Facebook stays a crowd favourite, while TikTok overtakes Instagram

South Africa’s social media scene: Facebook dominates, TikTok thrives and Threads takes on Twitter

By Alastair Otter
Friday, July 14, 2023

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

  • Facebook (56.7%) is still the most popular social media platform among South Africans, TikTok (30.6%) has recently overtaken Instagram
  • Companies still opt to spend most of their social media budgets on ‘old school’ apps like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • New app Threads gained 100-million users in five days, but two popular SA influencers say they won’t use it for work content

The internet forms an integral part of most people’s lives, from work to play. It’s almost unimaginable that close to 17-million South Africans do not have access to the one thing that consumes so much of the rest of the population’s time.

Among the more than 72% of South Africans who do use the internet, 25.8-million people are active on social media. For most of them, Facebook is by far the most popular social network. It is particularly popular among the 15-to-34 age group and for businesses too.

Most companies (84%) were active on Facebook in the first half of 2023, according to the South African Social Media Landscape Report of 2023. The second-most popular choice of companies is LinkedIn (76%).

Most companies also choose to spend the majority of their advertising money on those two platforms. Almost half of the companies surveyed spend ad money on Facebook, followed by a quarter on LinkedIn. Both apps were founded about 20 years ago.

Newish kid on the block TikTok has experienced impressive growth among South African users and has replaced Instagram in the second position, it does not see the same amount of ad spend from business. According to the survey, only 1% of companies pushed paid ads on the short-video platform, which launched in South Africa in 2018.

Facebook is likely to see ‘tremendous erosion’ of its 15-to-24 user base in the next five years as the knock-on effect of the younger group’s attitude comes into play, says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, which produced the report with brand consultancy Ornico.


Facebook isn’t the only social media app that could see a decline in users because of TikTok.

The video-sharing app has inched ahead of Instagram as the second-most used form of social media in the country in 2023. More than 30% of South Africans used TikTok last year versus 28% of users on Instagram.

South African Wian van den Berg (28) is just one of many young people in the country who have used the app to their advantage.

He posted his first video in September 2018 and has gained 16.8-million followers since then, making him one of the most followed South Africans on the app. What’s his niche? He teaches viewers how to pull off magic tricks. Take a look at one of his most popular videos with 68.3-million views where he tricks onlookers into thinking he’s sitting on an invisible chair:

South African TikTokker Chané Grobler has 2.4-million followers on the app. She creates content about her daily life, as well as dance and lip-syncing videos.

The 22-year-old has gained more than 98-million likes on the app since 2018, but she says TikTok doesn’t pay South African users for views. However, there are other ways to coin it using the video platform.

‘Users can make money through live-streaming where their followers can gift them gift points which they can then withdraw through a PayPal account,’ she says.


The most recent newcomer in the social media space is Threads, created by Facebook parent company Meta. The text-based conversation app is similar to Twitter.

Threads launched on 6 July 2023 and gained 100-million followers in just five days. For comparison, this is how long it took other social media giants and ChatGPT to reach the same following:

Threads is clearly popular, but how will South African influencers choose to use it? Grobler says it will be her work-free zone.

‘I don’t think that I’d use it to spread my other content, I’d like to keep Threads for fun and games that has nothing to do with work.’

Bryan Kazaka (21), who has 8.7-million followers on TikTok, shares a similar sentiment.

‘I am excited to see how it plays out. Personally I do not see it as an opportunity to post new content but to closer engage with your fans.’


  • The South African Social Media Landscape Report 2023 [pdf] is produced by brand consultancy Ornico and market research house World Wide Worx
  • DataReportal covers digital trends and behaviours in South Africa. Here’s its 2023 round-up
  • The figures quoted for TikTok followers were correct at the time of publishing