Biggest social networks in South Africa

Social network services remain a hot property in 2012, which has already seen the launch of a few new social networks in South Africa, including messaging services and communities.

In late 2011 Google joined the fray with its own contender, Google+, and Exponential Labs has started providing statistics on the service on its newly launched website,

Of particular interest is the per-country demographic breakdown of Google+ based on the country users list in their profile.

With these new players and statistics available, it is interesting to look at which social platforms are most popular in South Africa.


MXit remains South Africa’s most used social service, claiming 10 million active users in South Africa, with 50 million registered users worldwide.

Alan Knott-Craig Junior, CEO of MXit, said that they receive between 35,000 and 50,000 new registrations daily – mainly from African and developing countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Indonesia.

Alan Knott Craig Jnr
Alan Knott Craig Jnr

According to the 2011 Social Media Landscape report by Fuseware and World Wide Worx, 40,000 South Africans register on MXit every day. Less then 4,000 daily registrations come from outside South Africa.


Runner-up in South Africa’s social network rankings is Facebook, with SocialBakers reporting that South Africa has 4,840,360 registered Facebook users.

When Fuseware and World Wide Worx published their Social Media Landscape report in October 2011 they estimated the number of Facebook users in SA to be around 4.2 million.

Of those users, only 3.2 million visited the site in the previous 12 months.

“While Facebook has reached only 8.7% of the South African population, it is used by 80.7% of Internet users in South Africa,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

Goldstuck added that the number of users aged over 40 now far outnumbers those 18 and under: 860 000 against 550 000.

At 2 million users, Johannesburg has the biggest Facebook-using population in South Africa by far, followed by Cape Town’s 860,000 and Pretoria close behind Cape Town at 840,000 users.


Though there are no hard stats on the number of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) users in South Africa, a combination of statistics from the Our Mobile Planet survey and the 2010 Mobile Insights study released in 2011 by World Wide Worx help give an idea of BBM’s usage.

Vodacom also revealed that it has just under 2 million BlackBerry devices on its network alone.

According to the Our Mobile Planet study conducted by Ipsos in association with TNS Infratest and the Mobile Marketing Association, South Africa’s smartphone penetration is at 15%.

Considering that Statistics South Africa’s mid-2011 population estimate was 50,586,757, this puts the number of smartphones in SA at over 758,000.

Ipsos also said that BlackBerries make up 44% of the number of smartphones in SA, or over 3.3 million.

That means there are around 3.3 million potential (or “registered” for the purposes of our comparison) BBM users in SA.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion says that in South Africa, 97% of BlackBerry smartphone owners use BBM.

  • Note: This is not an accurate way to analyse statistics, but meant to give an indication of the South African landscape based on the information at hand.
Arthur Goldstuck
Arthur Goldstuck - World Wide Worx

Twitter and LinkedIn

Fuseware and World Wide Worx also revealed last year that both Twitter and LinkedIn have seen tremendous growth in SA over the year, with both networks sitting at 1.1 million registered South African users.

South Africans are the most active Twitter users on the continent, a recent study from Portland Communications and Tweetminster found.

Analysing over 11.5 million geo-located tweets and a survey of 500 of Africa’s most active users showed that SA generated over five million twitter updates in the last three months of 2011.

The next most active country was Kenya with 2,476,800 tweets. Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco trailed behind with under two-million tweets each.

According to Fuseware and World Wide Worx, of South Africa’s 1.1 million registered Twitter users, about 405,000 are active.


Earlier this year, Exponential Labs launched its PlusDemographics website which tracks Google+ statistics.

According to their findings, South Africa has 466,828 registered Google+ users.

Arthur Goldstuck from World Wide Worx predicts that Google+ is likely to more than double its number of users over the course of 2012.

Social network stats in South Africa
* Number of active users, not registered shown in absence of accurate data.
Social network Registered users Source
MXit 10,000,000* MXit / World of Avatar
Facebook 4,840,360 SocialBakers
BBM 3,300,000 Rough estimate based on Our Mobile Planet stats
LinkedIn 1,100,000 World Wide Worx and Fuseware
Twitter 1,100,000 World Wide Worx and Fuseware
Google+ 466,828

The underrated

Asked whether there are up-and-coming social players in South Africa that may be overlooked, Goldstuck said that there are a number of “social upstarts and start-ups,” mostly in the instant messaging space.

“The quietest but fastest growing is 2GO, which has as many South Africans using it as are using Facebook. The noisiest is ZiNG, which has a credible founder, but still has to prove itself,” Goldstuck said.

“Internationally, there’s Pinterest, which is growing at an astounding rate, but has very narrow demographics.”

A previous version of this article estimated the penetration of BBM among BlackBerry users at 60% based on statistics released in early 2011 by World Wide Worx. Research in Motion South Africa has since provided official figures that put that figure at 97%.

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Biggest social networks in South Africa