Sorry, kids, the oldsters are moving in on Snapchat

With Snapchat graying, will younger users move on to next big social app?

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Credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Sorry, kids, but you won’t have Snapchat all to yourselves anymore.

It seems the adults are crashing the party.

While Facebook and Twitter have been the bastions for people who are well passed their teen years and early 20s, Snapchat and Instagram have been home to younger users.

Those younger users wanted social networks where they wouldn't find their parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents.

Now that social oasis for the younger generation may be vanishing.

Three years ago, Snapchat’s app was being used by 5% of smartphone users between the ages of 25 and 34. The number was even lower – 2% -- for users 35 and older, according to comScore Inc., a U.S.-based media measurement and analytics company.

The number of older users is on the rise, with comScore reporting Tuesday that 38% of smartphone users between 25 and 34 years old, and 14% of those 35 and older are now Snapchat users.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said it’s too soon to know if those younger users, so elusive to Facebook’s efforts, will leave Snapchat as older users move in.

“This demographic change hasn’t gotten much ink yet, and currently, it still looks like the vast majority of users still trend below 34 or not quite in the parents of teens class,” Enderle said. “However, the trend suggests, in the next decade, if an alternative does show up, those younger users are increasingly likely to jump to it if they feel their parents are monitoring them.”

If their parents, teachers, aunts and uncles show up on Snapchat and begin to monitor what they’re doing, younger users will look for an alternative.

While that isn’t great news for young users who don't want to share their photos and exploits with Aunt Rita, it is really good news for Snapchat. With the Snapchat mobile messaging app, users can send photos and videos that disappear from the screen in a few seconds .

“Back in 2014, we wrote about Snapchat's potential to go mainstream,” wrote Adam Lella, an analyst with comScore, in a post. “Now, as its smartphone penetration nears 15% to 20% among the age 35+ population, it appears that the social network is approaching the point at which critical mass is achieved within a particular audience segment that eventually propels it to much greater heights.”

Lella credits Snapchat’s increasing success with older users to the launch of several popular features over the last few years.

Stories, which enables users to see people’s photos and videos in chronological order, has been one of those popular additions to the app. The Stories feed also includes coverage of various live events or places, culling the best “snaps” from the event into one showcase.

Lenses, a funky filter option for Snapchat users, also has received wide media attention.

“This has been one of the keys to Snapchat’s success: equipping users with the tools to create engaging content, which produces more content for others in the network to consume,” wrote Lella. “And the more available content, the more potential it has to appeal to a broader audience with a wider array of interests.”

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said it’s a natural progression for Snapchat’s user base to change.

“I think Snapchat would prefer to stay hot with the youth, but every technology has a lifecycle,” he said. “Remember, every Osmond eventually turns into a Donny and Marie. They’re still marketable, but to different age groups.”

What will this mean to Facebook and Twitter?

Will teens and 20-somethings, potentially unhappy about older users invading their social space, turn to Facebook, or will they go after the next big social app?

According to Enderle, any users leaving Snapchat will be unlikely to migrate to Facebook because they’d find the same issue there – older users.

“I think they are likely to pick Door Number 3, or an as yet unidentified service that expressly caters to them,” he said.

Other social networks or developing networks should take note.

“This is a real opportunity for the next, hot social site to jump in and win market share quickly,” Kagan said. “The question as always is, what is the next big social site that will take over from Snapchat?”

This story, "Sorry, kids, the oldsters are moving in on Snapchat" was originally published by Computerworld.

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