Local businesses must exploit Instant Messaging to build their brands

It’s about time local businesses took advantage of the growing use of Instant Messaging (IM) to promote and build their brands.

Instant messaging involves real time exchange of text messages between individuals through a software application over the Internet.

The popularity of IM has soared over the past year, with a 12 percentage point uplift in daily usage as more Ghanaians opt for closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber.

In Ghana, daily instant messaging has seen impressive growth, from 74% of Ghanaian internet users, to 86% in 2015.

Globally, over half of internet users (55%) are now using instant messaging every day, while three quarters are using it on a weekly basis, according to Connected Life, a study of over 60,000 internet users worldwide from global research consultancy TNS.

According to Adewale Obaseki, the Managing Director of leading Marketing Research firm, TNS RMS, IM offers significant opportunities for brands that successfully move to a content model.

He said this when he delivered a lecture on the topic –Integrated Marketing Strategy in a digital world – organized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing – CIMG as part of its monthly series.

“Digital has come to stay, there has been more innovations in this in the last ten years than in the last seventy years and for Ghana we need to move to digital because our consumers are also changing their habits on a daily basis as well as their technology habits. Thus as marketers reaching them, it is actually important and the platform to reach them is digital.

“You need to understand your consumer and your target group. If your target group are the younger generation, they probably do not watch television as much as we do and so reaching them through digital is probably your only option. Now we have the average young digital user putting on his ear-piece  and then playing with his mobile all-day and so now companies whose targets are these consumers really need to connect with them through digital” he said.

Instant Messaging is particularly dominant in emerging ‘mobile-first’ markets, with daily usage rising even higher in markets such as Ghana, South Africa, China, Brazil, and Malaysia. By contrast, some Western markets are lagging behind in daily IM usage, including the UK and the US.

Despite this, social networking platforms are still rising in popularity on a global level with a 6% uplift in daily usage. Facebook has maintained its position as the world’s favourite social platform; almost one third of global internet users say they use it every day. In Ghana, however, daily usage of Facebook has plateaued, with a slight decrease in daily usage (from 66% in 2014 to 63% in 2015). Instagram and Twitter, however, have seen dramatic growth in Ghana over the past year, as social media behaviour starts to fragment over an increased number of social networking platforms.

This data 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.

Mr. Obaseki added “The mobile-centric nature of African markets presents enormous opportunity for marketers. Connected Ghanaians spend an average of over three hours per day on social platforms, with WhatsApp and Facebook the dominant platforms, but with newer platforms such as Instagram seeing rapid growth in popularity. The constantly connected status of digital users, and their appetite for relevant, engaging branded content is fertile ground for marketers to make a meaningful connection with their consumers”.

Joseph Webb, Global Director of Connected Life, also noted “Apps like Snapchat, and WhatsApp are sweeping up new users every day, particularly amongst 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”