By adaptive - September 23rd, 2014

Social media marketing means understanding what drives consumers to your business. In South Africa, this is visual content.

All corporations know that when it comes to developing high levels of engagement with their customers, nothing beats visual content. New research reveals that this is also true across South Africa. The number of YouTube and Instagram users in South Africa increased by 53% and 65% respectively over the past year, according to the findings of the SA Social Media Landscape 2015 study, released by Fuseware and World Wide Worx.

By August 2014, Google's YouTube had reached an active user base of 7.2-million South Africans, making it second only to Facebook’s 11.8-million in social network use in South Africa. Instagram also grew from 680 000 active users in 2013 to 1.1-million in 2014.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the visual revolution in online usage in South Africa,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology market researchers World Wide Worx. “The global rise of video is now making itself felt here. Once the cost of mobile data comes down for the emerging smartphone market, video will become a dominant medium, strongly supported by other visual media.”

Two networks have seen their numbers fall, most notably the homegrown Mxit, which has fallen from 6.5-million active users a year ago to 4.9-million in August 2014. However, it has among the most engaged users of any social network in South Africa, with the average user signing in five times a day, and spending 105 minutes a day on the network.

Pinterest saw growth flatten globally in the past year, and dropping in South Africa, from 910, 000 active users a year ago, to 840, 000 in August 2014. However, the most popular South African user of the platform has more than 800, 000 followers globally, compared to no South African having more than 20, 000 followers a year ago.

“Every social network has its own dynamics,” says Mike Wronski, CEO of data analytics company Fuseware. “The secret for companies trying to leverage social networks lies not only in numbers of users, but also in how heavily those users engage in these networks. Twitter has more intensive engagement than Facebook, despite having substantially fewer users.”

A survey of 65 of South Africa’s biggest brands was included in the study. It revealed that most of the major brands are using Twitter and Facebook – respectively 95% and 92% – while YouTube and Instagram are likely to see the biggest first-time use by brands in 2015.

Just over half of these brands – 51% – intend increasing their social media budgets in 2015. The biggest focus of social spend will be on content marketing (73% of brands), followed by multimedia content (60%).

“Content marketing and influencer marketing are two big trends corporates are embracing as the market matures,” says Wronski. “For the brands, this makes social media more challenging than ever before, but it is going to enhance the consumer experience of social networks.”

In Useful Social Media’s own State of Corporate Social Media Briefing 2014 report, visual media made clear gains across the breadth of respondents to our survey with 14% coming from the Middle East or South Africa. Last year 6% of respondents stated they accessed the network more than once a day. This year it has risen to 11.5%. Respondents accessing Pinterest more than once a day has risen from 7% in 2013 to 9% in 2014.

Matt Gentile, Director, Social Media, Century 21 Real Estate LLC said: “Visual marketing is a powerful force and a huge opportunity for brands both large and small in my opinion.”

For brands understanding the geographical differences across their commercially active regions is vital. Corporations must understand that social media isn’t a one size fits all exercise. There are clearly trends towards more visual content, as this research concludes, but corporations and their marketing activity must still be tailored to its target audience if these messages are to reach their intended audiences.

Image Source: Jason Howie.

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