A Deeper Look Into How People Use Facebook Messenger and Similar Channels

More than 1.3 billion people are now using Facebook Messenger every month, but why, and how?

Facebook and Greenberg looked into “how the art of the conversation has evolved around the world” Facebook

More than 1.3 billion people are now using Facebook Messenger every month, but why, and how?

The social network commissioned an online survey by Greenberg to look into “how the art of the conversation has evolved around the world,” and it shared its findings in a new report, The Art of Communication: Messages That Matter.

Facebook and Greenberg found that the explosion of digital devices and “the diverse toolkit of channels available” for communication has “improved and deepened” connections between people.

The top five current channels of communication are:

  1. Messaging (67 percent)
  2. Social media (48 percent)
  3. Email (47 percent)
  4. Video chat (47 percent)
  5. Face-to-face (38 percent)

The study found that more methods of communication lead to “greater and more authentic conversations.”

Facebook and Greenberg also looked into sidebar conversations—which they described as “the secret nonverbal chats we have on our phones while in meetings, dinners or watching TV shows”—saying that they are becoming more common throughout the world, “primarily at social events and family gatherings,” and despite the negative stigma attached to them, they actually draw people together and strengthen relationships.

They found that 71 percent of people have sidebar conversations and 62 percent of those who do believe it makes them feel closer to friends. Millennials (82 percent) and teens (79 percent) were most likely to engage in sidebar conversations.

Visual-based communication was also one of the topics explored, with Facebook saying, “This is reflected in a new vocabulary of emojis, GIFs and camera-based messaging, which is making people more expressive than ever before and leading to greater conversations.”

The survey found that 57 percent of people have responded to messages with GIFs, while 56 percent have sent messages composed entirely of emojis. These aren’t just toys for the young, either: 77 percent of respondents over the age of 55 use emojis and 53 percent use GIFs.

Contrary to popular belief, Facebook and Greenberg found that the rise of messaging was not the death knell for face-to-face conversations.

The survey found that 67 percent of people are messaging more than they did two years ago, but those who do message are also 52 percent more likely to talk face-to-face compared with those who are not messaging more.

The countries that reported the largest increases in face-to-face interactions were Brazil (33 percent), France (22 percent), Germany (21 percent) and the U.S. (20 percent).

Facebook and Greenberg also found that messaging leads to more authentic communication, with the social network writing, “For some people—particularly those less comfortable with other forms of communication—messaging opens up doors to more authentic dialogues. The study shows that messaging removes filters and an emotional burden. People are bolder, more impulsive and more honest when they communicate.”

The survey found that 66 percent of people who message believe that they have more authentic conversations and 61 percent feel that they have more authentic relationships.

Finally, can messaging lead to love? 34 percent of respondents who started conversations on dating applications continue those conversations via messaging, compared with 26 percent who do so in person.

Facebook vice president of messaging David Marcus said in a Newsroom post revealing the survey’s results: “Since the first SMS text message was sent Dec. 3, 1992, there has been a fundamental shift in the way people communicate, and Messenger is proud to be a part of shaping the future of connections. We believe in the power of messages to bring the world closer together at such a pivotal time, and we wanted to explore it further. Today, we are excited to unveil our new study showing the ways messaging builds bridges around the globe.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.