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Today sees the release of our brand new GWI Social report for Q2 2014 - tracking the very latest headlines within the global social media landscape (you can download a free summary here).

One of the key stories it features is a small shift away from some of the biggest networks - with messaging apps and smaller platforms like Instagram and Tumblr being the main beneficiaries. Clearly, sites like Facebook are no longer the automatic "go-to" point for all of our networking activities. It's not that they've been abandoned - far from it; Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube are still the "big 4" which dominate in terms of active usage. But as the online space has become more crowded and competitive, our research shows that the one-site-fits-all model of networking continues to lose a little ground as certain behaviors migrate to other platforms.

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 GWI 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 movement 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 specialized 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, networkers are becoming more and more likely to turn to different types of platform for various social behaviors.

Of course, some perspective is essential here. Facebook is 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 just that people are carrying out slightly fewer actions there than they used to. 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.


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