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The Next Social Network

A decade ago people were flocking to Facebook and Twitter. Then along came Instagram and the cool kids (e.g. 18-25 year olds) jumped on board, many of them abandoning Facebook and Twitter for the shiny new network. More recently, Snapchat has become the dominant social network of choice for millennials, attracting advertisers eager for young eyeballs.

Now we’re seeing Snapchat mature a bit; both in the people it’s attracting and the business models it’s deploying to monetize them.

“Snapchat’s core audience of 18-to-24 year-olds is nearing full saturation but 25-to-34 year-old millennials will provide further growth…” — AdAge

It makes sense. There is a finite number of 18-24 year-olds out there and, according to Comscore, Snapchat has saturated that segment. The only way to continue growth is broaden the age range, which is happening naturally thanks to network effects.

More Eyes = More Money

Of course, Snapchat are aware of these trends. They know more accurate audience targeting leads to higher click and conversion rates, and that’s hot money for advertisers. Seeing a bigger opportunity they introducing Audience Match, a system that enables marketers to “…take existing lists of email addresses and mobile device IDs, and anonymously match that data with Snapchat’s own pool of consumer data, allowing enhanced ad targeting.” (full article) Spooky? Not really. Companies have been doing this for a while.

But For How Long?

Question is, how long will this last. Parents sign up for Snapchat to see what their kids are doing. More people are seeing yellow ghosts and deciding to hop on board. Long time users are now the old guard. And so it goes. This trend will inevitably lead to the younger generation feeling like Snapchat is old news, and they’ll look for something else.

With an older audience moving into the platform it begs the question: “When will the younger–typically trend-setting–audience find a new network?”

What will the next social network du jour be?

Does it already exist? Instagram is making a play to be dominant again. Facebook keeps experimenting with its properties. Twitter is grasping at anything it can to stay in the game. Seems like the field is ripe for a new player.

My guess is there’s a kid in a dorm room somewhere with a silly idea. By luck more than anything else, that kid will connect with the right audience and the right VC at the right time and become the next cool thing. They’ll catch lighting in a bottle. You’ll see them on TechCrunch, ProductHunt, and Times Square billboards. You’ll install it and tell all your friends. They’ll get press in The Journal and The Times. They’ll grow and monetize. People like me will write articles like this.

And the cycle will repeat.


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