We’re four months away from 2018 and brands in South Africa and the globe are preparing to take full advantage of the boundless opportunities social media presents.

As you look ahead to 2018 and begin planning for ways to strengthen your brand’s social strategy, it is important to keep a pulse on trends.


Quality data on social media metrics is often hard to come by for the South African audience but thanks to the research efforts of the team at Ornico Media, each year sees great minds within the social marketing space gather to share insights and interrogate the real data at the Social Media Landscape Briefing.

Many years ago, very few people could have guessed that social media platforms would become the above six digits revenue-incurring businesses that they are today. Similarly, many of us would have never predicted that these very social media platforms would consume so much of our waking hours, and in turn, demand that businesses get on board too. Data shows that when it comes to South African brands only 73% B2C have a social media strategy while only 41% have a B2B social media strategy.

This still leaves ample room to make beneficial adjustments.

The results of the Social Media Landscape Briefing highlighted the following trends for 2018;

Growth of social media platforms and the saturation of devices

Social savvy audiences have witnessed the emergence of various new technologies and platforms that leverage off the new tech, with the intent of making the lives of users easier and faster.

The Big 3 (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) still hold a large percentage of the market (96.6% Facebook, 89.7% Twitter and 71.6% LinkedIn) but other platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are hot on their heels.

Facebook has grown to 16 million active South Africans; with 14 million of those users accessing the platform from their mobile. In a country of just under 57 million citizens, that accounts for 29% of the population. Twitter’s growth has been slow; at just under 8 million South African users, from last year’s stats of 7.7 million but the little birdie is still chirping. LinkedIn as a professional platform has grown on South Africans and their understanding of it has resulted in significant growth to 6.6 million users.

With users realising the benefits of various social media platforms for their work and home lives, it makes sense for us to see a trend of mobile-only (or mostly mobile) apps. As it stands, there are more than 2.8 million apps available on the Google PlayStore and over 1 million for iOS users.

Globally, the use of mobile apps grows by 11% year on year, and when we bring it back home to SA, stats find that 42% of consumer consumption goes to music apps, followed closely by travel apps like Uber. Online shopping apps come in fourth, beaten just slightly by business and finance news.

At this rate, what you should be questioning is; why is your brand not creating content wholly optimized for mobile?

Social analytics and the relevance of Influencers

Mobile data prices in South Africa are ridiculous and our nation’s internet speed isn’t a world-best, so a user doesn’t appreciate content that’s irrelevant to their needs. The need for fresh, relevant content holds particularly true when you’re interacting with a brand you know and love- the last thing you want is a piece of generic content that doesn’t offer anything unique to you as a member of that audience, but was intended to be a hit simply because it was advertised by an ‘influencer’.

The rise of influencer marketing as part of various brands’ social strategies works two-hold. The choice to put budget behind an internet celebrity and their following can either increase brand awareness and overall ROI because of their likeness and relatability of said influencer to your audience, or it could fail to yield returns because the consumer is now more knowledgeable of the options available to them and the use of a face/ambassador for a certain offering, just doesn’t resonate.
Brands who choose to take on influencer marketing need to tread carefully when choosing the influencer, selecting the product they will endorse/represent and targeting it to the correct audience. Adequate research and analytics of social metrics are a necessary first step to improving the personalization of content to audiences’ interests and furthermore, ensuring that the relationship between the brand and the influencer is symbiotic in nature and equally rewarding of their overall objectives.

As social platforms evolve, their business-specific features and analytics will become more detailed and valuable to brands. Take full advantage of this.

To Chatbot or not to Chatbot? The AI takeover.

The conversation around Chatbots is a controversial one. One third believe that the technology will take over humans and in turn, take jobs, while another third believes that the integration of bots into the B2B and B2C marketing processes will enhance the overall customer experience and increase the satisfaction with your brand at the end of the buy-in journey. The remaining percentage of the population isn’t too sure what these chatbots are, or how to feel about them.

