Industry executives weigh in on Snapchat’s audience growth

Snapchat’s user base is expanding, especially with 45-54 year olds

With its IPO, Snapchat has been on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Whether it be a new Snapchat filter, like the ones that Snapchat created for International Women’s Day, or the Gatorade-sponsored filter of the flowing beverage around the Super Bowl, Snapchat is cool, hip and one of the most used social media platforms.

“Snapchat is a vehicle that allows us to reach their broad target in an innovative and unexpected way,” said Maggie Avram, lead social strategist, Laughlin Constable.

But who is using the yellow ghost app these days?

Older users are Snapping

An increase in users 45-54 years old shakes up the traditionally millennial-focused platform and brings their parents to the platform and shows a shift in Snap culture. Market research firm, eMarketer estimates that 6.4% of users will be from 45 to 54 years old, over 2 percentage points higher than previously projected.

“Brands are interested in the growth of Snapchat’s ‘older audience’ and are extremely bullish on reaching that audience on this platform,” said Torrey Taralli, head of paid social, US, Fetch. “I believe by Q3-Q4 of this year we will see more brands targeting [the old] audience on Snapchat.”

According to Snapchat, over 150 million people globally “use Snapchat every day to Snap with family, watch Stories from friends, see events from around the world, and explore expertly-curated content from top publishers.” Close to 8 million of those Snapchatters will be over the age of 45 years old, according to eMarketer, just over 11% of the total U.S. user base — which they estimate to be 70.4 million Americans in 2017.

Brands that are looking to reach an older demographic have been building their Snapchat base through innovative and accessible campaigns, especially with Snapchat specific tools, including geofilters and lenses.

“This shift has been key for a bunch of alcohol and luxury retail brands, whose products naturally skew to an older demographic. They’re finding creative ways to leverage geofilters, national lenses, and co-partnerships within the platform to reach their target audience in a way that resonates with their typical behaviors,” said Niki Kamdar, senior director, digital accounts, The Marketing Arm.

Brad Kay, president and partner, SS+K, noted that General Electric is one of the brands that has connected with older users on Snapchat around science and emojis.

“A smart effort that appeared to skew older was General Electric’s use of the Snapchat platform to dispel scientific knowledge through the use of emojis. ‘Just add 'generalelectric' on Snapchat, send us an emoji, and we'll send you some science,’ they announced on their Tumblr. The facts would tie directly back to the type of emoji the user sent,” he said.

Millennials are still the main users of the app

Snapchat users between 18-34 years old will total approximately 40 million in 2017, according to eMarketer.

“We primarily look to Snapchat when the goal is to reach young adults 18-34. This segment still makes up over half of Snapchat's user base. Within that segment, 18-24-year-olds are the most engaged audience, and their activity in the app presents more opportunities for brands to efficiently reach them,” said Caroline Desmond, Director of Media Strategy, North.

Users who are younger than 25 years old used Snapchat over 20 times per day and spent over 30 minutes on average on Snapchat every day, according to eMarketer.

“Snapchat has really evolved from a high school trend to a strong platform that gives brands the opportunity to connect,” Kamdar said.

Snapchat Spectacles, which was initially only available from a vending machine, were Snap’s way of making the content capturing experience tangible, while also getting into the wearables game.

“The Spectacles are really fun product that was launched in almost an anti-Silicon Valley way — cool vending machines in weird destinations,” said Alastair Green, executive creative director, Team One.

With legacy brands like L’Oreal debuting them at the Golden Globes, the glasses are a fun way for users to capture content for the platform, while also pushing the brand into the future, for only $130 a piece.

What does the future look like for Snapchat?

Despite a growing population, Snapchat’s older user base might be hard to develop further, and the platform might find difficulty in retaining loyal millennial fans.

In their S-1 filing for their IPO, the company enumerated the risks related to the business and industry with, “Snapchat is free and easy to join, the barrier to entry for new entrants is low, and the switching costs to another platform are also low. Moreover, the majority of our users are 18-34 years old. This demographic may be less brand loyal and more likely to follow trends than other demographics. These factors may lead users to switch to another product, which would negatively affect our user retention, growth, and engagement. Snapchat also may not be able to penetrate other demographics in a meaningful manner.”

“Ultimately, and this is reinforced in the strategy it revealed in its IPO, Snapchat needs to keep innovating. It wins by proving it can continually create new and exciting ways for its community to engage with each other — whether that's thru its app, hardware devices, or something we don't know about yet,” Kay said.

As an industry, young user loyalty is something many platforms have struggled to keep. Vine and Twitter has learnt that hard way that millennials and Gen Z, are easily distracted with the newest features and developments of new platforms.

“I see [Snapchat] going the way of Twitter constantly struggling to redefine itself in the years ahead,” said Matt Britton, CEO, Crowdtap. “The network effect of Snapchat is not strong enough, brand advertisers have limited metrics and data (although that may change), and … we’ve already seen meaningful usage reductions since Facebook and Instagram have launched competitive features. This does not bode well for a company with such high expectations.”

Ken Kraemer, CEO at social content creation and distribution offering, Moment Studio, noted that even though other platforms might rival Snapchat, the platform should stay focused on what differentiates it from the others.

“There are many different ways both Discover and original content can provide a differentiated experience, and it will drive the value of their Ad products as well. It also is worth noting that the 35+ set on Snapchat is thought to be growing and will drive its future as well,” Kraemer said.

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