TikTok has overtaken Instagram to secure the coveted second place among the big five social media platforms in the country.
This revelation comes from the South African Social Media Landscape 2023 study, a collaborative effort between brand intelligence consultancy Ornico and market research house World Wide Worx.
With an impressive 56.7% penetration among South Africans aged 15 and above, living in cities and towns, Facebook continues to reign supreme as the dominant force in the social media realm.
However, TikTok's exponential growth has shaken up the industry, with the platform capturing 30.6% of the market and surpassing Instagram's position.
Notably, TikTok's appeal extends beyond its core target audience of under-15s, as it makes significant headway into the 15+ market.
The study delves into this phenomenon, exploring TikTok's impact on different age groups.
Instagram maintains its popularity among South African social media users, boasting a penetration rate of 27.6%, while Twitter, despite its tumultuous takeover by Elon Musk, retains a substantial following at 22.5%.
On the other hand, LinkedIn lags behind but still maintains a healthy 14.7% penetration, an impressive figure for a professional networking platform that primarily caters to an older demographic.
The data used in the study is derived from Ask Afrika's Target Group Index (TGI), which surveyed 24,744 respondents.
The data is weighted to represent the population and encompasses 28.1 million South Africans. Ornico and World Wide Worx, renowned for their thorough research methodologies, also incorporate data from several additional sources to create one of the country's most highly-anticipated research reports of the year.
Notably, the report is accessible to the market at no cost, making it a valuable resource for industry players.
Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, emphasises the importance of the youth audience in shaping the social media landscape in South Africa.
“When a platform like TikTok, which has deep reach among those aged under 15, breaks through to this extent in the older youth market, as well as among young adults, we can see the landscape undergoing a significant shift."
The study also sheds light on the correlation between a platform's popularity and the level of user engagement.
Facebook emerges as the leader, with nearly 80% of its users highly active on the platform. TikTok and Instagram exhibit similar levels of user engagement, while LinkedIn, primarily associated with professional "work styles," has a smaller proportion of highly active users.
“This distinction implies that platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are deeply integrated into users' lifestyles, whereas LinkedIn is more closely associated with their 'workstyles'."
Moreover, the study highlights the impact of privilege on social media usage. It reveals a strong correlation between race, socio-economic level (SEL), and general usage, as well as highly active usage, across most platforms.
Goldstuck emphasises the significance of acknowledging privilege in social media use: "TikTok's one weakness is the extent to which its penetration is correlated with socio-economic level (SEL)."
The data indicates that TikTok's penetration is highest among the SEL 1 group, at an impressive 57%, but steadily decreases to 28% among SEL 8.
It then plummets to below 8% for the two lowest SEL groups.
"This partly tells us that TikTok and privilege go hand in hand, across all population groups."
The study also includes an industry survey conducted among over 100 of South Africa's major brands, revealing interesting insights. Twitter has experienced a decline in usage as a marketing platform, dropping from 69% to 63% compared to a high of 88% in 2019.
Oresti Patricios, CEO of Ornico, highlights shifts in spending patterns among companies.
“Almost the exact percentage decline in those spending more than R50,000 a month, a 9% drop from 22% down to 13%, was applied to the increase in the lowest spending category."
The survey indicates a 10% rise in the percentage of companies spending less than R10,000 a month, coinciding with an increase in companies using social media to reduce communication costs, from 20% to 27%.
Regarding brand returns, the positive response remains consistent at 65%, with brand awareness being the stand-out benefit, cited by a staggering 91% of respondents.
The industry survey provides valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of social media in South Africa. As brands navigate the changing digital landscape, understanding these trends becomes crucial for developing effective marketing strategies and maximising their online presence.
The South African Social Media Landscape 2023 report, introduced by Patricios, also raises concerns about the increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in social media.
Patricios warns that AI has the potential to hand control of social media over to bots.
"Once a space where the human touch prevailed, social media now veers toward a future where we engage with bots, moderated by bots, and our very opinions are shaped by bots."
What is clear from the research is that the South African social media landscape is undergoing a significant transformation as TikTok challenges Facebook's dominance and secures the second spot among the country's social media platforms.
The study provides crucial insights into user demographics, engagement levels, and the impact of privilege on social media usage.
It also highlights shifts in brand spending patterns and the importance of AI in shaping the future of social media.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, businesses must adapt their strategies to effectively engage with their target audiences on these popular social media platforms.