Over the past year and half a shift has been felt in the behaviour of social media users. This shift has had a significant impact in the way that brands and businesses interact with their audiences on social media. Ornico Group hosted a virtual panel discussion on their Annual South Africa Social Media Landscape Report. In the riveting in-depth discussion, the panel provided insight on the latest social media trends shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic. Below we have highlighted the panel’s findings on how brands are engaging their audiences on social media.
PANDEMIC DRIVEN DIGITAL CHANGE
Covid-19 has had a lasting impact on how businesses operate. Brands have had to urgently pandemic-proof themselves with fresh and innovative ideas to ensure they stay alive. Social Media has undoubtedly played an enormous role in the survival of many businesses. Businesses have taken advantage of this and heightened their marketing strategies. According to the World Wide Worx, South Africa’s e-commerce sales increased last year by 66% to more than R30-billion as the result of the pandemic because South Africans were opting to buy goods and services online. The South Africa Social Media Landscape Report 2021 found that the top five social media platforms that brands are highly active on in SA are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. A trend expected to be seen in the next 12 months is the presence of more brands on Corporate Blog, Clubhouse, TikTok, and WhatsApp just to name a few. Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx says the big move to a platform such as Clubhouse will be felt in South Africa now that the platform is available on android, it was previously only available on IOS, while TikTok’s user base is evolving fast making it difficult for brands to keep up with it. Another trend is the increase of live streaming that experts expect to continue rising.
GROWTH OF SOCIAL MEDIA USERS
We have been hearing about the growth of social media users but what do the actual numbers look like? According to the South Africa Social Media Landscape Report 2021, the DataReportal’s Digital 2021 – Global Overview Report indicated that by January 2021, 4.66 billion people globally were using the internet. This is a growth of 316 million (7.3%), and 4.2 billion social media users, growing by 490 million users (13%) from the previous year. The report further indicated that for the same period, the number of internet users in South Africa increased by 1.7 million to 38.2 million users (4.5% increase). It further shows that in the past year, the number of social media users in South Africa has increased to 25 million which represented an increase of 3 million users (14% increase). It is also important to note that there are 24.63 million number of social media accessing via their mobile phones. A total of 98.5% of social media users access platforms using their mobile phones in South Africa.
ADVERTISING ON SOCIAL MEDIA
While TV and radio are still seen as the rulers of advertising, it has become clear that social media has “entered the chat”. Businesses are not only realising the importance of advertising on social media, but they are realising that it’s not as simple as posting a picture on Facebook and hoping that your audience sees it, unless you kindly ask Beyonce or Kim Kardashian to post your product to their millions of followers. Even then, an actual social media strategy is needed. The truth is brands are already occupied with the day-to-day aspects of their businesses that they do not have the time nor possess the skills in place to leverage and manage social media effectively to properly execute social media strategies. According to the South Africa Social Media Landscape Report 2021:
- 9% are ill-quipped
- 7% are less equipped
- 30,6% have an adequate skillset
- 49% have a good skillset
- 12,6% have an optimal skillset
The biggest trend seen in business is brands turning to social media consultancies, marketing agencies, and PR teams for a helping hand. Brands that take their businesses seriously have a set budget purely for social media. The advantage that comes with advertising on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc is that you get more for your buck! Social media advertising enables a business to reach an audience that they would not have been able to reach before at a lower price compared to traditional advertising. 49.5% of companies in South Africa are spending less than R10 000 per month on social media advertising. 1 in 5 companies are spending more than R50 000 per month, and that figure is expected to increase in the next 12 months.
THE RETURN OF INVESTMENT
The return of investment (ROI) that brands are seeing because of social media can be difficult to pinpoint however the South Africa Social Media Landscape Report 2021 finds that several businesses say the highest level of investment they have seen has “come in the form of brand awareness, sales, and customer insight”. They have also seen a greater appeal to targeted audiences, improved search ratings, greater cost effectiveness, improves brand loyalty, inbound traffic, increased market share, and better customer satisfaction as brands are easily accessible making communication between the two more effective. “This should be a wakeup call to brands who are not focused on sales, who don’t have an effective social media presence, that this has a direct impact on the bottom line if they do it right” says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx.
CHALLENGES FACED IN SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING
Social Media data has played a significant role in the relationship between brands and their customers. Businesses have been given a front row seat in getting to know their behaviours and preferences. This powerful data has enabled businesses the ability to build strategies based on the insight they have received directly from their customers. Because of this reason, businesses have been able to evolve in the ever-changing landscape of social media as the behaviours of their audiences evolves too. This has consequently [for businesses] resulted in the App Tracking Transparency. This basically means that social media platforms such as Facebook will have to ask users using apple devices with the new iOS update for permission in order for the platform and advertisers to track their behaviours. Should users opt for their data to not be collected, advertisers will no longer be able to track customers. According to the South Africa Social Media Landscape Report 2021 “the best way to propel a business forward into the digital future is to ensure that we fully understand the digital customer through multiple data points and analytics”. Without the ability to track and measure this data, could pose a challenges for brands on the platform.