Facebook @ 20: (Still) The Biggest Social Media Platform In Kenya.
Twenty years since its inception on the 4th of February 2004, Facebook has grown from a dorm room project to a global digital behemoth, touching every corner of the world, including Kenya. As of January 2024, Facebook is (still) the largest and most popular social media platform in Kenya with 16,457,600 users representing 28.1% of our total population according to statistics from http://NapoleonCat.com. At the same time we see that from a gender perspective, Facebook in Kenya is 55.8% men and 44.2% women which is not ideal and could certainly be more balanced.
These are NOT small numbers by any measure in the context of all things digital in Kenya and in fact, it seems everyone here is on Facebook including their Cucu and Guka (Grandmother and Grandfather) – True story! 🙂 Indeed, I have a long-standing theory that the reason Facebook has aged up so well with older demographics is that many had to join to get a sense of how their children and grandchildren are doing regularly as everything went digital-first globally in how we communicate and stay connected – especially during and since the COVID-19 pandemic that lasted the better part of three years globally.
I have many fond memories of the early days of Facebook in Kenya as a user. Until that point, we had all dabbled somewhat with MySpace which was the 800-pound Social Media Gorilla at the time before Facebook came along and trampled them to bits. Since then, we have seen the emergence of other major social media platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, TikTok, and most recently Threads. In some sense WhatsApp these days is also being referred to as a social media platform and not just a messaging platform given that WhatsApp groups often behave like pseudo-social media platforms too. An interesting factoid is that Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, not only owns Facebook but Instagram as well as WhatsApp. Mark Zuckerberg knows how to pick them when it comes to social media platforms.
In the early days of Facebook in Kenya, when we approached clients at my digital agency Dotavvy to set up profile pages there, many balked at the idea since it was not felt that it was an appropriate platform for them. The funny thing is that 15+ years later, many of those same brands ranging from banks to insurance companies are now some of the biggest culprits on Facebook using it for brand awareness, customer service, and sales. How things change! A cautionary warning to any brand, business, or organization is that whatever the young ‘cool kids’ like eventually goes mainstream – this is once again playing out with TikTok at the minute which is growing exponentially in Kenya for ALL demographics and yet many think it’s not ideal for them.
If you speak to the younger demographics of the Millennial, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha variety, many will often tell you that Facebook is for ‘old people’, like me – However, I take no offense since as a GenXer I love everything about Facebook and it works just fine for us! 🙂 That being said, according to the January 2024 statistics from NapoleonCat, Facebook’s largest cohort of users is the 18 to 24 years old who make up 37.7% of all users which translates to massive 6.2M users. At the same time, from this cohort, we see men are 21.3% (3.5M) whilst women are 16.4% (2.7M). Now this group of users may have their accounts but when you speak to them many rarely use Facebook and instead spend most of their time on Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.
The second largest cohort on Facebook is again surprisingly from the younger demographic of the 24 to 34 year old segment who make up a significant 34.6% of all users in Kenya, or a rather impressive 5.7M users. These numbers are further broken down with men making up 18.8% of users or 3.1M users whilst women make up 15.8% or 2.6M users on Facebook. Once again these are NOT small numbers.
The third largest cohort using Facebook in Kenya is the 35 to 44 year old segment who make up 15.2% of all users on the platform which translates into 2.5M users in total. From this number, we can see that men in this cohort make up 8.5% of the users on Facebook which translates to 1.4M users whereas women make up 6.7% of the users which also translates to 1.1M users.
One interesting insight from the NapoleonCat statistics is that the 45 to 54 year old segment makes up only 5.7% or 940,000 of all users and this technically speaking should be the largest cohort given that Facebook has been around for 20 years? That being said, this cohort is only slightly larger than the 65+ years old segment which makes up collectively 4.3% of all users which translates to 715,700 users. However, the 65+ is also the most gender-balanced cohort of all of them with men making up 2.2% of all users whereas women make up 2.1% of all users. Lastly, the 55 to 64 years old segment makes up less than 65+ years old with only 2.4% which translates to only 401,400 users.
As Facebook celebrates two decades of existence, its story in Kenya is a narrative of successes and challenges. The platform has revolutionized how Kenyans interact, mobilize, and do business. Small businesses have flourished on Facebook with content, communities, and affordable digital advertising, while non-profits have leveraged the network to drive social change. Yet, this digital journey is not without its hurdles. The gender disparity in Facebook’s user base is a mirror possibly(?) reflecting broader societal issues that need addressing. At the same time, the question of how Facebook has negatively impacted minors through the years as well as political and socio-economic outcomes is worrying.
Looking forward, Facebook in Kenya is poised at a crossroads. The next 20 years offer opportunities for innovation, growth, and increased inclusivity. As artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and other technologies redefine the boundaries of the global digital ecosystem, Facebook has the potential to lead this transformation, even with the younger demographics who are gravitating to other social media platforms. However, the path ahead requires a commitment to not only advancing technology but also fostering a more inclusive digital society. Your move, Zucks!