South Africa’s Instagram Business

Instagram. Instafamous. Instamoney. The root word here is insta – indicating something fast, quick, and immediate. If ever there was a word to describe the Instagram culture in South Africa, it would be ‘insta’.

Brands and celebrities across South Africa have used this “Instacraze” as leverage for their businesses. Not only is there a growth in their following, it’s also resulted in an increase in revenue in many ways. Consider this: Instagram grew by over 32% in 2016 in users in South Africa (from 2.7 million to 3.5 million) – the figure reported by World Word Wox and Ornico surveys. That’s staggering growth for an application that has been around since only 2010.



Unsurprisingly, brands in South Africa have reacted to this uptake, by increasing over 20% in terms of use of Instagram, from 42% to 62%. It still begs the question as to why brands are not making 100% use of of Instagram’s capabilities. There seems to be a more reactive process to Instagram because it has often been overshadowed by Twitter and Facebook. There is a slight misalignment between the marketing strategies of these companies and the habits of Instagram users in South Africa. In fact, only 26% of South African brands have decided to shift their focus towards Instagram despite it being the fastest growing social media platform in the country.

The epitome of how Instagram and business are merging quite strongly in South Africa can be seen in the company Nifty250. The company prints South African Instagram photos, Polaroid style, packages them and sells them. Its business is based off the considerable importance that the idea of Instagram plays in the perception of South Africans. It’s a unique display of the South African Instagram business cycle – making money on Instagram from Instagram because of Instagram. A cycle that can be seen time and time again in South Africa. It’s just fascinating what happens in this day and age.



In terms of individual brands in South Africa that have really leveraged Instagram, look no further than recording artist Cassper Nyovest. Instagram has turned out to be a huge revenue generator because of how he used it. The most notable strategy he used with his Instagram is his collaboration with other Social Media platforms, namely YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Logically, he used the same hashtag across all platforms as well as physical posters to create an online conversation. The hashtag was #FillupTheDome – which got him hosting the largest concerts in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Besides the use of hashtags, another trend worth noting is the amount of times a South African brand is posting on Instagram per week. A study showed that brands that post on average about 6 times a week increases their customer base. It’s no coincidence that the largest brand following in South Africa on Instagram is @mrpfashion, who on average posts about 8 posts per week. This strategy is used by other South African brands quite effectively. The most popular accounts have on average about 2500 posts in total, with over 200 000 followers and following less than 1000 people. Those that post too much per week do not have as many followers – possibly due to it filling up a user’s Instagram feed too much, causing them to unfollow.

South African brands also make a habit of posting unrelated pictures to the products which they are advertising. It seems there is an indirect marketing strategy used by brands on Instagram. Some examples shown on some food and fashion brands’ Instagram pages in South Africa are images of quotes, a car, and a group of friends walking around. The associated lifestyle with the brand is often advertised and not the product itself.



Across some of the most popular Instagram accounts in South Africa is the use of competitions, as well as constant interaction. Not only do they react to the comments of customers, they also make a habit of liking pictures of other accounts. The @woolworth_sa account has made good use of lifestyle posts as well as throwing in a 15 second video every now and then. It seems variety in their posts is what makes them one of the most followed brand accounts in South Africa.

As an individual Aisha Baker is a South African who makes her passion live on social media very strategically, with Instagram playing a huge role. The Instagram account is called @Bakedthelog. With less than 1000 posts, but 104k followers, it beats other brands when it comes to likes and shares (over 2500 likes per post). On average about 7 posts per week, posting some personal posts with a mix of images with clothing and make-up sponsors. It promotes a desirable lifestyle more than anything – that is what imagery and Instagram allows you. A visual representation of a desired lifestyle – often unattainable.

Brands on Instagram seems to be pushing the ‘desired lifestyle’ agenda for South Africans on Instagram. There are however still a few question marks and almost an anticipation amongst South African brands and Instagram. The new features of Instagram live and being able to post multiple pictures at once is used very sporadically right now. Leveraging these new networks could possibly give birth to new ideas around business and Instagram. What if Instagram in South Africa could be used as a tool for Black Friday sales? Or to display a new range of clothing? The possibilities are endless.