Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among millennials, according to a recent report by comScore, which finds that Snapchat has 32.9% penetration on these young users’ mobile phones, trailing only Instagram (43.1%) and Facebook (75.6%).
That means the app is more popular than Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Google+ or Tumblr among the millennial demographic, which comScore defines as those between the ages of 18 and 34.
It also puts into perspective why Facebook once valued the company at $3 billion, and why Snapchat had the vision – or hubris, perhaps – to turn that offer down. Millennials are the youngest, most active generation of mobile social networking users, and their habits are setting the stage to be the new “default” for the generations that follow, like Generation Z or Generation Alpha, or whatever we’re calling the born-with-iPad-in-hand kids.
As comScore explains, Snapchat’s overall audience penetration among smartphone users was just 12.1% back in November 2013, when reports of the Facebook deal began to circulate. That made the company’s decision to decline the multi-billion dollar acquisition appear risky and maybe even rash – especially since Facebook and MySpace only began to see their user growth really accelerate once they hit 15%-20% penetration – something which Snapchat had not yet achieved.
But Snapchat is now at 18% penetration among smartphone-using adults, says comScore, citing figures from June 2014.
More importantly, when you dive deeper into Snapchat’s user demographics, it seems that Snapchat has long since passed critical mass among users ages 18-24, where it now sees around 50% penetration. Combined with the slightly older 25-34 crowd, Snapchat’s penetration among the broader Millennial demographic is at 32.9%, as noted above.
“At this reach threshold, Snapchat has likely established a certain degree of staying power within this demographic segment that gives it some runway to evolve beyond its core value proposition,” says comScore VP of Marketing & Insights, Andrew Lipsman.
Snapchat’s ability to reach a critical mass matters because it demonstrates that apps that aren’t purely text messaging replacements, like Whatsapp (which sold to Facebook for an astounding $19 billion) can hit it big. Messaging apps as alternatives to pricey SMS was a void waiting to be filled on mobile, where apps like LINE, Kakao Talk, Whatsapp, WeChat, Kik, Tango, Viber and others each attract hundreds of millions of users.
Some of these “messaging” apps are more than simple utilities though, offering a platform for games and other apps to run on top of their social underpinnings.
Similarly, with the launch of the collaborative “Our Story” feature, Snapchat also took its first big steps beyond the friend-to-friend photo messaging experience, offering a platform that could potentially appeal to paying customers like music festivals or sports teams looking to reach the Millennial crowd.
And while comScore’s numbers validate those who believed in Snapchat’s potential, there’s also that gut feeling that this is an app that will continue to resonate with today’s younger smartphone users. It’s a reimagining of a social network for the generation who grew up chastised for over-sharing on Facebook and other social media platforms; for those who watched as Facebook shifted the ground underneath them, tricking users into public sharing with privacy policies that were moving targets.
It makes sense that this group – a group who invented concepts like whitewalling on Facebook, where a third of users have deleted or deactivated entire social accounts – would gravitate toward an app that treats content as disposable.