Facebook has officially lost its cool. Snapchat is set to overtake it as the digital hangout of choice for teens and twentysomethings this year, as Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site struggles to remain relevant to the youth generation.
By the end of this year Snapchat, which with its disappearing messages and funky photograph filters has already won over young teens, will also become the most popular social media platform in the UK for 18- to 24-year-olds.
Snapchat is expected to grow that demographic by more than 350,000 users in 2018, to just under 5 million, putting it ahead of Facebook for the first time in the UK, according to a new report by eMarketer.
Facebook is set to suffer its second year of declining use by the trendsetting group, to 4.5 million, a loss of more than 500,000 users in the past two years.
The figures spell more bad news for Zuckerberg and Facebook’s growing age problem. Last year Snapchat overtook Facebook in the popularity stakes for 12- to 17-year-old UK social media users.
According to analysts a new younger generation of social media users who have never been on Zuckerberg’s site – so called “Facebook-nevers” – has now emerged.Advertisement
“These so-called Facebook-nevers are eating into Facebook’s user growth significantly,” says Bill Fisher, senior analyst at eMarketer. “Many younger social network users are forgoing Facebook altogether in favour of more appealing mobile-first alternatives, such as Snapchat.”
Despite Snapchat’s success in surpassing its rival in the UK, it’s not been without its own problems. The young social media set is notoriously fickle and, earlier this year, a tweet from trendsetting social media queen Kylie Jenner – in which she asked her 25 million followers “does anyone else not open Snapchat any more?” – wiped $1.3bn off the company’s value.
In June, Snap reported that active daily user numbers shrank from 191 million to 188 million, a 1.5% decline. It followed a controversial redesign that prompted more than a million people to sign a petition to reverse the “annoying” changes.
Investors in Silicon Valley companies are particularly obsessed with growth – Snapchat, Twitter and Netflix have all recently seen their stock market value take a hammering after missing analyst expectations – and Facebook’s ageing demographics could start to become an increasing concern to shareholders.
Last month, $120bn (£93.4bn) was wiped off Facebook’s value – the biggest ever one-day drop in a company’s market value – when it reported its first decline in users in Europe. Zuckerberg, who owns nearly 17% of the company, saw his paper fortune plummet from $86.5bn to $70bn, sending him tumbling from the third-richest person on the planet to the sixth.
Facebook remains by some distance the biggest social media player in the UK, although growth will slow to just 2% to 32.6m this year. Snapchat is about half the size, with just over 16 million UK users, with growth this year expected at more than 9%.
“Facebook is still adding monthly users overall, but older age groups are mainly responsible for this,” says Fisher.
Facebook’s once youth audience – Zuckerberg was 19 years old living in a dorm at university when he launched it 14 years ago – has grown up along with their founder. In addition, older demographics tend to come late to the internet party.
Facebook UK’s fastest growing new users are the 55 and older demographic, as silver surfers keep up with the social lives of their children and grand children. Almost 430,000 new users aged 55 or over will join Facebook this year, taking the total number to 6.5 million on Facebook in the UK.
Almost 37% of Facebook’s UK user base is 45 or over, some 12 million of its 32.6 million users.
Young users are the lifeblood of the future for social media sites, and gold to advertisers, which has led Facebook to focus its Instagram business on taking on Snapchat and keeping younger users in the Facebook-owned digital ecosystem.
Emarketer estimates that Instagram will grow 9.6% this year, to 19 million users, as Facebook goes some way to keeping hold of young users defecting from its main service. Instagram is expected to add about 170,000 users aged 12 to 17 this year, taking its total to 2.1 million; and 270,000 18 to 24-year-olds, to 4.2 million.