Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) is taking young users from Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) even faster than previously thought. New research from eMarketer predicts that Facebook will lose 2 million users under the age of 25 this year, while Snapchat will pick up 1.9 million.
EMarketer also predicts that for the first time, less than half of U.S. internet users from ages 12 to 17 will use Facebook at least once per month.
While Facebook is still adding users overall, most of these are in older age groups.
Facebook’s Instagram should absorb some of these losses — but not all of them. EMarketer expects about 1.6 million new users 24 and under.
Facebook’s Problem Staying Young
This is the second time in six months that eMarketer has warned about Facebook losing its youth. In August, the research firm predicted that in 2017 the 12 to 17 age group would decline 3.4%. This has sped up with the the 5.6% decline expected in 2018.
Basically, Facebook — the social-media platform originally created for colleges and headed by one-time youngest self-made billionaire Mark Zuckerberg — is having a problem staying young.
Facebook recently announced a series of changes to help combat the plague of fake news permeating the site. To target young users specifically, Facebook released Messenger Kids in December. But they may be missing the point. Children under ten are already on social media. They just don’t like Facebook.
EMarketer also observed that “teens and tweens remaining on Facebook seem to be less engaged — logging in less frequently and spending less time on the platform.”
A teen interviewed by USA today said that he doesn’t “think Facebook panders to teenagers as well as it does to older generations.” And that after years of Facebook’s lack of privacy jeopardizing future jobs and college offers, teens are more interested in a platform like Snapchat where you can only ever be seen by people you’ve added and where postings disappear. (Snapchat also notifies you when someone saves your post, be it a photo, video or chat message.)
Snapchat Solves the Problems Young Users Have With Facebook
While Facebook aims to decrease the amount of brand posts on the News Feed while increasing posts from friends, those two things have always been separate for Snapchat. And a recent update even more strictly delineated the two.
Content from friends is the default on Snapchat. Users have to decide to click on Discover — knowing full well that that tab leads to advertisements and media. For people whose whole lives have seen unavoidable internet ads, that might be a welcome relief.
Snapchat’s update also added new features, like increased filter capabilities and more realistic avatars (called Bitmoji Deluxe). Facebook’s proposed updates only stand to modify or take away existing features. Meanwhile, Facebook is failing to add new things to draw young people in.
Facebook’s growing reputation as a platform for older users may be another turn off for younger users. In addition to the stereotypical uncool mom and dad (and grandma and grandpa), kids usually don’t want older family members seeing what they’re talking about.
EMarketer cautions that Snapchat may fall victim to the same trap:
“The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”
The nature of Snapchat’s design, however, defaults away from everyone seeing what users post. So I don’t believe this will be as much of a problem for Snapchat as it continues to be for Facebook.
Basically, if Facebook doesn’t start listening to its youngest losers, it stands to lose them forever.