Facebook remains the leading social media platform by a significant margin, but younger users are also turning to Snapchat and Instagram at very high rates. This the top line finding in the latest Pew Research social media report – Pew surveyed more than 2000 U.S. adults (aged 18 or over) in January to get a pulse of social media usage trends amongst American audiences.
As per the report:
“As has been the case since the Center began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.”
As you can see in the chart, YouTube is also hugely popular – Pew notes that YouTube “is not a traditional social media platform”, though it has many social elements, which is why they’ve not highlighted in their summary. YouTube is now used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults, and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds.
But it’s in the lower age brackets where the more interesting insights are revealed – as explained by Pew:
“Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s. These differences are especially notable when it comes to Snapchat - 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds are Snapchat users, but that share falls to 54% among those ages 25 to 29.”
With the colored dots on the above chart plotting the different age groups, you can see that Snapchat is almost as popular among 10-24 year olds as Facebook - and that’s despite the rising popularity of Instagram Stories and Facebook’s various other efforts to curb the ephemeral content app’s appeal.
Of course, Snapchat’s recent redesign seems to have sparked a level of backlash, and we’ll have to wait and see if that hurts usage, but the findings align with other studies which have shown that despite Facebook’s efforts, Snapchat’s popularity among younger audiences has only grown.
No doubt that will make Zuck and Co. slightly upset.
While Facebook is clearly the leading social platform, and has become a huge business in its own right, the concern here is that Snapchat is taking hold with younger users, and habits developed at younger ages have the potential to overflow into older brackets over time – particularly if those users establish their friend networks and sharing behaviors within those apps. That means that Snapchat will eventually build larger audience share in the 25-29 age group, which will then filter through to the next bracket – and eventually, Facebook could become the next MySpace, an out-of-date, boring network where no one really spends any time.
That’s a stretch of course – Facebook has continued to add new users, and has a range of initiatives in place for continued expansion. But Facebook would hate that Snapchat has been able to maintain its resilience, and increase its popularity among younger audiences, despite their many efforts.
Facebook-owned Instagram, too, has increased its popularity and usage, according to Pew’s data, but really Snapchat’s popularity is what stands out.
Among other notable findings from Pew:
- Pinterest remains substantially more popular with women (41% of whom say they use the site) than with men (16%).
- LinkedIn remains especially popular among college graduates and those in high-income households. Some 50% of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, compared with just 9% of those with a high school diploma or less.
- The messaging service WhatsApp is popular in Latin America, and this popularity also extends to Latinos in the United States – 49% of Hispanics report that they are WhatsApp users, compared with 14% of whites and 21% of blacks.
Pew’s data also shows that Facebook leads in daily usage, with 74% of Facebook users visiting the app daily, with more than half saying they do several times a day.
But as you can see, Snapchat is also prevalent in this graph – as explained by Pew:
“While the overall share of Americans who use Snapchat is smaller than that of Facebook, a similar share of Snapchat users (49%) say they use the platform multiple times per day. All told, a majority of Snapchat (63%) and Instagram (60%) users indicate that they visit these platforms on a daily basis. “
The data shows that Snapchat’s hold on its audience is likely more than most would have expected – when Instagram Stories blew up, and Facebook started pushing its other variations of Stories across its family of apps, it seemed like the end was nigh for Snap, that Facebook would eventually blow it out of the water through sheer audience size and capacity for innovation. That hasn’t happened.
That’s not to say it never will, but thus far, Snapchat has weathered every challenge Facebook has thrown at it, and continued to grow amongst its target market.
Maybe Snap will become a niche tool, and only ever cater to younger users, but as noted, habits formed at younger ages can flow through – there is potential for Snap to expand beyond this bracket.
That doesn't mean that every brand should be jumping off of Facebook and shifting to Snapchat, or that every brand should even be building a presence on Snap at this stage, as it’s still a fairly specific audience (and their brand options are not as refined as they could be just yet). But it does show that Snap may have more potential than some had speculated, particularly following their initial earnings announcements.
It’s still relatively early days for the app, but the data doesn’t lie.