The popularity of instant messaging (IM) has soared over the past year, with a 12 percent rise in daily usage as more people opt for closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber. Chinese consumers are leading the way.
More than half of Internet users worldwide (55 percent) are now using instant messaging every day, while 76 percent are using it on a weekly basis, according to a study of more than 60,000 Internet users worldwide from global research consultancy TNS.
Facebook has maintained its position as the world’s favorite social platform; almost one third of global Internet users (30 percent) say they use it every day.
Meanwhile WeChat dominates the market in China, with 68 percent daily usage, and 43 percent of WeChat’s user base using it to access information and services about a company.
"Asia Pacific is an incredibly diverse region, and as such, local nuances are masked in a regional average," Joseph Webb, global director at TNS, told eWEEK. "The real insight lies in the local market data. For example, IM use in Thailand has risen 40 percent since 2014, whilst in Australia the rise is smaller, at 10 percent."
Webb noted one of the reasons why IM is so strong in Asia compared to the West is that in western markets there are many consumers--particularly among the older generations--who remain loyal to legacy services like email.
"For mobile-first markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and China, these habitual behaviors do not exist, making them much more open to new platforms like Line, WeChat or Kakao," Webb said.
While IM popularity is rising, traditional social media platforms are still holding strong, allowing content to go viral more quickly, the report noted. The challenge for brands is to create content that consumers actually want to share.
"The huge growth in social, which has now expanded to older generations, has left many people looking for a more closed and private way to share content," Webb said. "When it comes to IM, users can select the group of people they want to communicate with, what content they want to share and as a result, can expect to receive content that is more targeted. This is a far cry from public platforms like Twitter or Facebook."
He explained the real change in the future will be how brands use these platforms, noting that marketers are used to buying attention through paid advertising.
"Now they have to earn it through creating shareable content that people want to view," he said. "We’re likely to see even an greater fragmentation of IM as users continue to adopt different platforms to meet different needs."