Online consumers in Kenya are spending more time on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than on e-mail, signalling a major change in Internet consumer behaviour, a new research shows.
Dubbed Digital Life, the research TNS released this week, revealed that despite the e-mail only becoming mainstream in many mature markets over the last few years, emerging markets such as Kenya, Malaysia and Russia, are increasingly using social networking more than the conventional e-mail.
According to the research, Kenya is ahead of its peers in East Africa in social networking with an average consumer spending atleast 6.5 hours per week, followed by Tanzania — 1.6 hours per week — and Uganda 1.5 hours per week.
The latest findings could be a game-changing phenomenon especially as more businesses including the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), media houses, banks, airlines, hotels, car rentals, tour and travel operators start to use the service to reach consumers.
However, the heaviest users of social networking are in Malaysia (nine hours per week), Russia (8.1 hours per week) and Turkey (7.7 hours per week).
The digital research project that covered 88 per cent of the world’s online population through 50,000 interviews with consumers in 46 countries — reveals changes in online behaviour in East Africa, placing the Internet as the media of choice, courtesy of the increase in mobile penetration.
“Growth in social networking has been fuelled by the transition from the PC to mobile. Mobile users spend on average 3.1 hours per week on social networking sites compared to just 2.2 hours on e-mail,” reads the report in part.
“The drive to mobile is by the increased need for instant gratification and the ability of social networks to offer multiple messaging formats, including the instant message or update function,” says Melissa Baker, TNS Research International CEO for East Africa.
Globally, people who have online access have digital sources as their number one media channel, the study says.
About 61 per cent of online users use the Internet daily against 54 per cent for TV, 36 per cent for radio and 32 per cent for newspapers.
“Online consumers in rapid growth markets have overtaken mature markets in terms of engaging with digital activities. When looking at behaviour online, rapid growth markets such as Egypt (56 per cent), China (54 per cent) and Kenya (51 per cent) have much higher levels of digital engagement than mature markets such as Japan (20 per cent), Denmark (25 per cent) or Finland (26 per cent). This is despite mature markets usually having a more advanced Internet infrastructure,” read the report in part.
The research highlights that activities such as blogging and social networking are gaining momentum at a faster speed in rapid growth markets.
It shows that four out of five online users in China (88 per cent) and over half of those in Kenya (55 per cent), Brazil (51 per cent) and Tanzania (50 per cent) have written their own blog or forum entry, compared to only 32 per cent in the US.
The Internet has also become the default option for photo sharing among online users in rapid growth markets, particularly in Asia and Sub Saharan Africa, according to the research, adding that the number of online consumers who have ever uploaded photos to social networks or photo sharing sites is 92 per cent in Thailand, 88 per cent in Malaysia, 87 per cent in Vietnam, 74 per cent in Kenya and 72 per cent in Tanzania.
The study also provides indicators on how the digital landscape will change in the future.
Kicking out e-mail
The research shows that consumers expect their use of social networking on mobiles to increase more than use through PC.
“In Kenya, 78 per cent of online consumers expect their use of social networking on a PC to increase in the next 12 months compared to 84 per cent who will be looking to their mobile to increase usage. In Uganda the figures are 66 per cent and 74 per cent respectively and in Tanzania 71 per cent and 69 per cent,” says the report.
The TNS research vindicates the findings released by research firm Synovate early this year that revealed that 79 per cent of Internet-savvy Kenyans visit the website, using it as a primary means to talk to friends, relatives and work mates.
According to Synovate, more than two million Kenyans are on Facebook, with new research indicating that the popular social networking website is slowly edging out the e-mail as the preferred mode of electronic communication.
“The value proposition presented by the internet means advertising online now makes sense,” said Joe Otin, Media Research and Monitoring Director for pan Africa at Synovate in an earlier interview with the Business Daily.
This comes at a time when Facebook has hit over 500 million users, with Twitter coming in second, estimated to have about 200 million followers globally.
But this growth is yet to be significantly tapped by local social networking cites such as www.iborian.com, www.whive.com, www.sembuse.com, www.kasarani.com, www.haiya.co.ke, www.kenyasocialnetwork.com, http://smenetwork.co.ke, www.wazua.com, www.mashada.com among others.