Popularity with people under the age of 25 is no guarantee that a social media site or app is going to get you to Scrooge McDuck levels of wealth. So let it be written, so let it be done.
The app (Snapchat) doesn’t make any money—its executives have barely even mentioned any desire to make money—but in the ad-supported tech industry, youth is the next best thing to revenue. For tech execs, youngsters are the canaries in the gold mine.
That logic follows a widely shared cultural belief: We all tend to assume that young people are on the technological vanguard, that they somehow have got an inside scoop on what’s next. If today’s kids are Snapchatting instead of Facebooking, the thinking goes, tomorrow we’ll all be Snapchatting, too, because tech habits, like hairstyles, flow only one way: young to old.
There is only one problem with elevating young people’s tastes this way: Kids are often wrong. There is little evidence to support the idea that the youth have any closer insight on the future than the rest of us do. Sometimes they are first to flock to technologies that turn out to be huge; other times, the young pick products and services that go nowhere. They can even be late adopters, embracing innovations that older people understood first. To butcher another song: The kids could be all wrong.
In fact, teenagers and college students are pretty fickle when it comes to their use of social media. Sure, they are often the bellweather for fads. But that’s just it. FADS. A fad is short-term. It’s not hanging around long.
Gotta hand it to Snapchat for being unwilling to sell out to the man, tho. Not yet, anyway.