Report: Internet Users Prefer Private Messaging Apps to Shared Content

Report: Internet Users Prefer Private Messaging Apps to Shared Content

As social media users increasingly prefer to share content and recommendations via private messaging apps, brands need to be aware of how to take advantage of this trend.


  • Nearly two-thirds of social media users now prefer to share content and recommendations through private messaging apps.
  • Facebook Messenger is by far the most popular of these platforms.
  • Chatbots can help brands engage in conversations on messaging apps and capture leads.

A recent study has confirmed a trend we’ve long predicted: A significant majority (63%) of social media users now express a preference for private messaging apps for sending messages or recommendations to people in their circle, as opposed to posting publicly on social media.

Marketers need to be aware of the implications of this shift toward private messaging apps, or “dark social channels.” Recognizing that three out of five users now prefer to connect via a private channel rather than open social media platforms, brands can tailor content accordingly and create a strategy that capitalizes on this shift.

Private messaging apps by the numbers

GlobalWebIndex and WeAreSocial teamed up to conduct research on content-sharing preferences, looking at more than 3,100 internet users. They asked research subjects how they tend to share information like articles, photos, videos, and recommendations and received the following responses:

  • Private messaging apps: 63%
  • Social media accounts: 54%
  • Word of mouth: 51%
  • SMS: 48%
  • Email: 37%

Next, researchers broke down the results further, to reveal which messaging platforms users prefer:

  • Facebook Messenger: 82%
  • WhatsApp: 56%
  • Instagram: 34%
  • Snapchat: 32%

These are striking numbers. Not only is the preference for messaging apps clear, but brands should take note of the dominance of Facebook Messenger as the preferred platform. It’s likely that this preference is accounted for by the prevalence of social media for content consumption and distribution. Therefore, private messaging apps within social media platforms, with Facebook Messenger chief among them, are an easy and convenient way for users to share information.

What brands need to know about private messaging apps

The trend toward content sharing via messaging apps is mixed news for brands. On the one hand, marketers are likely be dismayed that a significant percentage of website visitors will likely be coming from these untraceable sources. On the other hand, says Olivia Valentine of We Are Social, “it means that there are likely more brand advocates than you might think.”

Valentine is right. When users share content and recommendations on messaging apps, they are engaging in authentic, private conversations, making the recommendations all the more meaningful.

Not only are social messaging apps becoming the preferred content-sharing platform among users, but brands can use these apps directly to engage with their audience. Facebook Messenger now has over 1.3 billion active monthly users globally and offers businesses the opportunity to connect directly and authentically with their audience.


Perhaps you’ve been reading about the rise of private messaging apps for content sharing and despairing over the idea that to keep your business relevant, your marketing staff will now need to be spending every working hour responding to thousands of messages with prospects.

Don’t despair. This is where the latest trend in artificial intelligence for marketers can help. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate, with ever-increasing accuracy, human conversation. This software communicates with your prospects inside a messaging app, carrying on a conversation until a prospect is ready to move down the sales funnel.

When it comes to creating chatbots, we recommend platforms including HubSpot’s Chatflows, Chatfuel, ChatScript, and Facebook’s Bots for Messenger tool.

The takeaway: the shift toward messaging apps is a net positive for marketers

To take full advantage of the growing user preference for private messaging apps, marketers need to ensure that their content is easily shared, engaging, and generative of authentic conversations among their audience. Furthermore, using chatbots can help businesses capture leads and engage in direct conversations on these platforms.

As Valentine points out, while the increased use of private messaging apps does mean that a certain amount of web traffic will be coming from untraceable sources, brands should be celebrating the fact that this trend means that recommendations are far more meaningful and your audience is becoming increasingly empowered to advocate for your brand.

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