And Snapchat will continue to surge through 2020: The ephemeral-messaging service will add 26.9 million users, about twice that of Twitter and Pinterest, over the next four years, per eMarketer’s forecast.
However, Facebook Messenger will continue to dominate the chat-app category in the U.S., with 105.2 million users in the States by the end of 2016, meaning nearly two-thirds of Americans will use Facebook Messenger at least once a month this year. That’s about double the users of Snapchat, Twitter (56.8 million) and Pinterest (54.6 million), according to eMarketer.
Snapchat may already be bigger than Twitter by some measures. According to data from a slide deck for investors, Snapchat had 110 million daily active users in December, meaning that at this point it may be exceeding Twitter’s daily active base (a metric the company has stopped disclosing). For the eMarketer study, the firm defines a user as someone who logs into an account at least once a month consistently over a calendar year, so that users with multiple active accounts count as only one user in its estimates; the methodology also excludes active bot accounts.
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Snapchat’s core features remain its vanishing user-to-user messages and public Stories, while it also has built up its Discover section for media partners, adding a feature this week to let users subscribe to individual publishers.
What makes Snapchat stand out from rival mobile messaging apps and social networks are the short-lived nature of its messages as well as its highly visual interface and features that let users add creative touches to their posts, according to eMarketer principal analyst Cathy Boyle. Snapchat’s Lens feature, for example, have let user take selfies of themselves barfing rainbows or transforming into characters from “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
“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,” she said.
Snapchat has particular strength in younger demos. Adults 18-24 are the largest slice, representing 34% of its projected 2016 U.S. user base, followed by those 25-34 at 27%. The fastest-growing U.S. age group for Snapchat is people under 12, a cohort that 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,” Boyle said. “This desire is particularly strong among millennials and younger consumers who don’t have strong ties to the traditional social networks.”