- According to the SA Social Media Landscape 2022 report, more than 16% of adult South Africans have participated in the metaverse or virtual worlds.
- That’s the same percentage of South Africans who are active on online dating sites.
- But definitions of what the metaverse is and isn’t clouding things about how South Africa is invested in digital life.
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Half of all adult South Africans are active on social media and a growing number have started exploring virtual worlds or the ‘metaverse’.
Facebook remains the most popular social media site in South Africa, with 22 million local users active on the network in the “last 7 days”, according to the SA Social Media Landscape 2022 study released this week by Ornico and World Wide Worx.
This study is based on data collected by Ask Africa in its biennial Target Group Index (TGI) survey, which surveyed approximately 30,000 South African adults aged 15 or older living in cities and towns.
While social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are the most widely used, the survey revealed that more South Africans are exploring virtual worlds as part of the wider metaverse.
The metaverse is generally thought of as a 3D version of the Internet that can contain elements of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). These virtual spaces run parallel to the physical world and enable users to live their digital lives.
And while Facebook founder and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s version of the metaverse is heavily focused on AR and VR to deliver a fully immersive experiencethe broader definition may include any virtual world where human-controlled avatars interact with each other and with digital objects.
While 16.1% of adult South Africans have participated in the “metaverse”, the broad definition includes participation in various in-game environments, such as Fortnite and Minecraft, with virtual worlds, according to Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx†
“This number is surprising for another reason. It is very close to the proportion who say they have used online dating sites: 16.4%. While this is seen as common use of the Internet, the metaverse is not, yet they are on a similar level of adoption,” explains Goldstuck.
“In other words, these aren’t necessarily people actively entering a virtual world, but the experience of participating in an interactive, immersive environment gives them a greater propensity to enter metaverse alternatives such as Second Life, Decentraland, and Ubuntuland.”
This growing interest in the metaverse is supported by trends observed on Twitter. According to the study, the metaverse was mentioned nearly 100,000 times in the past year, with the vast majority, 86%, expressing neutral feelings for virtual worlds. Only 9% responded positively to the topic of the metaverse, while 5% had negative perceptions.
The overwhelming neutral sentiment is good for companies already investing in the metaverse to take advantage of the intrigue without having to compete with negative perceptions.
“Because these are uncharted waters, marketers have the opportunity to take a leading role in influencing, developing and iterating in this area for the betterment of the consumers they serve, rather than being bystanders,” said Oresti Patricios. , CEO of Ornico, commenting on South Africa’s commercial position within the complex and often misunderstood metaverse.
“Many questions remain to be answered, but one thing is certain: the power shift is inevitable and understanding this space in regards to brands, content, social media and creative assets is critical.”