In Asia, homegrown messaging apps dominate local markets despite pressure from giants like Facebook.

If you’re looking for potential digital markets to penetrate, the Asia Pacific region should be on top of your concern. Connectivity throughout the region is growing at an incredible rate, and there’s still plenty of room for further growth. In fact, the region accounts for more than half of all social media users worldwide.

If in the western worlds, instant messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are dominating the scene, the story is quite different in Asian countries. In many countries, local apps are often referred over.


Population: Over 127 million, placed 11th in the list of top largest countries by population
Internet user: The number of Internet users in Japan currently reaches 115 million users, making it the 3rd largest number among Asian countries after China and India.
Mobile user: Among those 115 million, 93.1 million of them accessing the Internet through mobile devices.
Currently, Twitter is the most popular social network in Japan. In 2017, it welcomes another 5 million users to the community of 45 million active Japanese users. However, the most popular instant messaging app in Japan is Line which was launched in 2011 by NHN Japan. It has over 100 million users with the daily active rate of up to 40%.


South Korea

Population: Over 51 million
Internet user: Over 44.1 million – approximately 86% of the total population
Mobile user: 41.6 million
Even though Facebook and Instagram are having a decent amount of share among social media channels in South Korea, KakaoStory and KakaoTalk are the most popular. KakaoStory was initially a platform for sharing photos, but since the first release in 2012, it has provided other options which make it the “South Korea’s Facebook.” On the other hand, KaokaoTalk is pretty similar to Line, which owns various chat and video call features.



Population: Over 1.4 billion – the most populous country in the world
Internet user: Over 721 million of them are Internet users – nearly 52.2% of the total Chinese population.
Mobile user: 95% of Internet users in China are on mobile, meaning 685 million in total.
Because Chinese government doesn’t accept global social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. due to the Internet security, domestic companies have taken the opportunity to create various social channels based on them.
For example, we have WeChat as an all-in-one social channel, Weibo as the “Twitter of China”, Youku as the “Youtube of China”, and so on. Among those, WeChat is the most popular with over 697 million users in March 2016. Since then, it has developed various features for users like e-commerce, banking transaction, online payments, etc.



Population: Over 5.7 million
Internet user: 4,699,204 users in June 2016 with the penetration rate of 81.1%. Most of them use their cellphones to access the Internet.
Mobile user: In September 2017, the mobile penetration rate in Singapore was 148.8%, meaning that an average Singaporean has 1.48 mobile phones.
It is reported that Facebook is the most popular social channel in Singapore with approximately 2.4 million users daily. On the other hand, the most popular instant messaging app is WhatsApp with 73% share. Follow-ups are Facebook Messenger with 42% and WeChat with 24%.



Population: 7.4 million
Internet user: By the end of 2016, Hongkong has 5,442,101 Internet users with the penetration rate of 74.1%. It is expected to increase in the upcoming years.
Mobile user: 69.8% of the population
WhatsApp and Facebook currently dominate other social media networks in Hongkong with over 3 million users, which consists of 41% of the country’s total population. Another name is WeChat which is slowly catching up Facebook Messenger to become the most popular instant messaging app with only 1% share behind (45% compared to 44%).



Population: Over 69 million, ranked 20th in the list of top largest countries by population.
Internet user: As the end of 2016, Thailand has 29,078,158 million Internet users. The penetration rate is 42.7%, making it as the 4th largest market in Southeast Asia Countries.
Mobile user: The mobile phone usage rate is 76.1% of the population which is approximately 52.5 million people.
With the social network penetration’s percentage of 74.5%, it is estimated that around 18.9 million people in Thailand are using the most popular social network – Facebook. Moreover, YouTube and Line are not far behind with 72% and 68% market share.



Population: Over 31 million
Internet user: 24,554,255 Internet users as of December 2016
Mobile user: Over 21.9 million people in Malaysia use their smartphone to access the Internet.
According to the Statista, Facebook is the most popular social network in Malaysia with 73% share of the Internet use, but Facebook Messenger is not the first choice for Malaysians. Instead, WhatsApp thrives on being the leading mobile messenger app with 81% share.



Population: Over 266 million, the 4th country with the largest population
Internet user: One-third of Indonesians use the Internet, which is about 88 million people.
Mobile user: According to the latest reports from eMarketer, Indonesia smartphone users will increase from 55 million in 2015 to 92 million in 2019.
100 million Indonesians are using Facebook. In particular, it is estimated that every four Indonesian has one who uses this social network. Regarding video sharing, YouTube is the most popular channel with over 110 million active users.



Population: Over 96 million, ranked 15th in the list of top largest countries by population.
Internet user: 49,063,762 Vietnamese are using the Internet with the penetration of 52%.
Mobile user: 124,7 million mobile phones are currently activated in Vietnam. The number of mobile Internet users is expected to be 66.1 million in 2021.
Vietnamese prefers Facebook as their biggest social channel, while Twitter and Google+ do not receive the same popularity. However, the most famous instant messaging app in Vietnam is Zalo – a domestic product. It currently has over 80 million registered user which is approximately 83% of the Vietnam population.



Population: This is the 2nd most populous country in the world with the population of 1.35 billion people. It is expected that India will surpass China in the next ten or twenty years.
Internet user: The number of Internet users in India is expected to reach over 500 million people by the end of June 2018 – according to the IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India)
Mobile user: The reports from IAMAI also claims that the number of mobile Internet users in India increased by 17.22% from December 2016 to reach 456 million users by December 2017.
Most Indians use social media to publicize their products and brands. The most popular network is Facebook with over 155 million active users. Pinterest comes in second with over 110 million users. LinkedIn is also commonly used to promote business with 30 million users.


So Asia is different…

Although global social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube are predominant, Asia users take enough interest in domestic products if they’re available. While global giants are the best channels for them to promote products and brands, or to keep themselves updated to the world situation, local products are great places to share their daily stories.