Be that as it may, a definite certainty is that chatbots are here to stay. We, people of the internet age have become accustomed to instant connection and this has in turn granted us free reign to want things done, yesterday. In 2018, it is likely that 75% of development teams will integrate some type of AI functionality into the company’s operations. With over half of your brand’s potential competition getting onto the bot bandwagon and reaping the rewards thereof, it would be advisable that your brand leverages from the tech as well and doesn’t fall behind.
Chatbots may be a scary reality but the realistic benefits of the tech include:
– Customizable interfaces to ensure optimal relevance to your brand’s service offering.
– Continued quality delivery as they learn and adapt to the ever-changing algorithms within thee platforms of out digital realm.
– Extended up-time as chatbots can be online and available to assist your consumers 24/7.
– Coupled with the rise of machine-learning, chatbots can better understand the linguistic or dialectic variations of consumers, to ensure maximized, time efficient assistance.

For a more practical example, studies have found that over 83% of consumers require assistance at some point within their online shopping journey, so e-commerce sectors can benefit greatly from chatbot technology by way of ensuring that quick aid is available to the user, on the device they are using, at the time that they need it most. With over 2 billion messages exchanged monthly between brands and users, chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger add bounds of untapped value to a brand’s deliverables.

The Video Revolution.

YouTube is on a mission to take charge and take over. Active user numbers stand at 1.9 billion globally and just under 10 million for South Africa.

The platform, which started in 2005, has rebranded and they are taking full advantage of the rising trend of designing and delivering content to users in a way that tells a story, reaches them on a human-heart level and does so in the quickest amount of time (because the human brain only averages an attention span of 8.5 seconds of course). Video content requirements have gone from 30 second snippets to the rising phenomena of building stories and getting your brand messaging across in 2 seconds. Can your brand manage that? Are your people skilled for that?

Moreover, with the introduction of the “Live” video feature to Facebook and Twitter and the rising appeal of Instagram stories, brands must grasp the ability to create that type of content and adjust or adapt their existing digital strategy to tie it to other content within the digital marketing funnel, for further repurposing.

As more platforms begin to offer overlapping features, brands and marketers need to think hard about which they will invest in and where their audience will truly engage them best. With more platforms featuring timed videos and visual content components, the main points that set leaders apart will be audience, reach and interface customization.

Users tend to leave video content before the first 2 seconds and content that does not offer up the option to ‘skip’ will not garner high video completion stats. Another feature that brands need to keep in mind when creating video is the device the user is perusing said content on and if the location they’re at allows for enabling volume. Adding a subtitles feature to your content not only offers up better understanding of the message, but also extends the reach to a greater market.

The African Brand Index

Special mention must be made about the Africa Brand Index. This is a listing of the most successful brands on the continent on social media, according to key metrics such as community growth, content engagement, sentiment and dozens others.
The research manually searches and adds brands to the system, then compares their activity by the key metrics, alongside 500 other brands with social media presence, and awards a score out of 100.

In 2017; the Top 5 brands in South Africa were SuperSports, The Expresso Show, Woolworths, Cell C and at number 5, KFC.

Social media presents so many opportunities for marketers to connect with audiences, to create and distribute better content, and continuously build onto their brands and realise business objectives. Even with slight declines in user engagement (29% for Facebook) and the shift in the types of content users engage with the most (Entertainment in 2016 has shifted to News and politics in 2017), the emphasis on quality content and skilling teams to better understand the ‘psychology’ behind the needs and behaviors of the target markets remains at the top of any digital strategy agenda.

Bots, AI and personalized video are the top trends to look out for in 2018. This is a clear sign that the future is digital. Internet users are understanding and engaging with digital now more than ever. This is the time to understand your people better and grab the ripe fruits of opportunity.

To see full comparative from 2017, read Top Social Media trends in South Africa 2017

If you would like our team to help with an audit of your brand’s current social media strategy, contact us.

Author: Kekeletso Mabizela, Social Media and Content Specialist