The latest SA social media landscape report has been published and it offers some interesting findings about the human touch, artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms on social media platforms. Published by World Wide Worx and Ornico, this detailed report allows businesses to enhance their social strategies and connect with wider audiences in new ways.

According to Statista, there are currently 43.5 million internet users in South Africa. Of these, 35.2 million (81%) use social media regularly. The statistics included in the report come from industry experts, marketing agencies and users of these social media platforms. Before we dive into the stats, let’s discuss how social media is changing in the age of AI.

How social media platforms are utilising new tech

“Our lives on social media are under constant surveillance. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn are constantly tracking our behaviour patterns,” explains Ornico CEO Oresti Patricios.

“By doing so, they can use machine learning (ML) to shape our interests, tailor our news feeds, match us to advertisements and provide customised content to increase engagement. ML is a branch of artificial intelligence which focuses on the use of data and algorithms to learn and improve without explicit instruction.”

“Machine learning algorithms analyse your search history, messages, likes and dislikes, and posting patterns to identify the type of content you are most likely to watch. It is very accurate at predicting outcomes, but it does not have the same human agency and empathy as humans.”

“This can be a problem because social media platforms have been used in the past to spread misinformation, radicalise beliefs, and perpetuate divisive views. Our admiration for the potential of AI is undeniable, for instance, South Africa was amongst the top 20 countries mentioning ChatGPT upon its release in 2022,” says Patricios.

AI and ML are being incorporated into social media platforms to improve the user experience and to also deliver content that resonates with the audience. This is why content creation (articles, videos and infographics) is such an important part of digital marketing. By publishing useful, engaging and informative content on your website, and then sharing the link on your social platforms, you can drive traffic through to your website with greater ease.

Highlights from the SA social media landscape report 2023

Key insights from the report

In terms of audience penetration, Facebook is still the kingpin in South Africa with 84% of businesses using this platform. Twitter saw its rankings drop amid the hostile takeover by Elon Musk, but 63% of companies still use this app. 

Next, Instagram also took a dip in early 2023 amid privacy concerns; 58% of brands use this platform compared to 68% at the end of 2022. TikTok has seen growth in 2023, from 25% to 28%, despite calls to ban the app by American politicians.

LinkedIn is always in a category of its own as the content shared is often professional, informative and sober. It has a very specific audience and marketing efforts often revolve around business-to-business (B2B) campaigns. LinkedIn is used by 76% of South African companies.

Marketing budgets under the spotlight

Budgets are also a highlight worth noting. Brands are, in general, spending less on social media and restricting advertising budgets. This is partly due to the increasing costs of advertising on most platforms, but also because of the weakened rand. 

While businesses are tightening their purse strings for social media advertising, the actual proportion of companies using these platforms as a way to lower the cost of communications has grown from 20% to 27% this year. Where these platforms still excel is in brand awareness. 91% of companies say that social media efforts have resulted in returns, especially in terms of brand awareness. 

The majority of marketing budgets are directed to Facebook, followed by LinkedIn. Interestingly, Youtube, WhatsApp and Instagram are tied for third. Companies are also spending more of their budgets on their own blogs than they do on Twitter. The recent launch of Threads does not allow for advertising yet, but when it does, we could see more brands jumping ship from Twitter to the new Meta platform.

The majority of businesses (64%) spend R10 000 or less per month on social media advertising and boosting content. 23% of companies spend between R11 000 and R50 000 every month and 13% have a social media marketing budget of over R50 000 per month.

Why brands are using social media

According to the report, almost three-quarters of South African companies use social media as a core part of their marketing strategies. Half of the businesses surveyed view these tools as effective PR channels and a way to generate web traffic. Just over 40% of respondents say that they also use social media as a lead generation tool and as a way to establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries.

When it comes to publishing content on social media, half of all companies post at least once a week. One-quarter of respondents say that they post every day and 19% say that they only post once a month. The remaining 9% of businesses either don’t post on a monthly basis, or they post at very irregular intervals.

Interestingly, most companies measure their social media success by the number of likes, shares, mentions and comments on their posts. Important metrics, such as click-through rates, enquiries and revenue generated – while also used to measure success – are not seen as such important factors as post engagements for local brands.

When mitigating ads from being skipped or overlooked on social media, most South African brands try to make their ads creative, engaging and use storytelling. Long format content and the use of celebrities, brand ambassadors or influencers are not used as much as they used to.

Social media is an invaluable tool for businesses, however, with so many platforms available and various ways to use each one, the most effective solution lies in finding those platforms that are geared to your brand. Companies need to be making use of the platforms that their target audiences use in their daily lives – even WhatsApp.

This is where a digital marketing partner can help. Mobimeme offers content creation and a range of marketing services to companies in South Africa. We can create bespoke articles for your website and set up effective social media marketing campaigns that will grow your audiences and increase web traffic. Contact us today if you need assistance with your digital marketing, content creation and social media output.


Mobimeme offers various digital services, including content marketing, SEO, analytics, social media management and expert direction in the digital sphere. Building and growing online audiences for your business is what we do best. For more insights, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.