Much has been written about the affinity between teens and the photo- and video-sharing service Snapchat, available only via mobile app. Its original claim to fame was that images and messages self-destruct after a few seconds, so that users needn’t worry about private content being seen by a wide audience or lurking on servers to be discovered by hackers. Snapchat has since developed additional features such as a cash transfer facility, geographical filters and content discovery tools.
Usage has grown steadily since Snapchat’s US launch in 2011. Curiously, though, the rate of growth can be substantially different from country to country, even among teens. That’s one conclusion of the GlobalWebIndex study, “Social Summary Q1 2015.”
When researchers polled internet users ages 16 to 19 in several nations in Q1 2015, they asked how many had accessed Snapchat in the previous month. In Ireland, more than half (52%) had done so. Rates of access were also 40% or higher in Belgium, Sweden and the UK (just ahead of the US, which registered 38%).
Yet penetration was much lower in other leading European markets. In France, only 28% of teens had used Snapchat, and the app’s popularity was even more limited in Germany and Spain, at 24% and 22%, respectively.
To some degree, these results mirror data on social network usage more generally. eMarketer estimates that the share of internet users who also frequent social networks is lower in France, Germany and Spain than in other European markets. While 61.1% of web users across Western Europe are expected to use social networks at least monthly this year, the proportion in those three countries will be less than 60%. And in all three cases, the share of the national population using social networks will also fall short of the regional average (44.9%).
One might expect teen habits to deviate from these norms—especially as Snapchat is a mobile service, and teens tend to be keen mobile phone users. In Germany, for example, Bitkom found that 61% of younger people, ages 14 to 29, used a smartphone to go online in late 2014, compared with 57% who used a desktop PC to access the web. In Spain, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) reported that 89.6% of internet users ages 16 to 24 went online via mobile phone in the three months before polling in 2014—a higher proportion than any other age bracket.
Moreover, social networking via mobile is hardly new. In France, for example, 46% of teen internet users said they used a mobile phone to visit social sites, according to November 2014 polling by Ipsos for Bayard, Milan and Disney Hachette Presse. Listening to music was the only activity more commonly conducted on a mobile phone.
A more likely explanation of lower Snapchat uptake in France, Germany and Spain is that other social networks (such as Facebook) already have the allegiance of many teens, and that Snapchat is taking time to build momentum, even in the demographic groups where it should have greatest appeal. In France, the network didn’t even figure among the top seven social media sites whose usage among children and teens was queried.