Facebook’s reputation as the go-to, most important mobile app has witnessed a marked decline in the US, the UK and five north European markets over the past couple of years, according to new research.

Danish market research firm AudienceProject reported big falls in the number of people who now regard the Facebook app as indispensable, although the good news for the social media giant is that its WhatsApp Messenger and Instagram platforms are gaining in popularity.

Based on a survey of 13,000 consumers – covering the US, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland – the study confirmed a major attitudinal change in favour of instant messaging and other social content-sharing apps in all seven markets.

For example, around a quarter (26%) of US respondents considered Facebook to be the most indispensable app in Q2 2017, but this declined to a fifth (21%) by Q3 2019, while Instagram jumped from fourth to second place over the same period.

Facebook’s app also declined in popularity in Europe, dropping from 32% in the UK in Q2 2017 to 23% in Q3 2019, with further significant falls in Denmark (30 to 24%), Sweden (22 to 13%), Norway (32 to 21%) and Finland (30 to 23%).

However, mirroring the US, there was a significant increase in Instagram usage in the UK (32 to 45%), Denmark (29 to 40%), Sweden (52 to 57%), Norway (49 to 57%) and Finland (35 to 46%).

And WhatsApp Messenger is now considered to be the most indispensable app in the UK (27%), Germany (18%) and Finland (53%).

According to AudienceProject, the trend was found to be more pronounced among younger users. In the UK, for example, just 16% of users aged 15 to 25 regard Facebook as the most indispensable app, ranking it fifth behind WhatApp Messenger (27%), Messenger (22%), Instagram (20%) and Snapchat (16%).

For the same age group in the US, more than a quarter (26%) prefer Instagram, followed by YouTube and Snapchat (both 20%), with Facebook the first choice for just 18% of respondents.

There also appear to be differences between the sexes. With the notable exception of Germany, more women than men tend to view Facebook as the most indispensable app – for example, 27% of women versus 20% of men in the UK and 26% versus 17% in the US.

And in another finding, when put in the context of the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal, the report found that between a quarter and one-third of Facebook users have considered stopping using the platform entirely.

Commenting on the findings, Rune Werliin, chief product officer at AudienceProject, said: “Social media continues to dominate app usage across all markets. However, we are seeing a shift in the type of social media that is capturing attention.

“Whilst still indispensable to many, Facebook’s importance has declined significantly across every market. Instead, we’re now seeing instant messaging and visual content sharing apps taking centre stage.”

Sourced from AudienceProject; additional content by WARC staff