Trevor Noah has the most Twitter followers in South Africa. Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Johannesburg - A research report by communications firm Portland revealed that South Africa has the most active Twitter users in Africa; with Joburg, the East Rand and Durban in the top five most-active Twitter cities on the continent.

The research, called “How Africa Tweets”, was conducted last year, and looked at all geo-located tweets from African countries.

Joburg topped the list with 344 215 tweets, followed by Ekurhuleni with 264 172 and Cairo at 227 509.

Durban was fourth with 163 019 and the Egyptian city Alexandria (159 534) came fifth.

This is unsurprising since South Africa saw a growth of 129 percent in Twitter users last year.

In 2011, the number of active Twitter users was 1.1 million. Users increased to 2.4m in 2012, and hit 5.5m last year.

While South Africa has dropped out of the top 10 most-active countries in the world, it’s still in the top 20.

With such high numbers of Twitter users, it’s not surprising that more South African personalities in sport, entertainment and politics boast a huge following – and Twitter is willing to give them verified accounts.

Verified accounts are those which have been certified as legitimate, and belonging to the celebrities whose names are used in the handle.

The first South Africans to be verified were Gareth Cliff, Nelson Mandela, Helen Zille and President Jacob Zuma.

Now there are more celebrities who have the all-important blue tick next to their names. Sports stars like Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Itumeleng Khune and Dale Steyn have verified accounts, as do entertainers Terry Pheto, Bonang Matheba, Trevor Noah and DJ Sbu.

Noah also has the most followers, and only he and De Villiers have reached over a million followers. But they are closely followed by Steyn (with over 800 000), Cliff (more than 620 000) and Matheba (over 600 000)

Julius Malema is the politician with the most followers, at 433 000, then Zille at 398 000, and Zuma at 316 000.

Even journalists have an impressive number of followers, with Eyewitness News journalist Barry Bateman boasting more than 187 000.

Some may wonder why this matters.

The reason is that having large numbers of followers has become a great way for personalities to market themselves.

It’s become another notch in their lapels – getting major brands behind them and extending their influence.

In a world where we want to know everything and want to know it now, no single traditional marketing vehicle is able to reach as wide an audience as Twitter. For that reason, celebrities, politicians and brands use Twitter to capitalise on the attention they gain and build their brands.

Singer Katy Perry is the most followed celebrity, with nearly 52m followers. It becomes a bragging right which goes into their artist biographies as an achievement.

Locally, we have seen this with Top Billing’s Matheba, who is the most followed South African female.

With over 620 000 followers, Matheba has used Twitter to her advantage; it shows her popularity, and therefore brands want to align their product with her.

Accordingly, she is a spokesmodel for various brands, including Revlon. - The Star