How are teenagers using social networks? Can Shots of Me surpass Facebook?

Shots of Me, the new social network for selfies (photos taken of oneself), has famously raised $1.1 million USD in a seed-funding round led by Justin Bieber. The pop star's involvement has brought more than big money, however; it's whipped up a media frenzy, and encouraged speculation as to whether his 43 million Twitter followers migrate to Shots of Me.

Although the app has barely launched, the buzz is already a good example of a broader trend: teenagers are abandoning Facebook for a slew of new apps. 

Why teens may be ‘so over’ Facebook

While Facebook is nowhere near dead, having hit 1.11 billion monthly active users earlier this year, it’s losing its place as the number one social network in teenagers’ hearts.

Only 23% of teenagers call Facebook the most important social network, down from a high of 42% a year ago, according to a recent survey conducted by investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray. Who's taken the lead in Facebook's place? Twitter, which 26% named as their most important social network.

Whether this is reason for Facebook to be concerned is up for debate. Some teenagers say it's over, including Ruby Karp, who famously wrote a piece titled I'm 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook on Mashable last August. Teenagers don’t want to be on a social media site that their mom and grandmother also use, she argues, pointing out that Facebook is just too complicated, and useless given that all teenagers are already using a gazillion other apps and social networks.

Others disagree. Adora Svitak, two years older than Ruby Karp, argued in her response piece “I’m 15 and All of My Friends Use Facebook“ that enthusiasm might have dropped, but teenagers are still on Facebook, because it’s the modern Yellow Pages. She ends the piece with the unbeatable argument that Karp is young, and she’ll change her mind as soon as she gets to her 15th birthday.

Why other social networks are popular

Most teenagers use Instagram to share their life in pictures, either publicly or privately, to engage with and get approval from their friends; according to the Piper Jaffray survey, it's now as important as Facebook for teens. They often use Tumblr to share microblog posts; Snapchat to communicate privately with their friends using pictures that self-destruct within a few seconds; Vine to share 6-second videos, and Kik to chat on their mobile, Svitak says.

All of these services lead us to the not-so-surprising conclusion that teenagers have different needs than adults, and teenagers today are different from the teenagers that we were.

First, teenagers, and especially today’s teenagers, have short attention spans, meaning that they would much rather see pictures than read long statuses on Facebook, or use simple, single-function social networks.

They want to control their online reputation and control their privacy, which explains why they love Path so much. On Path, they only share info with their top 150 friends; similarly on Snapchat, their messages get deleted within a few seconds.

In her article, Svitak makes one final important point: teenagers are followers. They want to look cool in front of their friends, and be on the new trendy social networks. Thus, they change social networks as soon as their peers are over it or need something new. 

Why does Shots of Me have a chance? 

The network for selfies might be Bieber’s first personal investment without the help of his manager (or was it truly not a managed decision?), but he might have made a smart move. Shots of Me has everything teenagers look for:

  • It’s visually oriented.

  • It’s easy to join: it took me less than 30 seconds to set up my account and learn how it works.

  • It’s parent-proof: parents have yet to jump on the selfie bandwagon.

  • Users can control their privacy: you can make it private, and even if you have a public account, no one can publicly comment on your pictures. You can like a picture but you can only comment in a private message. This is ostensibly to protect against bullies. 
  • It has celebrity cachet.
  • RockLive, the startup behind the app, has experience in marketing to high school girls from their previous successful games.

Selfies have been around for quite some time now, and given teenagers’ flighty natures, they’re bound to go out of fashion at some point. But Shots of Me is betting that the won't happen anytime soon.


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