuck said. “There’s emphasis on both the content side and engaging your audience, and on measuring the return on that engagement.”

Among the many insights that the survey’s results revealed, three stood out as especially relevant to how brands should approach social media in the coming year.

Here are three things brands can learn from the findings shared at the Social Media Landscape Briefings 2018:

1. More South Africans are joining social media platforms

Goldstuck said that there are 16 million Facebook users in South Africa. “We are quickly heading to a third of the population being on Facebook and, bearing in mind that under-13s are not supposed to be on Facebook, that means you probably have close to half of the eligible population being on Facebook.”

The report estimates that Twitter had 8 million users in South Africa in August this year, compared to 7.7 million in August 2016. LinkedIn has 6.1 million users this year, compared to 5.5 million last year. Instagram user numbers in South Africa grew by 8.5% this year, totalling 3.8 million users.

Goldstuck also noted that “what’s fascinating is to see the intensifying engagement with brands across all four major channels; Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.” This increase in engagement and the continued growth in local user numbers on some of the largest social media networks suggest that social media still holds potential for brands.

2. Social video will soon be at the top of brands’ priority list

Elaborating on the social media platforms that South African brands use, Goldstuck indicated that 68.1% of brands surveyed are using YouTube. “YouTube [is] not growing as fast as expected,” he added. “But when you ask people what they are going to be using in the next 12 months, then YouTube comes up very strongly – in fact, it’s the biggest expected addition in the next 12 months.”

YouTube videos by local brands are also receiving more views than last year. Of the 249 South African YouTube accounts analysed in 2017, Goldstuck reported that videos had, on average, 26 000 views. In 2016, the average views per video was 14 000.

3. Instant messaging platforms are becoming a greater marketing opportunity

Godfrey Parkin, CEO of the strategy company Britefire, presented on the topic of instant messaging, sharing statistics on the subject of what is often referred to as dark social.  

An analysis of millions of mobile numbers showed that 90% of text messages are read within three seconds of being received. In comparison, another analysis found that by October 2014, organic reach of Facebook Pages with more than 500 000 Likes was 2%.

“A new Messenger list subscriber is actually worth a lot more than a new fan on your Facebook Page because you can get close to them, you can connect to them, and it can be a personal conversation,” Parkin explained.

He also presented findings from a 2016 BI Intelligence Report, which found that the combined user base of WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber is larger than the combined user base of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“WhatsApp has announced that there’s going to be a business management tool coming out in the next few months. It’s also going to be offering a free app to small to media-sized businesses,” Parkin noted. In September, the messaging app’s team announced that it will be testing new features that aim to make it easier for people to communicate with the businesses they want to reach on WhatsApp.

The WhatsApp team clearly recognises the significance that messaging apps, and mobile devices, have in connecting people, whether for businesses or personal purposes. Combined with that, the inroads that social media platforms are making to connect even more people in South Africa, and marketers, have massive opportunities in both social media and dark social.

Find more information about the report on the Ornico website or in our article, Social Media Landscape Report highlights social media trends in 2018.