The popularity of social media presents tons of opportunities for businesses to reach their existing customers and discover new audiences. Just 2 decades ago the only channels businesses used to reach their audience were TV, radio, and print media.

The problem with these traditional channels is that they are expensive. This of course meant that new businesses cannot use them unless they were properly funded. And so the scales were always tipped in the favor of big business that had deep pockets.

But this is the new era, the era of everything digital. Today more than half of the world’s population has access to the internet and uses social media daily.

Businesses are aware of this and realize the importance of adopting social media strategies as part of their overall growth and marketing strategy. However, many are still faced with the challenge of deciding which social media platform/s will be most suited for their brand.

Today we’re going to explore the 5 most popular social media platforms in South Africa and how businesses can use them effectively. We will discuss their advantages, disadvantages, and whether they’re good for business or not. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article you will know exactly which platforms will be best suited for your business.

5 most popular social media platforms in South Africa

1. Facebook

Facebook is without a doubt the best overall social media platform for business available. Its estimated 2.5+ billion user base effectively makes it the world’s biggest social media platform.

In the past couple of years Facebook has been getting a negative response from younger users who are getting more attracted to the new shiny trending platforms such as Instagram and Tik-Tok. Regardless of that, the platform still sees the most usage than any other social network with over 1 billion active daily users.

Facebook is one of the best places businesses can discover their target audience, build an email list, get new and loyal customers. Your business should use Facebook if it stands to benefit from sharing industry related news, visually appealing images and short-engaging videos.

You can also use Facebook groups to connect with more potential customers. Facebook groups are nothing like Facebook pages. Groups are perfect for starting conversations, and the best thing about them is, everyone can start a conversation and contribute to the group.

South Africa’s Facebook stats

Facebook currently has a total of 24.1 million users in South Africa, that’s more than a third of the South African population. And 50.4% of that 24.1 million are females while the other 49.6 are male. The largest age group is 25 to 34 years, with 18 to 24 years making the second largest age group.

Every business can benefit from Facebook in 2021. Unlike other social media platforms, Facebook is good for both B2B and B2C marketing. And on top of that, Facebook’s paid advertising is the cheapest among all social media networks while it offers the most advanced targeting capabilities.

2. Instagram

Instagram is home to influencers, photographers, bloggers, brands, small business owners, and friends. Instagram has grown a lot since its launch in 2010. Its user base of over 1 billion users makes it one of the biggest social media networks in the world.

Instagram started out a photo sharing platform. That’s what made it very famous. People loved sharing their high quality beautiful photos with each other. But, Instagram has grown way beyond photos. They have added some really awesome features on their platform.

Now they allow live and short videos on feeds while they have long form videos available on IG TV, they added stories and recently, Reels. These are all the available features businesses and brands can take advantage of.

These features make Instagram the perfect platform for brands to showcase their products. Content that works best on Instagram are beautiful photos, unique designs and engaging videos.

South Africa’s Instagram stats for 2021

Approximately 5.1 million South Africans are using Instagram. 53.1% is female while males make up 46.9%. The largest age group using this platform is between the ages 18-24 and 25-34 years, and together they make up 63.8% of the total users.

You should prioritize Instagram if your target audience is under the age of 40 and you run a business that heavily relies on visual marketing such as a clothing, lifestyle, photography or hospitality business.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s number one networking social media platform for professionals. The platform has over 706 million users registered, 300+ million monthly active users (MAUs), and trusted by over 2 million small businesses across the globe.

In recent years the platform has become more than just about recruiting and hiring top talent, to being the place where experts and businesses share industry related content to establish their thought leadership and authority in their industry.

LinkedIn is best used for reaching B2B prospects. However, that does not mean that B2C companies cannot benefit from using the network. The majority of LinkedIn users are young people who just graduated college/university looking for work. If your B2B/B2C company is hiring, a LinkedIn account can help potential employees learn about your company and job vacancies available.

