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Snapchat vs Facebook: Why Do Teenagers Prefer Snapchat?

For years, Facebook has dominated the social media landscape. But studies show that its reign might be coming to an end - as far as young people are concerned, that is.

It’s official: teenagers now prefer Snapchat over Facebook. In a recent study, Facebook ranked fourth on a list of teenagers’ preferred online platforms, coming in behind YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Out of the three, Snapchat was the platform teenagers said they used most often (35%). Only 10% of teenagers said the same of Facebook.

This represents a significant change in social media usage since 2015, and if you’re trying to market to young people, it matters. To ensure that your marketing strategy is reaching the perfect target audience, it’s important to understand this trend - and why it’s happening.

It used to be all about Facebook. What happened?

Facebook still very much has a monopoly over the social media world, but is falling out of favour with younger generations and losing these audiences to platforms like Snapchat. In part, this is because the social media landscape has just become more complex. More players have entered the field as social media has come to play an increasingly prevalent role in our lives.

But when it comes to teenagers, the reason for this shift in preference is more personal, and it’s worth getting to the heart of if you’re to really understand your target audience.

Snapchat is for young people

One of the core reasons why teenagers love Snapchat is obvious, but the significance of it is often underestimated: it’s because their parents aren’t on it. And in the unlikely event that their parents are on the platform, young people don’t have to include them in the content they share.

It sounds like a small factor, but it matters. On Snapchat, teenagers aren’t accepting friend requests from aunts and scrolling through a newsfeed of newly weds, pregnancies, and family gatherings. Instead, they’re seeing a world that reflects their own. Snapchat feels like a teenager’s platform because that’s exactly what it is. Simply put, it’s just considered cooler than Facebook.

And this is what young people want: online platforms that feel like their own. As soon as a platform becomes heavily associated with the generation before them, they’re likely to jump ship and look for something that’s theirs.

Instant responses, but without the social pressure

Snapchat allows you to immediately start a conversation based on the experience you shared. You’re not keeping one eye on the ‘like’ count. It’s authentic, it’s personal, and nobody’s taking it too seriously.

You also aren’t curating a public record of yourself that others can snoop around. Making it easier to post without inhibitions and be yourself. This is particularly liberating for a teenager, as it means they don’t have to worry about producing content that everyone will see. Unlike adults, who are more likely to find that there’s a lot of crossover in what they want to share with their family, friends, and colleagues, teenagers - as anyone with teenage children will know - navigate a more complex and private social world. They see more appeal in platforms that allow them to tailor their content to different social groups.

On Facebook, it’s not so easy to operate in this way because, by default, all of your Facebook friends see everything that you share. On Snapchat, there’s a much greater emphasis on choosing who sees what. Putting you in the driver’s seat.


Fun engagement

Facebook doesn’t lend itself easily to creative expression. Instagram does, but it’s artful, curated; we’re all to some extent judging each other’s photography skills. Snapchat, however, lets you try different filters, paint on top of your images, and play games, all with total ease and all for the simple purpose of having fun with your friends. For obvious reasons, this is a real plus for young people.

You’re on par with your heroes

If you follow a celebrity or influencer on Facebook, you see their upcoming concerts, their latest GQ cover, their latest film premiere. You don’t see what they had for breakfast this morning, or what they’re thinking about right now.

Snapchat makes you feel like you’re really engaging with the people you admire, by getting access to their more private, more ephemeral content.

This is where influencer marketing comes in

By advertising on Snapchat, you can not only appeal to young people on the platform they use the most, but also have your products or services personally recommended by the people that young people look up to.

So why is it, then, that companies are repeatedly pouring advertising resources into Facebook, rather than Snapchat?

It’s because most of us understand Facebook. We get its appeal, and we know how it works.

But just because you understand Facebook the best, doesn’t mean it’s the platform that most resonates with your target audience. When you’re thinking about where to distribute your content, it’s critical to ask yourself exactly what online platforms your target audience are engaging with the most, because by not fully understanding Snapchat, its appeal, or its huge audience, companies are frequently overlooking the advertising opportunities it offers.

If you want to advertise to young people, go where the young people are.

Charlotte Gifford


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