In case there were any lingering doubts about Snapchat’s appeal, new stats show the app is making real inroads with people who don’t hang off Kylie Jenner’s every word.
The app, once known for its primarily teenage user base, now has more adult users than ever. Among smartphone users aged 35 and older, 14% use Snapchat, according to recent numbers from comScore. The app is even more popular with younger adults, with 38% of adults between 25 and 34 using the app.
This should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. Snapchat is more popular and more mainstream than ever. The Wall Street Journal, NASA, the White House and CNN all have an official presence on the app, and younger users have been lamenting (and in some cases applauding) their parents’ presence on the app for some time.
But while these are all significant milestones for the company once synonymous with teen sexting, what matters more is what Snapchat does next. If Snapchat hopes to realize its multibillion dollar potential, it will need to do a lot more than persuade “the olds” to join the fun.
For one, Snapchat will need to get serious about monetizing. Though the investor darling has had no problems raising boatloads of cash, it’s well known that CEO and founder Evan Spiegel wants to take the company public, which will require much more than the relatively modest $59 million it reportedly took in last year. (The same source a supposed internal pitch deck acquired by TechCrunch claims the app could bring in up to $1 billion in 2017.)
Snapchat will need to take a lot more risks if it hopes to navigate to the mainstream.
On this front, Snapchat would seem to be moving in the right direction. Less than two years after its very first ad, Snapchat introduced an advertising API last month, its biggest move yet toward creating a full-fledged advertising platform.
But ads only work if there are users to engage with them, and Snapchat, for all its 150 million daily active users, still has work to do.
Look at Facebook: It began as a social network for students at a handful of colleges and slowly grew into the mobile advertising behemoth it is today. That may be an oversimplification there were many bumps along the way, to be sure but Facebook owes its current success to its ability to pivot from college students to grandmas and then cash in on that mainstream appeal.
For all of Facebook’s missteps (looking at you, Facebook Messenger), CEO Mark Zuckerberg has proven particularly adept at staying ahead of the curve in providing users with innovative new features and products even when that means taking some risks. Changing features users already like (such as chronological News Feeds) and bringing them new ones they may not understand (Messenger bots) are all risky bets, but it’s a strategy that has helped Facebook establish and maintain its social media dominance.
Likewise, Snapchat will need to take a lot more risks if it hopes to navigate to the mainstream. As it stands now, the most controversial updates it’s ever made are removing the app’s “best friends” feature (for privacy) and auto-advancing stories (for advertising) neither of which is particularly groundbreaking. The company has made at least two large acquisitions, including Looksery, which powers those selfie lenses everyone loves so much, but it will take much more than goofy animations to maintain its current growth.
Like Facebook before it, Snapchat can and must embrace more experimentation (and possibly a more aggressive acquisition strategy) if it hopes to consistently deliver fresh features that will not only keep all its users coming back to the app, but attract new ones who may not share the same tastes.
And Snapchat must do all this maintain broad appeal, find new ways to monetize and build innovative features while not compromising its commitment to ephemerality and simple “in the moment” messaging that made teens fall in love with it in the first place.
A tall order? Sure, but it’s an attainable one. And if Snapchat can succeed then it might just be unstoppable.
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