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Township youth flock to Facebook

Cape Town-based research firm, ikapadata released a survey showing that South Africa’s township youth is moving away from MXit and more towards Facebook.

The survey – which involved face-to-face interviews with 715 township residents from Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban – found that 55% of respondents have Facebook accounts, vs the 50% with MXit accounts. ITWeb quotes ikapadata as noting that “this is really big news, as until now MXit has been considered the social media tool of choice among young South Africans from low-income backgrounds”, adding that things are clearly changing.

“While for a long time MXit could rely on the unique accessibility of its service due to economic constraints among its core constituency, the increasing affordability of more capable cellphones is causing a shift in the South African social media scene as more and more individuals can afford entry-level smartphones, thus gaining access to a wider range of services, and especially Facebook.”

On the instant messaging front, SMS is still a clear leader among 98% of respondents. MXit is used by 45% of the respondents, while 12% use WhatsApp and only 10% are using BlackBerry Messenger. 13% of respondents have a YouTube account, 8% have a Google+ account, and another 8% have a Myspace page while 2% are with LinkedIn.

Ikapadata admits that their data may fall short of genuine representivity, but “the numbers presented here are arguably the closest approximation to social media usage patterns of township residents currently available, as they are based on face-to-face interviews instead of online surveys which are usually the basis for this kind of data.”

14% of respondents said they never access the Internet, 26% access the Internet only via their mobile phones, while 20% only use computers. “This might be seen as a shift of the digital divide from users versus non-users towards full-users versus light-users,” says ikapadata. The majority (54%) of those accessing the Internet via a computer do so using the facilities at shops or Internet cafés.

“We see that 45% of respondents claimed to visit Facebook at least once a week on average, but only 38% said the same thing about MXit. Whether casual MXit messaging has been accounted for by all respondents is questionable, but in any case the numbers certainly confirm the overall trend towards Facebook.”

Facebook is also identified by the respondents as their favourite social networking service, with almost two-thirds of those with both MXit and Facebook accounts, preferring Facebook.

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