Half of online Indians use Facebook, WhatsApp daily: report

56% of Internet users in India use WhatsApp every day, 51% use Facebook, finds study by research firm TNS

India is the second largest base for Facebook with over 125 million users of the social networking website. Photo: Bloomberg
India is the second largest base for Facebook with over 125 million users of the social networking website. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Among India’s Internet users, WhatsApp tops the list of instant messaging (IM) apps and Facebook is the most popular social networking site, according to a study by the research firm TNS released on Tuesday.

While 56% of Internet users in India use WhatsApp every day, 51% use Facebook, says the study titled Connected Life.

WhatsApp, owned by Facebook Inc., had 900 million monthly active users globally in September 2015, with India being their largest country.

“India had always been a text-heavy market. This legacy, coupled with the attraction of connecting with like-minded people privately, is making the IM platforms perfect tool in our hands,” said Parijat Chakraborty, executive director, TNS India. “This new-found excitement of largely new mobile-Internet users has made India one of the highest globally in average daily number of messages exchanged.”

The sample size of the study in India was 5,306.

Globally, the study maps digital attitudes and behaviours of 60,500 Internet users across 50 countries. It shows that 55% of global Internet users are on messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat, a China-based messaging application part of Tencent Holdings Ltd, every day.

“The new social frontier: Instant messaging usage jumps 12% globally as more people opt for closed platforms,” said the study, whose participants were in the age group of 16-65.

Messaging services have drawn high numbers of daily users across many regions in the Asia-Pacific: 77% users in Malaysia, 73% in Hong Kong, 69% in China and 38% in India. In contrast, some Western markets are trailing, including the UK with 39% and the US 35%.

“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,” said Joseph Webb, global director of Connected Life. “As people’s online habits become ever more fragmented, brands need to tap into the growing popularity of IM and other emerging platforms. 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.”

Further research from TNS showed that although IM users are wary of brands interrupting them, they are more concerned with how the content they share impacts their own image. “How to get the most out of TV used to be the biggest challenge for advertisers. Now it’s about moving from a broadcast to a content creation model that gets people talking and sharing across different platforms,” said Webb.

The social networking market of India is Facebook centric. “This is fuelling the adoption of Facebook Messenger also as the IM platform for private messaging. However, Whatsapp is by far the most popular IM platform in India,” said Chakraborty.

Globally, 30% of all Internet users are on Facebook 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,” added Webb.

Facebook had 118 million monthly active users in India in December 2014; in June 2015, the number rose to 132 million.

“I’m not surprised at all that instant messaging is driving Internet usage in India. Finally the power is in the mobile. Consumers are always on the go and instant messaging is so much more real time. Helps in faster communication and builds a stronger one on one connect,” said Anusha Shetty, chief executive at Autumn Worldwide, a Bengaluru-based social media marketing agency.