A look back at 2021’s social media landscape

Social media icons

We have seen a lot of sudden changes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital space has been one place where a lot of change and growth took place. There are quiet a number of social media platforms that benefited from people being home for longer periods of time.

South Africa’s population is just under 60 million, and according to the CEO of World Wide Worx there are approximately 38.2 million social media users in South Africa. This means that over half of our population is on social media.

Iphone with social media icons

2020/2021 social media rocket

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a spike in the number of social media users. The number of active social media users has increased from 22 million users in January 2020 to 25 million users in January 2021, this is a 13.6% increase. Marketers and advertisers need to keep a close eye on these trends, as these inform budgets.


Top 5 social media platforms

Many people paint social media as a platform for the younger generation only, this is not entirely correct. Here are some of the most popular social media networks amongst people aged between 16 to 65 years old:

  1. Whatsapp at 93.2%
  2. YouTube at 92.4%
  3. Facebook at 86.7%
  4. Instagram at 70.2%
  5. Messenger at 64.7%

There are a number of learnings one can take from the top 5 social media platforms in South Africa. The pattern tells us of how people like to receive information.

Top 5
Image: True Cable

Top 3 learnings from the top 5

  1. Affordability

The prices of data in South Africa is ranked 136 globally, this pushes people to find more affordable means to communicate. Whatsapp and Facebook messenger allow for a much more affordable day-to-day conversation. These are the platforms where people are able to send instant messages at an affordable price.

2. Keeping in contact

Instagram and Facebook are platforms where people are able to keep up with their old friends and family. This platorm allows people to stay in the loop even though they do not communicate much.

3. Short format videos

Instagram introduced short format videos in July of 2021, this came as a way to compete with TikTok. TikTok has become one of the fastest growing social media platforms. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram Reels keep us glued to our screens for longer and this works for brands and advertisers.

According to an article published in Orlando Sentinel, the average human attention span is 8 seconds. This is a dramatic decrease from 12 seconds in the year 2000.

YouTube on phone

Video content that is able to keep people engaged for longer periods of time is definitely a breakthrough for marketing. It is important for marketers to keep up with the different social media trends, this will guide strategy as well as budget. A marketer that is always on the pulse is always on the money.