OPINION: Effects of the coronavirus pandemic on social media usage

When schools closed and jobs were put aside temporarily in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic left a massive population with boredom and anxiety during the onset of the world-wide lockdown.

With little to do and much content to catch up on, high-school kids and university goers turned to their mobile devices for the fun of it. Adults on the other hand, anxious about what would become of us all, began searching content on trusted news sources and friends.

We receive more news from social media than any other source. 17 percent of Kenyans now use social media, ranking fifth in Africa with a 46% internet penetration.

Out of 8.84 million people, 6.8 million heavily rely on social media content for news; that’s 77% of all social media users, making Kenya the top-ranking consumer of this digital news source globally, with the global average being 55%.

Hootsuite released a digital state of the union report with these findings:

  • 5.9 billion people now own cell phones (77% of total global population)
  • 4.5 billion are connected to the internet (59% of total global population)
  • 3.8 billion are active users of social media platforms (50% of total global population)

In Kenya, the same report indicated:

  • 52.06 million mobile phone connections (98% of the national population, 88% being smartphone users for people aged 16-64)
  • 22.86 million internet users (43% of the national population, 96% of whom use mobile devices to access the internet)
  • 3.2 million new internet users in the onset of 2020 (16% growth)
  • 9.80 million active social media users (17% of national the population)
  • 4 hours 36 minutes average daily time sent using the internet on mobile devices

Over the past year, this 3.8 billion population grew by 9% this year. To put it in perspective, this is 12 new users every second since July 2019. In Kenya, this population spends three and a half hours on average where you see current global affairs on memes before turning to your local news than the other way around.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, advertisements have gone digital for corporates and startups alike. In terms of brand searches through social media, Kenya was first globally with 88%, on a global average of 42%.

For this reason, the greater population of social media advertisers were online shopping retailers who were able to target potential customers according to their interests to the finest detail.

Social media advertising reaches Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 34 and is received by men at 40.8% and 30.9% by women.

66% of surveyed users on Facebook like and follow a brand, 89% of marketers use Facebook in their brand marketing efforts and has increased by 50% since last year, turning cell phones to billboards in every palm.

Every month, Kenyans spend 8m 33s on Jumia, ranking jumia.co.ke 13th most visited site in the country, Amazon.com coming in at 14th place.

Online purchases have been made possible by the fact that 73% of the population has a mobile money account, 26% of whom make purchases and/or pay bills online.

Last year, we spent Ksh.20.379B on fashion and beauty products, Ksh29.376B on electronics and physical media over the internet.

Amazingly, social media use outpasses the global population growth almost nine to one, making it the best place to market products with an average ROI of 95% reported by Forbes after consulting numerous CMOs, making social media advertising the way to go.

The writer, Brian Mogeni, is the Co-founder and CEO of Wowzi.

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