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According to a new social media usage survey, Malaysians are the most active users of Instagram in the Asia Pacific region.
In Malaysia, the use of highly-visual social media platforms Instagram and Snapchat has risen sharply, according to 'Connected Life', a study of more than 70,000 consumers from global research consultancy Kantar TNS.
Drivers for this increase include developments in mobile technology and more than a billion smartphone users in the region - 11 million of them in Malaysia. Increasingly powerful smartphone cameras also offer connected users the ability to share photos instantly.
Dan Foxman, head of Client Service, Malaysia at Kantar TNS, said connected consumers are now expanding their use of social media beyond Facebook and testing newer, more visual channels.
Foxman confirmed Malaysians are the most active on Instagram. Survey results show that usage has gone from 59 to 73 percent of connected consumers in the past 12 months. Hong Kong and Singapore are not far behind, with 70 percent and 63 percent respectively.
"The Connected Life results show that Malaysia continues to be one of the most connected markets globally," he added.
Diversifying social media landscape
Other results showed Hong Kong was the most active Snapchat market, with almost half (46 percent) of internet users on the platform, but Malaysia was catching up quickly, with 37 percent now using the channel, more than double the number from 2015 (14 percent).
While young people were the biggest social media users across all platforms, the rise of the 'Insta-Gran' has gained momentum; almost half (48 percent) of internet users in Malaysia aged 55 - 65 now use Instagram.
However, Snapchat remains more the domain of the younger user, with only 19 percent of users in Malaysia in the 55 - 65 age category.
Foxman said the rise of these platforms provided brands with fresh opportunities to engage consumers.
However, brands need to be "mindful of evolving consumer attitudes as they look to take advantage of the diversifying social media landscape."
The Connected Life results reveal that 17 percent of connected consumers in Malaysia 'actively ignore' social posts or content from brands. Businesses need to avoid being invasive as a third (30 percent) already feel 'constantly followed' by online advertising.
In addition, the Kantar TNS study found that influencers and celebrities hold the key to connecting with consumers, said Foxman.
One in three (36 percent) online 16 - 24 year olds in Malaysia say they trust what people say online about brands more than 'official' sources, such as newspapers, brands' own websites or TV adverts.
"Again, younger people are the more influencer-oriented group, trusting bloggers and peers rather than information from brands," he said.
"The older generation's 'influencer network' is still primarily friends and family," said Foxman. "However, considering this group's adoption of other trends, they may soon begin referring to social media influencers for inspiration and information."
"This presents huge opportunities for brands here to reach consumers via digital channels," he said. "But as our study shows, people are increasingly turning away from overtly branded messages."
"Social media provides brands with a way of interacting, not broadcasting, in the space that consumers are already spending their time," Foxman said. "Given the widespread use of social networks in Malaysia, it's now more important than ever before for brands to understand how to navigate the nuances of each platform, and develop strategies that engage consumers effectively."
Zoë Lawrence, APAC digital director at Kantar TNS, said: "The rise of Instagram and Snapchat highlight how consumers are eagerly adopting visual ways of expressing themselves, as they embrace the ability to capture and share moments."
Importantly, the adoption of these new platforms is incremental - people are using them in addition to Facebook, WhatsApp and other social channels. This provides brands with multiple new channels to engage with consumers in a deeper and more effective way," said Lawrence.
"What's crucial is that brands no longer look at social channels as blank media space for advertising," Lawrence added. "The results show that consumers are demanding content that is integrated seamlessly into the platform, enhancing rather than interrupting the use of it. To do this successfully, it's essential to maintain the brand values of the platform being used."
Connected Life studied digital attitudes and behaviours of 70,000 internet users across 57 countries.
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