In the battle among the social networks to attract new users, 2016 will be a banner year for Snapchat. It will grow its user base by double digits, pulling ahead of Twitter and Pinterest in the US for the first time, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast on mobile messaging apps. And the gap will only widen through 2020.
While certain social media companies disclose monthly or daily active users, eMarketer defines a user as someone who logs into an account at least once a month consistently over a calendar year. That means users with multiple active accounts count as only one person in our estimates, which also ignore active accounts such as bots.
This year, Snapchat’s US user base will jump by 27.2% to 58.6 million users. Snapchat’s growth rate far exceeds that of mobile messaging in general—the category as a whole will grow by 16% in the US this year. Meanwhile, Twitter will have 56.8 million users in the US this year and Pinterest will have 54.6 million users. By 2020, Snapchat will add 26.9 million users, about double that of Twitter and Pinterest.
“What makes Snapchat different from other mobile messaging apps—and more-established social networks—is the short-lived nature of the messages, the highly visual interface and the features that enable users to get creative with the images they share, and tailor them to specific locations or events,” said eMarketer principal analyst Cathy Boyle. “The fun aspect of Snapchat should also be credited for its success. In a world in which there is an app for nearly everything, Snapchat has cut through the clutter by injecting fun back into social sharing.”
Snapchat has been especially successful at capturing younger users, particularly those 12 to 34. Snapchat’s biggest user base is between 18 and 24, with that age range representing 34.0% of Snapchat’s user base this year. That’s followed by Americans between 25 and 34, which represent 27.0% of Snapchat’s US user base. The fastest growing US age group for Snapchat is people under 12, which will grow 42.9% this year.
“Snapchat has tapped into a key change in consumer behavior: The desire for intimate one-to-one or one-to-few communication as opposed to broadcast-style sharing across an entire network. This desire is particularly strong among millennials and younger consumers who don’t have strong ties to the traditional social networks,” said Boyle.
Even with its explosive growth however, Snapchat will not be able to catch up to Facebook Messenger, which will continue to dominate the chat app category in the US. Messenger will capture 105.2 million users in the US this year—about twice that of Snapchat. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the US population will use Facebook Messenger at least once a month in 2016.
Over the next four years, the gap between Facebook Messenger and its rivals will widen. This year, Messenger will have 46.6 million more users than Snapchat. But by 2018, it will have 53.7 million more users.