If Pokémon Go has taught marketers anything, it’s that a new platform capable of explosive growth is always around the corner. Photo app Snapchat might not have rocketed onto the scene like the augmented-reality game, but it has found purchase as a scrappy rival to more established social media platforms.

In fact, the Internet is littered with news stories, op-eds, and blog posts decreeing the obsolescence of Facebook and the ascension of Snapchat.

But not so fast, says John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, which recently conducted a study comparing the two social media companies. The resulting data flies in the face of the anecdotes and assumptions.

“Achieving scale is not an easy thing to do … that’s not to say [Facebook] is protected for infinity; we’ve certainly seen what have happened to other so-called kings of the hill like AOL or Yahoo! say 15–20 years ago,” Dick says. “Snapchat or something like Snapchat will continue to appeal to the youngest sector just because it’s not where everyone else is.”

But Facebook has hedged its bets by establishing a popular network across age and socioeconomic demographics, Dick adds. When polling consumers younger than 35, Civicscience found that 34 percent of Snapchat users ate at quick serves one or more times a week. This number pales in comparison with the 65 percent of Facebook users who will visit a quick serve once or more each week.

Ultimately Facebook is much more difficult to dethrone just because of its sheer size (1.65 billion) compared with Snapchat, which just passed the 100 million user mark.

“Snapchat may grow, and it may outpace Facebook two years from now or even a year from now, but just today the numbers still aren’t there,” Dick says.

He adds that such uncertainty can send brands into a tailspin. Many want to be the first to invest in a new, popular platform that will stand the test of time, but as Dick points out, the history of businesses “is riddled with people who jumped on the bandwagon, and the bandwagon crashed,” he says. “Don’t read an article about Facebook losing young people and then shift all of your young marketing away from Facebook to Snapchat—that’s a huge overreaction.”

That’s not to say that it’s not worth brands exploring up-and-comers like Snapchat or even brand-new wunderkinds like Pokémon Go—so long as they can afford it. Dick compares it to fishing: Facebook is a large pond with an abundance of fish and Snapchat is a smaller one, also teeming with fish; if brands have the resources, they can fish in both ponds. (For more on how brands are mining the Snapchat market, check out our #Trending story in the September issue.)

One thing that marketers can take heart in is the consistency of young consumers in their quick-service spending—if not their social media preferences. Whether it’s a recession or economic boom, the youngest customers (think: high school and college-age students) will frequent and purchase roughly the same amount at foodservice establishment. And since most teens and young adults have limited funds from allowances or part-time jobs, they’re more likely to choose a limited-service restaurant than a sit-down one, Dick says.

“The battleground for social media or any media for young people is going to be a little bit more tilted toward the quick [serve] and fast-casual concepts,” Dick says.


By Nicole Duncan

Consumer Trends, News, Technology