*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on The Wall Street Journal.
Since its founding five years ago, Snapchat has become a digital mecca for high school and college-age students, allowing them to send photos and videos that disappear in a matter of seconds. It has amassed 150 million daily active users, said a person familiar with the matter.
Snapchat also has been a refuge from parents. Until lately, that is.
Now, the “olds” are arriving in force, whether they are parents spying on their kids, or professionals trying out another social-media platform.
An aging demographic is inevitable for many apps that first catch fire with teens. Whether Snapchat can maintain its fanatical teen base, which is popular with advertisers, while at the same time broadening its appeal beyond youth, will have major ramifications for the app, which investors value at $16 billion.
It can mean the difference between achieving massive scale like Facebook Inc., the social-network juggernaut that has 1.6 billion users and is valued at $330 billion, or remaining a large niche service like Twitter Inc., a once-formidable rival that has lost three-fourths of its market value as its growth has stagnated.
On Twitter, teens now routinely complain about parents joining Snapchat—“Lmao I’m so done my friends parents got snapchat,” tweeted Paris Zeikos, an 18-year-old university student in Manchester, England, in May. How-to guides for bewildered adults are cropping up all over the web to help them navigate Snapchat.
A recent comScore report declared that Snapchat is “breaking into the mainstream,” estimating that 38% of U.S. smartphone users ages 25 to 34 are on Snapchat, and 14% of those 35 or older. Three years ago, those numbers were 5% and 2%, respectively.
The trend resembles the way parents jumped on the Facebook bandwagon years after it was adopted by college students. In 2013, as teens began flocking to other apps like Snapchat, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg remarked that “coolness is done for us.” Facebook still prospered by embracing all ages, churning out a $3.7 billion profit last year.
“In order to really get true growth that can be monetized, you’ve got to be appealing to more age groups which can kind of alienate the teens,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, which conducts a semiannual survey of teens’ social-media use.
Snapchat may be less susceptible to a teen exodus than Facebook, however, because the communication it allows is more closed off, says Amanda Lenhart, a researcher at the Data and Society Research Institute in New York.
On Facebook, people mostly post photos and video to their broader group of friends, and they must manually delete the posts. Snapchat is centered around a camera, encouraging users to send disappearing photos and videos to one recipient at a time.
Users can choose to share with a wider group through Snapchat Stories, a visual diary of their day that expires after 24 hours. And, because the app has no “likes” or “comments,” there’s less outright judgment on Snapchat.
The app’s privacy and spontaneity resonate with teens. About 69% of U.S. smartphone users age 18 to 24 are on Snapchat, up from 24% in 2013, according to comScore, which doesn’t track users younger than 18.
Source: The Wall Street Journal