The local number of Facebook users grew by 500 000 people or 11 percent to 4.9 million users in 2012 as the growth of smartphones in South Africa continues to fuel social media adoption.
Steven Ambrose, Strategy Worx CEO, says this was one of the key findings of Strategy Worx’s latest Social Media and Mobile infographic. Of the 4.9 million South Africans who have Facebook accounts, around 4 million have accessed Facebook from their mobile phones with smartphones playing an important role in the growth of Facebook in particular this year.
What is interesting about smartphone usage in South Africa is that BlackBerry and Nokia make up around 87 percent of smartphones in the country. While BlackBerry is undoubtedly the darling child of the local smartphone market with 46 percent market share, and Android phones are at 11 percent mark, it is Nokia who is the dark horse of smartphones with a market share of 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,” he says.
The fact that almost all smartphones come preinstalled with social media apps, together with the increasing trend for people to become more connected, have become strong drivers for the growth of social media in South Africa.
Furthermore, the strong promotion of social media, and in particular Twitter by the mass media, together with the running of social media promotions by many local companies, are also key driving factors of smartphone and social media growth.
The role of the smartphone camera
“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 US$1 billion dollars 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.