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Facebook becomes SA’s national platform

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The latest South African social media research shows Facebook becoming a proxy for the adult population, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

When almost a third of the population is taking part in conversations and other activity in the same environment, it is clear that we are seeing a shift in the way people interact and socialise.

The SA Social Media Landscape 2018 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx and media monitoring organisation Ornico, shows that Facebook now being used by 29% of the population.

No less than 16-million South Africans now use Facebook, up from 14-million in 2016. And a massive 14-million of these use cellphones or tablets for their access. In the past, mobile use of social media was a smartphone-oriented activity, and tended to be focused on the upper income segments of the population.

Now, thanks to stripped down apps like Facebook Lite, which is often zero-rated for data costs by mobile network operators, the platform is spreading through the entire population. Facebook Lite was South Africa’s 5th most downloaded app from the Google Play Store for Android phones in 2017, and that has had a direct impact on both Internet access and Facebook use.

“It’s a tool that is geared towards the dynamics of a market,” says Oresti Patricios, CEO of Ornico. “Once other social networks and even organisations like banks and retailers come to understand the needs of emerging markets, and the limitations of mobile access, we will see this kind of stripped-down app becoming more common.”

In fact, such aps will probably make a far bigger impact on the growth of Internet access than the clumsy attempts operators are making to structure data bundles for low-income users.

A good example of this is Capitec, the only bank in the list of top ten most downloaded apps in South Africa. Both its account and its app provides simple, intuitive choices for consumers, which translates into low costs for both the bank and its customers.

It is no surprise, then, that the app that generates the most noise, Twitter, does not feature in this list. Twitter as an organisation has stagnated from a strategic point of view, and has little concept of the varying user dynamics across the globe. In the United States, it has been like a rabbit caught in the headlights, unable to respond to the threat from most other social networks. Most of its competitors are growing healthily, while Twitter’s American user base has fallen slightly.

Fortunately for Twitter, it is still growing outside the USA, so those new uses are balancing the American losses, so that the platform is maintaining its user numbers.

The international trend is reflected in South Africa, where Twitter continues to grow at a slow rate in South Africa. From 7.7-million users in 2016, it has grown slowly to 8-million users this year.

The key to this growth is that Twitter remains the social platform of choice for engaging in public discourse in South Africa. News, debates, celebrity spats and the like draw users in, and they are then able to weigh in with their own opinions. The result is that, even while user growth is slow, user engagement with the platform continues to grow strongly.

The biggest surprise trends in the survey was that the previously fastest growing app in South Africa, photo-sharing network Instagram, has see its growth slow down dramatically. It is now used by 3.8-million South Africans, up from 3.5-million.

On the contrary, the professional network, LinkedIn, has maintained steady growth, up from 5.5-million to 6.1-million, as entrepreneurs and small business employees learn of the same benefits that has drawn in the corporate world in recent years.

The study included a survey of social media use by South Africa’s biggest brands, with 118 participants providing insights into their social media practices, strategies and results.

The survey found significant shifts in each of the platforms used by brands, mostly upward. Facebook is now almost pervasive, in use by 97% of brands, from 91% the year before. Twitter has increased marginally, from 88% to 90%, while LinkedIn and Instagram continued their relentless rises, now both standing at 72%. YouTube has fallen slightly behind them, despite a marginal rise to 68%.

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Declines were reported for Pinterest, Google+, WeChat, WhatsApp and SnapChat.

“The findings underline the lesson that widespread consumer takeup of a platform, as we have seen with WhatsApp in particular, does not lend itself readily to brands communicating with those consumers,” says Patricios.

A similar picture emerged when brands were asked whether they advertised on social media. Facebook is by far the most popular for advertising, at 86% of brands, with Twitter and Instagram in distant second and third place at 45% and 40%. Linked in comes in fourth, on 35%.

Most advertisers believe they see a return on investment when they advertise on social media. By far the most unanimous benefit they see is brand awareness, followed by customer insights and brands.

This is hardly surprising, when one considers the extent to which Facebook in particular has become a proxy for the adult population of a country. If it represents almost a third of the total population, it represents almost half of the over-13s in South Africa. As a result, it is now a rival to radio and TV for reaching the broader population.

And it has one massive advantage: that communication is two-way, and can be measured precisely. Don’t be surprised when the social media version of South Africa becomes a more visible and measurable version of the country than the physical version.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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