South Africa’s homegrown mobile social network confirmed its reach and popularity with the influential youth market in the recent 2014 South African elections. A significant number of Mxit users subscribed to numerous political organisations, voting and news apps that outperformed other mobile social competitors in terms of following.
The important 18- to 25-year old market that makes up approximately 50% of Mxit’s user base were the most active user segment on these apps. In many instances 70% of subscribers to relevant apps were from this age group.
The significant size of the audiences can largely be attributed to Mxit’s data-light functionality that provides many young South Africans with their primary access to the Internet via their mobile feature phone, and the highly creative methods employed by app owners to engage users and encourage participation.
Agang allowed users to create community groups by location or interest. Members who joined the group could then create topics and post comments to a forum-style wall. Group creators, or leaders, could also send announcements and updates to their group members.
The ANC hosted a series of “Live Chat” sessions on their MyANC app, where a number of government ministers engaged thousands of young people in a promoted 1-hour session. It allowed users to ask questions and voice concerns directly to high-ranking officials and decision makers.
The DA’s game, “DemocraCITY”, allowed users to take control of a virtual country and look after its people. In a fun and interactive way it addressed a wide range of socio-political challenges as they led their community to prosperity. In less than a month the game had been played 134 000 times and generated more 18 million page views.
BBC News, who launched a special election coverage app two weeks before the elections, acquired 45 000 subscribers in just one day, and polled sentiments from the younger generation of voters. Nearly half of the respondents said jobs were their biggest concern, followed by education and access to basic services.