Snapchat’s Success Might Be a House of Cards Built With Squishy Metrics

Is Snapchat part of a perfect storm of overvaluation? Only time will tell.

Snapchat has been a silicon valley darling since its huge growth and large funding rounds in 2013. Despite continued growth and even more funding, the cracks may be starting to show. According to B.J. Mendelson, former SocialTimes editor and author of Social Media is Bullshit, Snapchat has reached a peak, and the peak isn’t even that high.

Mendelson states, in an article for the Observer’s Innovation blog:

[Snapchat is] nowhere near as popular as you’d think. At least not in the states […] It seems like a minor point, but often the press, the platform, and the marketers don’t break down where their users come from, and when you’re dependent on advertising dollars to prop you up, particularly American advertisers, that’s a pretty serious thing to ignore.

There is a problem with insubstantial metrics in social media, and Snapchat could be presenting its best stats without breaking down the statistics that really matter. However, according to ComScore data, user growth among Snapchat and a host of other messaging apps seem to have flatlined, at least in the US +18 market.

Its safe to say though that Snapchat’s primary user base isn’t over 18; indeed, the service has found most of its popularity among teen users. Because of this focus on an “incredibly fickle youth-oriented market,” Snapchat could fold within two years, according to competitive analysis from Owler. That said, Facebook was predicted to lose 200 million users last year, a fate that shows no real signs of coming true.

However, Mendelson’s primary issue is that Snapchat is been vastly overvalued. He points to the trends of users quickly abandoning mobile apps, the influx of spam and bots on popular services, and the inflation of user numbers. Despite its representation in the teen market, only three percent of teens who use one social network choose Snapchat, and Snapchat is still dwarfed by Facebook in most categories, according to Pew data.

In recent months, Snapchat has been valued in excess of $10 billion, and investors continue to flock to the service. But the metrics the company has provided don’t seem to stand up to scrutiny, and the audience it courts could be fleeting. Snapchat is also running into problems creating stable advertising programs.

All of this begs the question: Is Snapchat part of a perfect storm of overvaluation? Only time will tell.