Social media and youth have become synonymous in the past few years. Everyone seems to know that young people socialize online, sometimes even more than they socialize outside the Internet. Young people “like,” “comment” and “share”; but do we know what exactly make them tick – what is the content or the format that stimulate the “clicking”?
At Shujaaz, we noticed an interesting trend on DJ B’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DJBoyie). We engage with our fans over a variety of content – from links to video to status updates to photo, and they seem to enjoy them all but not equally – photos are the top-shared format, and not just marginally. On a given month, among the 200,000 users of the page over 18 thousand visitors share our photos with their peers compared with just above nine thousand, who share status updates, and about eight thousand, who share videos and links. So, what is the secret to photos being so successful among young people? The answer is simple – equipment, money, and time.
According to the 2015 Shujaaz Annual Youth Tracker Survey, just over a half of Kenyan youths 15-24 years old have either a smart phone (24%) or a feature phone (31%), i.e. a phone with the Internet access. Among those who have a Facebook account (31% of those 15-24 years old), 43% have a feature phone and 59% have a smart phone (some have both). While there are fewer Facebook users with feature phones, they are the youngest and most active online audience. Using a feature phone to access the Internet can be cumbersome, so when they go online the users of such phones lean towards media that is simple for them to view and share as well as for their peers, who might also be using feature phones.
Turning to the money issue, exactly half of Kenyan youth say they barely have enough money to cover their day-to-day expenses: 20% have enough for transport and food while the remaining 30% have to choose between food and transport because they cannot buy both. Facebook users are somewhat better off – three in five among them have enough money to cover all of their needs. Yet, the bulk of Facebook users (71%) are full-time students and only a third have side job (hustles), which means they have to get money from their parents and likely report back on how the money are spent.
Facebook users say they spend on average 800 KES/ 8 USD on airtime a month, and almost half (47%) report that the bulk of the money pays for talking and texting not the Internet. Airtime allocated to the Internet allows the majority (85%) to go online only once or twice a day for 30 minutes or less (45%). This would probably be enough if not for the fact that a third of Facebook users have accounts on two social networks while 40% claim accounts on 3-8 such sites. Hence, each account get 30 minutes of the user’s time a day at best and less than 5 minutes at worst.
The conclusion? With little money and time to spare and a phone that is equally likely to be a smartphone as it is to be a feature phone, all a user can manage to do on a single social networking site a day is to update his/her status, scroll through the newsfeed and share 1-2 objects that are (1) entertaining and (2) easy to consume and share quickly, even if using an outdate phone and slow internet. Yes, clearly a photo is the answer.