Snapchat has been in the news recently by turning down an offer from Facebook to acquire it for $3 billion, but why? Many of us of have heard of Snapchat but don’t use it, let alone understand it. So why is Facebook prepared to shell out this much cash for such a young start-up?
What we can see is a counter flow movement where teenagers are leaving Facebook basically because of success, with almost 1.2 billion active users the social network has also attracted mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and ceased to be a place of free expression, Facebook has ceased to be a place where teens can call their own. Facebook is no longer the space where the teenage user can be free and share all their dirty little secrets.
Teens who were previously criticised for exposing their lives on social networks are changing to new message systems and real-time picture apps such as Snapchat because it offers them a more private medium and the added bonus of leaving no digital footprint. Teens are looking for their own private space away from the prying eyes of their elders. They are looking to take over a new online domain that is exclusively their own.
Snapchat’s 400 million snaps per day nearly matches the combined number of Facebook and Instagram’s photo uploads with Instagram users uploading nearly 55 million photos every day. Teens are shifting their focus away from the more traditional status updates that popularised Facebook and Twitter. They are moving towards the more direct and impactful nature that these instant messaging platforms now offer. It is becoming a natural instinct for them to migrate en masse to new social networks where they do not need to worry about parental supervision.
Facebook’s attempt to acquire Snapchat this month shows that the real buying power lies with these teens. Facebook needs to move with this current trend that has now eclipsed the established social platforms. Failure to do so may result in what happened to one of the first generation of social networks, Bebo.
Is it now too late for Facebook? Will the current generation move on again in 6 months time? Will teens be put off using services like Snapchat if they are acquired by Facebook? Who will win this battle? It is hard to predict, but one thing is certain: we are not in a war between mobile applications but we are in a battle to understand and adapt quickly to this younger generations behaviour.