The survey, which was conducted last month using 715 participants aged between 16-35 in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban townships showed that 55% of respondents had an account with Facebook compared to 50% who had MXit accounts.
"This is unexpected as until now MXit has been considered the social media tool of choice for young South Africans from low-income backgrounds. Clearly this is changing rapidly with Facebook taking the lead," ikapadata said on Tuesday.
Also noteworthy, was that 13% of respondents in the survey had a YouTube account, a more than expected 8% had a Myspace or a Google+ account, 2% were with LinkedIn, and almost one out of five was not part of any social network.
Of those with both a Facebook and a MXit account, almost two thirds or 64% preferred Facebook, while only one third or 33% preferred MXit, the survey found.
Importantly, MXit did retain the top position as the most popular instant messaging (IM) service after SMS.
While SMS was used by 98% of respondents, MXit managed to claim 45% of the market. This was followed by 12% who made use of WhatsApp and 10% who used BBM.
"Facebook's success was to a good degree due to its popularity among more affluent township residents," ikapadata commented.
Breaking down Facebook membership by class using the living standard measure (LSM) one can see a clear difference between the most affluent - LSM 8-10: 79%; and less affluent respondents - LSM 6-7: 62%; LSM 4-5: 46%.
Ikapadata also said that cellphones had continued to provide the main gateway to the internet for South Africans living in townships - 26% of respondents said that they access the internet only via a cellphone and 20% via a computer only, while 41% said that they use both cellphones and computers.