Social networks have exploded in the last decade, beginning with the meteoric rise of Facebook and continuing with platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and beyond. The products released by such companies have revolutionized the way we interact with friends and family, and also provided incredibly valuable and monetizable information on how we behave online. Facebook on its own boasts over a billion users, and can gather fascinating data on trends relating to just about everything — including age, gender, ethnicity, geography, interests, and more.
Naturally, age is a variable that greatly affects behavior on social networks, and it's interesting to see what those differences are in users across platforms. Unsurprisingly, the "cool" factor of a product says a lot about the distribution of its users' ages. As it's grown into a full-fledged corporation with a robust business strategy, Facebook is said to have lost this ever-important element, but frankly it's got a hell of a lot of other things going for it and investors will hardly care if the money keeps coming in like it has lately.
As mobile has become the go-to technology to optimize for when it comes to apps and online behavior, much of the growth in social networking over the last few years has come exclusively through smartphones and tablets. Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine were all born on mobile, and there's no serious reason for them to be anywhere else.
That's why the young people flock to them.
According to data gathered by Statista, the most preferred social network among the coveted teen demographic is Instagram, not Snapchat as many would believe. However, from just spring to fall of this year, Snapchat's growth took a significant bite out of that lead, moving from 13 to 19 percent whereas Instagram rose just one point from 32 to 33 percent.
As Facebook owns Instagram, it's really 47 percent of teens that prefer one of the social giant's properties, taking into account the 14 percent that said they like Facebook itself most. So while the perception might be that Snapchat is much "cooler" than Facebook, the numbers don't really reflect that. Teens still use Facebook and its products quite a bit, and even label it as relatively "important."
So what happens when you zoom out to everyone above 18 years of age?
According to comScore data from the end of 2014, just about every major social network sees the 25-34 age group as its biggest user pool. Tumblr, Vine, and Snapchat are the only ones who don't fall into that category, with the 18-24 age group owning the lead. This makes sense, as Snapchat's user base generally skews young. If the above graph included a 13-18 category, well over half of Snapchat's scale would likely be eaten up by those who can't legally vote.
Naturally, there's a fair amount of differences between each social network included here, but at a core level, they're all trying to do the same thing: connect people. Whether that's Facebook inadvertently allowing people to fall in love, Snapchat giving artists a creative new canvas to share with the world, or Instagram empowering a 2-year-old to become a sensation, the goal is always to be a seamless way for users to be social.
Undoubtedly, something even "cooler" will appear out of nowhere to shake up these graphs in no time, only for things to settle back into a slightly different equilibrium. Such is the nature of social behavior: we all go through the same cycles time and time again.
Cover image: Wikimedia