It was revealed a few months ago that Facebook’s popularity among new teen users is on a decline. Where are they losing young teens users to? Messaging apps, video sharing apps, and photo sharing apps. WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Vine, Flickr, Instagram, etc. are taking over this demographic. For the moment, Facebook is gaining a slower growing and older crowd. The strongest growth has come from those age 65 and older. Daily engagement with the site is down; apparently the fast flying thumbs of those sixteen year olds are being put to use elsewhere.
Meanwhile, business is booming for these other private messaging apps as well as their video and photo sharing partners. Now that Mom, Dad, and Great Grandma are on Facebook, teens are fleeing to the privacy of their phones. Great Aunt Marie won’t be commenting on these shared pictures –she can’t see them. The funny thing is that it seems to have taken several years of oversharing for teens to realize that they would much rather have privacy with the pictures and messages they’re sending. This round of teens have finally learned the lesson that what you put on the internet, stays on the internet. Sure it was fun at first, but now that they’ve got their parents and bosses looking in –they’re ready for a break. Teens are embracing the apps that allow them to privately share pictures, messages, and videos with the people that they choose.
Then we’ve got SnapChat and the power of the selfie. SnapChat is something huge for one very important reason, it offers what Facebook can’t –no paper trail. Teens are drawn like moths to a flame with the intoxicating promise of being able to send a private picture with this photo sharing app that deletes a photo several seconds after it’s been viewed. Average age of a SnapChat user? 18. Average age of a Facebook User? Close to 40. This app is an addicting one for the 50 million people currently using it. It’s become the favored way for teens to send “private” photos of themselves without being seen by the masses and without leaving a trace for someone to bring up later.
Is it totally safe and private? Absolutely not. In fact, it is still possible for someone to take a quick screenshot of the photo you’ve sent. SnapChat does send you a notification if a screenshot has been taken (which might be a deterrent to some from taking a picture of the screen) but it is not a total solution. Also, there is always the possibility of taking a photo of your screen with another phone/camera/etc. Hopefully the teens using this service think about the privacy concerns first. In addition, Snapchat added an interesting new feature recently –the replay feature. This feature basically changes the whole purpose of the app –the premise here is that the sent image can only be seen once and for a limited time (a few seconds). Now with the replay feature, it allows users to look back at the expired picture or video once a day.
Turning back to some of the other private messaging apps, the big draw here is that they offer a lot more than they used to. Teens are using apps like KakaoTalk, WeChat, and Line for more than just private messaging. These apps now have social networks built up. They offer messaging, games, music sharing, stickers, etc. Gaming and stickers are apparently a huge money maker in the teen demographic right now. WhatsApp has kept things decidedly simpler and chosen to stay put as strictly a messaging app. This app has an annual subscription fee. With some of the other apps, such as SnapChat, it’s still unclear exactly how they’ll be making their money.
What is clear is that new trends are emerging and teens are definitely shifting the way they spend their time with technology. This shift to mobile engagement is already significant. The question is, what will the long term effects be on the current largest social media platform? Are teens done with Facebook for good, or is this a temporary trend?
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