Is Snapchat on the Verge of Going Mainstream?

Snapchat is starting to appeal to an older audience, including 13 percent of U.S. adults aged 35-44.

Snapchat seems to be moving beyond being a teenage fad. There have been concerns, and each time Snapchat rallies either through increases in user numbers, improved security features, or other steps forward in development of the core service. Indeed, based on the arc of social networks that came before, it Snapchat may be on the verge of entering the wider marketplace and going mainstream.

As an emerging network with a growing millennial audience, Snapchat is already considered almost essential to social media marketers, and throughout its development it has implicitly targeted teens and young adults. But it looks like Snapchat is starting to gain appeal among older audiences, mostly in the key 18 to 35 demographic.

WIRED’s Jessi Hempel notes:

Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights at ComScore, analyzed traffic to Facebook and MySpace in an attempt to discern when each saw the network effect kick in. Facebook started taking off in 2007, once it reached 15 percent of the adult Internet users in the United States […] MySpace, began hitting the mainstream in 2006 upon reaching just over 20 percent.

During the second half of 2015, Snapchat managed to reach 15 percent of the U.S. adult population, so if historical data is an indicator, Snapchat is about to reach a tipping point. The platform also spent the second half of last year developing its advertising infrastructure, and lots of brands are already using the service to reach the coveted audience that already uses the site. Even publications with an older user base are starting to take an interest in Snapchat.

Additionally, 13 percent of U.S. adults aged 35-44 use Snapchat, and with the growth the service is experiencing, Hempel predicts that 15 percent of that group will be using the platform come September of 2016. While there are the usual complaints that Snapchat is hard to use, Hempel pointed out that users contacted her in 2007, with the same complaints, wondering why there was no customer service line.

As Snapchat approaches a critical mass of sorts, people will naturally figure out how to use the it as more of their social circle talks about and uses the platform. This could lead to a cascade effect of signups, as happened with Facebook and Myspace. Snapchat’s newer features, like discover, might also ease the transition. Kyle Wong, co-founder and CEO of the visual marketing company Pixlee told WIRED:

With the success of Snapchat’s Story product, people can now be much more passive on the platform and just consume.

Social networks live and die on their ability to attract new users and to keep those users engaged. Soon it may be the case that not having and using a Snapchat account could be considered a social faux-pas, just like being an executive without a LinkedIn account.

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