South Africa’s LinkedIn stats

In 2020, LinkedIn had over 8 million registered users in South Africa. 60.7% of that 8+ million (about 5 million) is between the ages 25 and 35 years. The second largest group is 18 to 24, which makes up 20.6%.

If you consider using LinkedIn for business, you’re going to need a different approach. In your LinkedIn strategy, you should factor in that LinkedIn users don’t access LinkedIn to get entertained, they go to LinkedIn to learn about their industry, see what their professional contacts are up to, and look for career opportunities.

4. Twitter

Twitter is one of the oldest and trusted social media networks out there. The platform has over 340 million monthly active users, and a total of 186 million monetizable daily active users.

Twitter is used by businesses of all sizes, journalists, celebrities and, even Presidents use Twitter to share stories and news.

What makes twitter stand out from all other social media networks is that it has a strong emphasis on real-time information. Which makes it an ideal platform for sharing company updates, news, entertainment, sports, and even politics.

Twitter is famous for limiting its users to using only 280 or less characters in their tweets. This helps limit the “noise” on the platform. If you’re going to be using twitter as part of your social media marketing strategy make sure to be concise, interesting and informative in your tweets.

South Africa’s twitter stats

12.64% of the South African population (about 8 million South Africans) have a twitter account according to Statcounter.com. Dataportal.com reports that the number of people that can be reached with paid advertisements on Twitter in South Africa is 2.3 million. Twitter Ad audience in South Africa is 38.3% female and 61.7% male.

Twitter is best for companies that frequently share daily or hourly updates and want to build industry authority. Use twitter as part of your social media marketing strategy to standout from your competition by consistently engaging with your audience, by sharing links to blog posts and other content.

5. YouTube

YouTube (Owned by Google) is one of a kind platform. YouTube allows users to watch videos and/or upload them. And as a result 2+ billion people watch billions of hours of videos a day on the platform. According to the Alexa Traffic Rank YouTube.com is the second most popular and visited website in the world, the first one being google.com.

Since YouTube is owned by Google, it has access to Google’s advertising platform. So, if you rely on video content to market your business, you definitely should be running Ads on YouTube. Besides running Ads on the platform, publishing consistent valuable content will do your business tons of good.

Most people consider YouTube to be the second biggest search engine after Google. This would make sense since you can find almost anything on YouTube. This is also evident in how the platform mimics it parent company in that videos that rank for searches have to be optimized with proper key words and tags.

South Africa’s YouTube stats

YouTube has gone from being the 3rd most visited website in South Africa  to being second only to Google. 3.75% of the South African population uses YouTube for either education or entertainment.

To get started, create a YouTube channel for your business where you can upload videos for your audience/subscribers. To help you optimize your video so that they appear first on search results, we recommend you read about YouTube SEO here.

Bonus: Pinterest

If you’re in the creativity business, or you sell products/services to women, Pinterest is the social media platform you need to be on.

Pinterest has over 400 million monthly active users and woman make up 81% of those users. 93% of users go to Pinterest to plan for purchases, discover new things and be inspired. When 78% of users say that content on Pinterest from brands is useful, it’s no surprise that 87% have purchased something because of Pinterest.

Pinterest has went ahead to join Facebook and Instagram by adding a built-in shopping feature that makes it easier for businesses to promote their products on the network and allow users to complete purchases right on the platform.

Related Article: Social commerce

Although Pinterest’s advertising capabilities aren’t as advanced as Facebook’s, you can still benefit from paid Ads by boosting the reach of your pins, and tracking how they perform. Another important feature to note about Pinterest is that your organic reach depends on the amount of keywords in a post.

That means a user will only see your post if your keywords match what the user searches for. This gives you the chance to strategically plan for your content to contain key words your target audience is most likely to search for.  

Choose wisely

These are the top social media platforms for business. Your business does not have to use all the social sites we mentioned above. Do a proper research on your target audience and find out where they spend their attention.

Once you know their favorite platform(s), devise a content marketing strategy for how you’re going to engage them and achieve your business goals. Your strategy should align with your digital marketing strategy and overall marketing goals.

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