African businesses turn to social media amid economic uncertainty

Economic uncertainty has made social media a more important channel for African firms, as more brands accelerate their social commerce strategies to engage their customers.

This is one of the key findings of the State of Social Media 2023 report compiled by online media monitoring company Meltwater.

The report is based on the results of the survey conducted by Meltwater on more than 1 700 marketing and communications professionals working in B2B, B2C and NGOs in Africa and across the globe.

The data collection took place in September and October 2022, with the aim to map the evolution of social media marketing globally.

According to the report, the current economic instability has led more African brands to prioritise their social media strategies with more than half of the survey respondents (52%) stating that financial pressure has made social media a more important and affordable channel for their organisation.

While Facebook remains the most used social media platform for organisations in terms of growth, the use of TikTok is rapidly increasing (47% vs 16% 2021), it says.

Additionally, 47% of the respondents stated that they are planning to use TikTok in 2023.

Five channels dominated the social landscape in Africa: Facebook (88%), Instagram (76%) and LinkedIn (74%) are top; with Twitter (67%) and WhatsApp (58%) close behind. Most notably, WhatsApp usage in Africa is 35% higher than the global average.

In terms of growth, the use of TikTok is rapidly increasing (28%). 

Out of the 170+ countries surveyed, the report found that African countries rely more on social media as a marketing tool (74%) compared to the overall results of other regions (52%).

The growth in Africa’s internet penetration and affordability has, in turn, spurred the use of social media, it says.

“With current uncertainty in the economic climate, many brands are embracing innovation to get more from their marketing budgets.

“A thoughtful social media strategy allows marketers to gain and retain customer attention in a way that is highly efficient, cost-effective, and measurable. We’re not surprised to see that respondents are looking to increase their brand awareness using these tools,” says Lays Bammesberger, enterprise account executive at Meltwater.

According to Statista, Facebook has around 2.96 billion global users with 29.5 million of them based in SA. TikTok has 6.4 million users in SA and has more than one billion users in over 150 countries across the globe.

The report reveals brands are increasingly adjusting their social commerce budgets due to changing consumer habits, with influencers playing an essential role in business planning.

By 2023, 71% of B2C organisations will be using influencer marketing – up 7% from Meltwater’s previous report in 2021.

The survey results show that increasing brand awareness (81%) and brand engagement (60%) are top of the agenda across all sectors (B2B, B2C and NGOs). However, while the top two social media goals appear to be brand-related, only 23% of organisations use brand reputation as a key metric.

“While brand perception and brand awareness has always been integral, this trend seems to be increasing in 2023. We still believe that marketing professionals will face similar challenges such as lack of time or resources; however, social media is an exceptional tool for combating these challenges, which shows in the report,” says Meltwater head of marketing in Africa, Katherine McInnes.

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