File photo: AP

Cape Town - The number of people on social media platforms is growing steadily in South Africa, driven by the older generations, according to research released on Tuesday by World Wide Worx and information analysts Fuseware.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2012 study states that the fastest growing age group among Facebook users in South Africa is the over-60s.

From August 2011 to August 2012, the number of over-60s on Facebook grew by 44 percent, compared to less than 30 percent for those aged 30 - 60, less than 20 percent for those aged 19 - 30, and less than 10 percent for teenagers.

“This is a reflection of Facebook going mainstream in South Africa,” says World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck. “The younger segments are still far from saturation, but we're not seeing the same heady pace of growth among the youth as before.”

The report, which includes primary research and social media platforms' own statistics, states that by the end of August, 6.8-million South Africans accessed Facebook (including mobile phone access), 2.43-million were on Twitter and 9.35-million on Mxit. Because Facebook does not measure mobile-only usage, Facebook's figure for South Africa sat at 5.33 million at the end of August.

The difference of 1.47 million people shows the growth effect that cellphones are having on social media platforms and vice versa.

Research released via Strategy Worx earlier in August shows that smartphone penetration is sitting at 20 percent. 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 Africans using a Blackberry. Nokia's share of the local smartphone market is around 41 percent.

Some of the other key findings of the South African Social Media Landscape 2012 include:

Both Facebook and Twitter have grown at a similar rate, at around 100 000 new users a month, for the past year.

* WhatsApp has become the leading instant messaging tool among South Africans aged 16 and over, living in cities and towns, with a user base of 4,6-million.

The most common “Check-In” sites for Facebook in South Africa are airports and shopping malls.

Both Facebook and Twitter have crossed the urban/rural divide.

One of the most fascinating findings reported is that the number of single users has grown faster than any other relationship group, by almost 25 percent, to reach 957 000.

The number of married and engaged users has each grown by 16 percent, while the category of those “in a relationship” has increased by nine percent.

“Clearly, Facebook is filling a relationship gap in the lives of many South Africans,” says Goldstuck. “But social networks are also so much more - we see them playing the roles of communication, information and entertainment networks.” - Do Gaming