Piper Jaffray’s 34th Semi-Annual Taking Stock with Teens Survey, Fall 2017 edition has landed, and much to no one’s surprise, Snapchat was handily named the number one favorite social media platform of 47 percent of teens aged 13 to 17 years of age.
This ranking is up 1,200 basis points year over year, and a full 23 percent higher than the next closest platform, Instagram. Number three was Facebook, at a sad nine percent. It doesn’t take a statistician to see how clearly teens love Snapchat, even if Wall Street is running hot and cold on it.
But what is it about Snapchat that continues to resonate with kids these days? Do modern youth know something the rest of us don’t?
Snapchat’s Ephemeral Nature is What Makes it Lasting
You can probably think of dozens of times you’ve said to yourself, “Man, I’m glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was in high school, because I did some really dumb stuff and there would be a record of it everywhere…” Well, as it turns out, that’s sort of what’s driving a lot of the mad love for Snapchat, at least according to a highly cited Quora explanation of the psychology of teens on the platform. I’ll paraphrase it here to save space.
Basically, it goes like this. Younger people use Facebook as a sort of personal version of LinkedIn, to arrange their social standing and craft their public persona these days. They carefully choose the photos and posts they share, since they tend to connect to their entire social networks, including people at school they might not know well, but maybe want to ask to the upcoming dance some time.
Of course they want to be seen as “cool,” so they’re not going to post some random tomfoolery there, unlike the rest of us, who are more likely to be connected to our kids, decades-old friends and Great Aunt Linda. Once you leave high school, so proposes the poster, the social dynamic shifts, allowing the now-adult person to have the freedom to goof around on social media without getting stuffed into a digital locker.
Snapchat, on the other hand, goes *poof* every 24 hours or so, leaving no sign of your bad haircut, long night spent doing who knows what or less-than-flattering photography. In these sorts of ephemeral spaces, those 13- to 17-year olds can be themselves and let loose a bit. Snapchat is real life, Facebook is Memorex.
Snapchat Feeds a Teen’s Basic Motivations Perfectly
A great resource to help marketers get inside the mind of teens than a recently published guide to the young person’s brain called “It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool” by Google.
Just like you can’t be uncool on Facebook, but you can be a super goof on Snapchat, this teen marketing guide goes further to drive the point home. Teens, those ever-predictable confusing masses of hormones and immaturity, really just want someone to think they’re cool at the end of the day.
And Snapchat is the premier place to be uncool, which makes it really cool. Teens can be creative, stupid, funny, bored, in love, have a broken heart, cheat on their homework and walk the dog in their pajamas – none of which is going to influence their social currency, which is safely held in other social media platforms.
It’s that whole disappearing information effect, the same one that adults give the side eye because they’re just really not sure what good it will do. That’s because unlike today’s youth, adults don’t necessarily have the time to be constantly connected, since they’re busy presumably doing off-phone things like making tacos and getting MBAs. You miss a lot of disappearing Snaps that way.
Tech Native Teens Getting Younger All the TimeOf that 13- to 17-year old Snapchat demographic, the median age they acquired a smartphone now is 12. That’s four years younger than the current 18- to 24-year old demo whose members got them at 16, and eight years younger than 25- to 34-year olds who got them at age 20. When we talk about Millennials being tech-native, we’re really doing a huge disservice to Gen Z, who were practically born with a smartphone in their hands.
It’s no wonder we don’t understand the way they’re sorting their lives into the personal and the public using various social media platforms, including the ever-ubiquitous Snapchat. Teens today are a different breed, in a way that teens of other days haven’t really been. They not only have to navigate life in the real world, but social life on the Cloud, during the most awkward period of their existence.
Letting Snapchat make those mistakes vanish forever would feel pretty appealing to just about anyone under those circumstances.