Messaging apps surge in popularity


GlobalWebIndex’s latest figures show that messaging services are experiencing strong levels of growth in all parts of the world. And with Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest recording rises too, it’s clear that the big players like Facebook are no longer the first-choice destination for some of our social behaviours. Jason Mander, Head of Trends at GlobalWebIndex, exclusively talks us through some of their key findings.

Once, platforms like Facebook were the natural go-to point for most, if not all, of the things we wanted to do on social networks. But as the online space has become more crowded and competitive, our latest research shows that the one-site-fits-all model of social networks continues to lose ground – with messaging services as well as smaller platforms like Instagram all seeing strong growth while the more established sites like Facebook record small declines in active usage.

If we look at the numbers using messaging apps, it’s not hard to see why they’re generating such a buzz at the moment. Over the last six months, all of the chat apps tracked by GlobalWebIndex have risen in popularity, with Snapchat (+67%) posting the biggest increase of all, followed by Kik Messenger (+32%) and WhatsApp (+30%). Elsewhere, WeChat is quickly establishing itself as a major force: it’s already the dominant messaging app in most of APAC and, with it posting growth in virtually every market, it could quickly become the first non-US social platform to achieve truly global reach.

A number of reasons are contributing to the rise of messaging services; they’re often considered to be more private, personal and secure than the big social networks, they’re on trend with the migration of social activities to mobile devices, and they’re offering a (typically free) form of communication that’s so much more immediate than using other channels. As a result, some of the conversations that used to be taking place inside major social networks have now shifted to these apps – and that’s one factor behind Facebook (-6%), Twitter (-3%) and Google+ (-1%) all seeing minor overall declines in the numbers who say they actively use or contribute to them each month.

The growing popularity of smaller and more specialised platforms is another contributor to this trend. Over the last six months, Instagram was the fastest rising network of all (+25%), but Tumblr (+22%) and Pinterest (+7%) were up too. Clearly, then, social networkers are becoming more and more likely to turn to different types of platform for various social behaviours.

Of course, some perspective is essential here. Facebook might have become the Coldplay of the social network world – the site that it’s no longer very cool to say that you use or like – but it’s still the number one global service which owns the fastest growing network (Instagram) and one of the biggest rising messaging services (WhatsApp).

It’s also worth noting that the numbers visiting Facebook each month continue to increase at a gentle rate. It’s not that people are abandoning Facebook, then; rather, it’s that people are carrying out fewer actions once there. Put simply, engagement on Facebook is becoming a little more passive: we’re still looking at it, but we not necessarily using it for all of the things that we once did.