Beware Snapchat - The Olds Are Coming
Snapchat has risen to prominence in recent times by being the cool app, the place where the latest trends are showcased and even stem from in some cases. For example, if you're not on Snapchat, you probably have no idea about DJ Khaled's "major keys", and if you have no idea what that reference means, my friend, you're behind the times.
But as the app's grown and become increasingly popular - and as has happened with every rising social platform before it - older users are now giving the platform more attention.
According to a new report published in The Wall Street Journal, 14% of US smartphone users over the age of 35 are now on Snapchat, up from just 2 percent three years ago, while 38% of smartphone users aged 25 to 34 have also signed up to the ephemeral content platform.
(Image via The Wall Street Journal)
As you can see, 18-24 year olds are still Snapchat's core base, but the rate of growth amongst older participants is notably higher, underlining the app's evolution from trending fad to a genuine player in the social media space.
This is an important element for Snapchat. As we've noted previously, in order for the app to evolve, it needs to grow in-step with the maturing interests of its user base - this is why Snapchat has committed significant resources to covering the US Presidential race and the Rio Olympics. If Snapchat can become more than just a fun app for sending disappearing pictures, it can reach more lucrative ad markets and play a more significant part in our wider communications and media landscape. In this sense, it's similar to Twitter, an app it's already out-pacing in terms of daily active users.
But while the attraction of older audiences is a critical element in Snapchat's growth strategy, what will the arrival of those (comparatively) elderly users do for the app's fashionable appeal?
As has been well-documented, Facebook saw a reduction in user activity amongst teens a few years back due to the arrival of older users, which lead to many writing the pre-emptive epitaph of The Social Network. And it's true, losing traction amongst those younger demographics can be a problem - in order to see sustained growth, you really want to appeal to those next generations coming through. Though given their latest engagement numbers, Facebook has not only weathered that storm, but they've come out on top, boosting their advertising potential in the process.
For Snapchat, the challenge will be similar. In order to maintain their momentum, they need to keep a hold of that "cool" perception, that mass appeal amongst their largely Millennial audience.
A key element, obviously, will be the continued delivery of industry-leading, innovative features like Lenses, something Snapchat's reportedly working in with the acquisitions of Bitstrips, Seene and the development of their own smart glasses.
As such, you can expect to see Snapchat continue to evolve on two fronts - on the fun, cool side with new image-altering type features, and on the business side with improved ad and publisher options.
And so far, they've done a great job at balancing the two elements, while also putting a focus on the next stage of social media evolution.
But that said, it still may not be enough for those who are forced to endure the goofy, Lens-adorned snaps from their parents and relatives. For them, maybe there'll be another trending platform to switch to, to keep for themselves away from prying eyes.
Though there is one way you can avoid such complications on Snapchat. If there's a relative or similar who's just got on board the Snap train and wants to connect, and you don't, simply tell them that you don't Snapchat for that purpose. Snapchat doesn't show a total connection or follower count the way other platforms do, which may give you an out - you can say you don't use it to connect with people, just to check out content on Discover. They'd have no way of proving otherwise.
At least, that is, until someone they know shows them your latest snap.
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