MXit goes big in South Africa

Digital Content

Mobile instant messaging (IM) service MXit, which is 30% owned by media company Naspers, is not taking its homegrown success lightly and is working hard to remain South Africa's largest mobile social network.

At the Ogilvy Verge Digital Africa Conference, Paul Stemmet, MXit's general manager, told Moneyweb that as of last Thursday MXit had 7,5m users, of which 6,5m are in South Africa. This is 43m off its target of reaching 50m registered users by the end of the year, but having found what makes the youth tick it will probably get there.

On average users logon seven times a day and spend an hour on the service. Most (60%) users are 18-25 years old and its most active users are under the age of 18, says Stemmet.

The IM's success, reckons Stemmet, is built on it not just being a technology but a lifestyle, which MXit is taking advantage of. It has created a virtual economy in which virtual flowers are bought and sold with virtual money and is working with a drinks manufacturer to add its drink to this economy.

Stemmet says the network now sells more flowers than NetFlorist and believes that when the drink is launched it could outstrip what it sells physically in South Africa.

When MXit launched in 2005 it did not see the point of advertisers but has since created a platform with the capability of serving 12m ads a day, this is being put to good use. Every time a user logs in they get a five second splash ad displayed on their phone.

The ad is targeted and aims to be interactive like the Endless Summer campaign for Engen, which MXiT used in the December break to incentivise kids to convince their parents to fill up at Engen stations. Something few advertisers have embraced, say Patou Nuytemans, EAME digital director of OgilvyOne Worldwide and Sello Leshope, strategic planning director, Ogilvy Cape Town.

MXit also ensures that only ads that meet its criteria are flighted and up until a few weeks ago this did not include alcohol, says Stemmet.

It is such innovation and the human connection that has seen the company generating R3m a month in advertising revenue and it is not stopping there.

The service has got the cost of its SMSs below 2c and if you use service providers Cell C and Virgin Mobile they are free, says Stemmet.

In November it launched MXit music, on which unsigned local artists can upload their music for other users to download for free. The IM is also in talks to sign up Just Jinger and plans to launch a clothing range, says Stemmet.