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Facebook Is Copying Snapchat...Again

Platform introduces disappearing posts in latest stream of lookalike features

March 29, 2017 | Mobile

Facebook unveiled an upgrade that will allow users to post disappearing photos and videos, modeling the feature on Snapchat’s signature offering.

It’s the latest in a series of Snapchat knockoffs by Facebook and its trio of mobile apps Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. The stream of lookalike features not only signals how seriously Facebook takes the threat of Snapchat, but also the risks Snapchat faces if its key features become available—and widely used—on other platforms.

Social Media Platforms Used by US Consumers, Feb 2017 (% of respondents)

“As Instagram and Facebook Messenger adopt features previously unique to Snapchat, potential new users may reconsider adding Snapchat to their social portfolio when they can post stories and play with filters on other networks,” said Jaimie Chung, forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “This trend is especially true for younger age groups.”

Younger users are a key concern for Facebook as it maneuvers to stay ahead of Snapchat in the social space.

Facebook’s US user base is more than twice as large as Snapchat’s. eMarketer estimates that 171.4 million people in the country will use Facebook regularly in 2017, and 70.4 million people will use Snapchat.

Facebook’s dominance is even more apparent when adding in Instagram (not to mention Messenger and WhatsApp) users.

But Facebook is looking to counter the narrative that it is no longer the preferred platform for younger users, who have adopted Snapchat at an extraordinary clip.

Social Media Platform Whose Mobile Notifications US College Students Check First, March 2017 (% of respondents)

For years now, commenters have suggested that Facebook’s appeal among young people is fading. However, according to eMarketer estimates, it remains the most widely used social platform. Among internet users ages 18 to 24, Facebook has a higher penetration level, at 79.0%, compared with Snapchat’s 69.6%.

But simple penetration levels don’t tell the whole story. A variety of surveys have found signals of higher enthusiasm for Facebook’s rival platforms (including some of Facebook’s own units).

For example, a March 2017 survey conducted by LendEdu found that more than half of college students in the US said they checked their Snapchat notifications first, compared with 27% who checked Instagram first and 13% who said the same of Facebook.

That said, a variety of data suggest that Facebook continues to be a regular—and daily—activity among most teen internet users. UBS Evidence Lab found that 65% of teen social media users polled in November 2016 accessed Facebook on a daily basis; 54% said the same about Snapchat.

—Rimma Kats

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