The popularity of instant messaging (IM) has soared over the past year, with a 12% uplift in daily usage globally as more people opt for closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

    • New report shows 55% of global internet users and 61% of those in Asia Pacific (APAC) are on instant messaging (IM) every day 
    • While Facebook remains the firm favourite across digital platforms globally, WeChat and WhatsApp are rising up the ranks
    • IM offers significant opportunities for brands that successfully move to a content model

Over three out of five internet users in APAC (61%) are now using instant messaging every day, while 82% are using it on a weekly basis, according to Connected Life, a study of over 60,000 internet users worldwide from global research consultancy Kantar TNS. Despite this, social platforms are still rising in popularity with a 6% uplift in daily usage globally since 2014.

Instant messaging has achieved high numbers of daily users across much of APAC, with 77% of those in Malaysia, 73% in Hong Kong and 69% in China using an IM platform daily. By contrast, some Western markets are lagging behind, including the UK (39%) and the US (35%).

Facebook has maintained its position as the world’s favourite social platform; almost one third of global internet users (30%) say they use it every day. However, many APAC markets see far greater use, with 78% of people in Thailand, 75% in Taiwan and 72% in Hong Kong using Facebook daily. WeChat and QQ Space are the most popular social networks in China, with 69% and 37% respectively using them daily.

This study shows that consumers are even more connected to each other, and across multiple platforms. While IM popularity is rising, traditional social media platforms are still holding strong, allowing content to go viral more quickly. The challenge for brands is to create content that consumers actually want to share.

Whilst these newer platforms still attract a smaller audience overall, they are often far more active; 40% of Vine users globally and 44% of Snapchat users say they watch branded content on those platforms every week, while 43% of WeChat’s user base use it to access information and services about a company.

Joseph Webb, Global Director of Connected Life, said:

“Apps like Snapchat, WeChat, Line and WhatsApp are sweeping up new users every day, particularly younger consumers who want to share experiences with a smaller, specific group, rather than using public, mainstream platforms like Facebook or Twitter. As people’s online habits become ever more fragmented, brands need to tap into the growing popularity of IM and other emerging platforms. The need for a content-driven approach across IM, social and traditional channels has never been clearer.”

“Yet at the same time brands need to be very careful. Instant messaging is a more closed medium, meaning it is essential to share limited content that is genuinely relevant and valuable.”

Whilst IM is now becoming a daily part of life, there are still no clear leaders with a wide range of platforms taking the lead in different markets.

“There’s definitely no ‘one size fits all’ approach for using IM to engage with consumers in Asia,” continues Joseph, “Whilst we are seeing strong user bases for Facebook messenger, WeChat and Whatsapp, there are also diverse leaders across the region, many of whom are bespoke to that market. Marketers need to be constantly alert to where their consumer is spending time and ensure that they engage meaningfully and appropriately with them on the most used platforms.”

Further research from Kantar TNS showed that although IM users are wary of brands interrupting them, they are more concerned with how content they share impacts their own image.

“How to get the most out of TV used to be the biggest challenge for advertisers,” says Joseph. “Now it’s about moving from a broadcast to a content creation model that gets people talking and sharing across different platforms.”