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Snapchat Closing In On Established Social Media

Millennials Seek The Experience, Not The Record

In the world of social media, the difference between an established giant and an ambitious upstart is often slim to say the least. There was a time when Facebook was a barely-known entity doing the rounds in the coolest college dorms, and now it has taken the burden of bringing the internet to Africa on its shoulders. There are those who speak of a time when there were no hashtags on Twitter, when people openly mocked the idea of communicating in no more than 140 characters.

Similarly, we may one day sit down with our grandchildren and tell them of a forgotten past when Snapchat was something strange and edgy, a revolutionary service taking the world of mobile social media by storm. And they will probably film it, and add it to their Story.

Among millennials, those aged 18-34, Snapchat is now the third most popular social media app by smartphone penetration, with 32.9% of that demographic having the friendly ghost on the yellow background floating on their screen. That puts it just behind Instagram (43.1%) and of course Facebook (75.6%)

That generation, the one that came of age with the internet and a quarter of whom say that they would rather leave the house without their credit card than their phone, is the most vital and lucrative of demographics for those seeking to make their mark on the world of social media. They made and then broke Myspace, and it will take some deft manoeuvrings on the part of Snapchat to ensure that they aren’t overcome by this sudden swell of popularity.

While this is interesting news, and rather encouraging – it’s nice to know that there is still space and flexibility in this market for such a newcomer to make such a definitive impact – it is the broader questions which the success of Snapchat raises which perhaps make for a more interesting discussion.

MySpace, Facebook, and the like all built their social media empires around the idea that what people want is the opportunity to curate and present their life to the masses, like a photo album but for everything – holidays to birthdays to the best burrito you've ever had – and available all the time, to everyone. The network of friends which you built up through the site weren't there for their own sake, they were the scaffolding which supported and justified the expertly woven life which you put up there. This, incidentally, is why FriendsReunited failed; they were naïve enough to think that people only want to connect with their friends online for the sake of talking to them.

Snapchat’s success has shown that there is a growing backlash against this philosophy, that what people want from their social media isn’t for it to freeze life but to imitate it. People don’t want to see every regrettable decision pinned up for all to admire, but they do want to be able to quickly and easily share moments of their life with their friends and then – vitally – let the moment pass. Facebook asks ‘what happened?’ Snapchat asks ‘what’s next?’


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Snapchat Closing In On Established Social Media Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Rating: 5
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