CivicScience | TikTok Poses a Competitive Threat, But to Which Platform?

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TikTok Poses a Competitive Threat, But to Which Platform?

Image Credit: Photo by Josh Rose on Unsplash

Instagram and Snapchat have been rivals for some time. This rivalry is evidenced perhaps most clearly when Instagram introduced its Stories feature – images or videos that would disappear after 24 hours. Although certainly not the only moment of tension, this was, in many eyes, a direct grab at Snapchat’s popularity.

But when leadership at Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, suggested Instagram could begin to vie with TikTok, CivicScience reviewed its surveys of over 80,000 Americans about their experiences with all three apps. 

The Youth Lead on Social Media

As it stands, current Snapchat usage is at 25%, while Instagram usage is at 44% – close to double that of Snapchat.

The heaviest users for Instagram and Snapchat lean young – Gen Z and Millennials account for a huge portion of their user bases. Gen Z leads all age brackets in usage across both platforms, including TikTok.

Taking Stock of Instagrammers

CivicScience data show Instagram usage went up in Q2 of 2019, but then plummeted in Q3 and hasn’t totally rebounded since. But overall usage of Snapchat was essentially even quarter to quarter.

What happened in Q3 of 2019? According to Business Insider, the video app TikTok became the “number one free non-gaming iOS app in the US for the first time.” Since the TikTok user base is so heavily dominated by Gen Z, CivicScience took a look at social media usage among Gen Z and Millennials to see if any trends existed.

For Millennials, overall usage is slightly up from January 2019 when 54% of adults in this age group were using the app. Usage spiked in May 2019, at 66%, but took a dramatic drop in June, losing 10% of Millennial users, for a total of 56% who were still using the app. The demographic hasn’t returned in a substantial way since the drop. As of January 2020, 57% of Millennials are on The Gram, which is actually a 5% increase since the same time last year, but given the volatile nature of its usership, only time will tell if Millennials will stick around.

For Gen Z, however, overall usage of Instagram has been relatively consistent. In January 2019, 64% were using the app. In August of that year, Gen Z usage dipped to 62% but rose again to 69% in November. As of January 2020, 63% of Gen Z uses The Gram. Not only was there much less variability among this age group, but also Gen Z is still using Instagram at a higher rate than Millennials.

Gen Z and Millennials on Snapchat

The story shifts slightly for Snapchat. In the past year, Snapchat has seen greater variability from its Gen Z users than Instagram has. In January 2019, 52% of Gen Z was on the app. This hit a peak in May – the same month Instagram usage peaked for this demographic – with 57% using Snapchat at that time. By July 2019, Gen Z usage had dropped to 49%. After another spike in November to 57%, Gen Z users settled back down to 50% at the start of this year.  

Ultimately, a 3.8% decrease in usage from January 2019 to January 2020 does not necessarily indicate a long-term decline, however, the peaks and valleys are telling, especially since a similar trajectory was not seen among Instagram users in that age group. 

Since June 2019, usage of Snapchat among Millennials has hovered around 40% with only slight disruption mid-year before normalizing again.

Overall, the ups and downs among Millennial Instagram users and Millennial Snapchat users could mean 25- to 34-year-olds are thinking about shifting their social media usage, but it’s too early to tell. At this point, the data suggests that Gen Z is consistently using Instagram while perhaps slowing in their usage of Snapchat.

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