Snapchat hits a tipping point as most popular social network for teens

This week, a significant tipping point was reached in the battleground that is social media with the news that upstart network Snapchat is now ‘the most important social network amongst us teens’, narrowly beating out Instagram for the title.

It is indeed a narrow margin, 28% of teens polled for Snapchat while 27% preferred Instagram. But the title now sits with Snapchat and the arc of the curve indicates that it is only going to be extending its lead in the coming months and years. According to Business Insider, “the app increased its popularity among teens by 9 percentage points from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016, the greatest increase of all social media platforms in the poll”.

And for every winner there has to be a loser. Unsurprisingly, in the social wars, the loser at the moment appears to be Twitter. While it still ranked third in popularity overall, its numbers were down six percent from a year ago, making it the biggest loser and the likely source of a number of Snapchat converts. Facebook’s popularity amongst teens appeared to be rebound somewhat in the survey, up from 14% to 17%.


So what does these numbers tell us about the media habits of the next generation? The clearest indication of all is that teens are primarily mobile-first consumers of social media, and may even be considered as mobile-only consumers. Snapchat and Instagram are both primarily mobile social networks. Even though they do have desktop versions, they’re vastly inferior to the experience that they provide via mobile. According to data from internet analytics firm ComScore, “mobile currently represents two-thirds of all digital time spend and smartphone apps account for almost half of all digital time spend”.

Another common attribute that Snapchat and Instagram share is that they both rely heavily on photo and video sharing, which is clearly an important form of expression for teens. Facebook knows and understands this, and its efforts to push the new streaming capabilities of Facebook Live are a signal that presenting video is where all the action is likely to be for the foreseeable future. A detailed report on the rise of mobile video by Margaret Boland, presented a reliable portrait of the likely way that the mobile video wars will play out.

She reports that YouTube slow response to the emergence of mobile video opened the door for Facebook and Snapchat to compete. Now YouTube is likely to rely on its bona fide social stars to drive traffic, while Facebook is set to corner the video market for brands and media companies who are looking for massive audiences, “and Snapchat will utilize its live-events coverage and exclusive content to promote video communication among younger mobile audiences”.

So with mobile and video dominating the attention of the next generation of consumers, it’s almost certain that all media companies will pivot towards delivering for those mediums. But for now, Snapchat has a lock on the hearts and minds of the youth, not to mention the priceless “cool factor”, which may be beyond the more established social networks of the day.



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