The man who posted Facebook messages that made jokes about April Jones, and Madeleine McCann, and transit vans, and April fools, didn't cry in court.

Cape Town - As many as half-a-million South Africans have joined the growing ranks Facebook users this year already, according to local research house Strategy Worx. That's an increase of 11 percent, bringing the total number of South African facebook users to 4.9 million.

Spurring the growth in Facebook, says Strategy Worx CEO Steven Ambrose, is the growing number of smartphones on the market. Ambrose says that of the 4.9 million South Africans who have Facebook accounts, around 4 million have accessed Facebook from their mobile phones.

Ambrose says that Blackberry and Nokia are still the most popular brands in South Africa, accounting for around 87 percent of the smartphones in the country. Blackberry holds the majority of that with around 46 percent of South African using a Blackberry. Nokia's share of the local market is around 41 percent.

“The much talked about iPhone holds around three percent of the smartphone market share in South Africa although the iPhone 5 may assist with increasing Apple's share if it is released later this year,” says Ambrose.

Android-based phones, widely seen as Apple's primary competition, now account for 11 percent of the local smartphone market.

Ambrose says that the growth in the smartphone market has led to growth in the number of people using social media. In part, he says, this is because smartphones are preinstalled with social media apps. There is also a need for people to be more connected to one another than before.

Smartphone cameras

“The cameras on smartphones are also a key driver of social media growth and are the third most used function on a smartphone behind calling or messaging. Of the 50 billion photos uploaded to Facebook annually, half are from mobile phones,” Ambrose says.

Along with the extraordinary amount of pictures uploaded to Facebook every year, pictures are also by far the most appealing pieces of content on many of the social media platforms.

It's why Facebook's acquisition of Instagram in April for $1-billion was an obvious move for the social media giant, Ambrose adds.

“Many people were very surprised that Facebook forked out a billion dollars for a company which reportedly had 13 employees and a mere 30 million users. The company was only launched in October 2010 with an iOS app and launched its Android app shortly before the acquisition announcement was made.”

However, the fact is that at the time of the acquisition, Instagram users were uploading five million pictures a day. This was surely one of the key reasons why Facebook made the acquisition.

The more Facebook can get its users to spend time on its platform, the more money it can make from advertising, Ambrose says. - IOL