By Brad Ross, Global Trend Forecasting

While some social media networks are gaining momentum (i.e. Snapchat and Instagram), one of the latest trends quickly gaining momentum in social-media platforms is the choice to not have one at all (“social-media suicide”). Has social media hit critical mass? For many young adults, the short answer is, yes. Facebook’s penetration among Millennials is rapidly decreasing and Gen Z has essentially rendered it passe’. However, before you (click) out on me, let me be clear: social networks aren't dying, but their loyalty demographics are certainly shifting. Boomers are flocking to Facebook in record numbers, but Millennials and Gen Z’s are shifting their focus elsewhere. As a card-carrying GenXer, I personally can understand the social-media fatigue, however lets look at (those who haven’t checked out) where they are going and why.

I’d like to revisit a key characteristic found in both the Millennials and Gen Z that has altered all of our collective preferences; it is the concept of, “REAL.” These two massive demographics are not merely interested in an experience, but a “REAL” experience…NOW! Many Millennials and Gen Z’s feel there is an unrealistic façade created on social platforms that is not consistent IRL (In Real Life). This directly applies also to companies choosing to use these platforms for marketing purposes.

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Snapchat, on the other hand, represents the growing movement towards real time (erasable media), with honest, raw content that isn't polished, but fun. Postings are excitingly here one minute, gone the next. This vanishing feature suggests that perhaps young adults have realized the wisdom in not having every impulse immortalized, for all the world to see.

According to Martin-Wilbourn Partners, Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among millennials, with a 32.9% penetration on the demographic's mobile phones, trailing only Instagram (43.1%) and Facebook (75.6%).. Snapchat’s penetration is even more powerful among the coveted college-aged demographic, with 70% of college students reporting posting on Snapchat at least once a day compared to 11% reporting posting on Facebook with the same frequency.

Adding additional social-media networks may seem overwhelming to brands and retailers, however, now more than ever, companies must evolve with their consumers and  analyze their key audiences to determine which platforms provide the best engagement. Take for example, the long- standing, multinational conglomerate corporation, General Electric, who is now successfully operating in real time on Snapchat. They are doing a fantastic job of using their platform to not only showcase their geeky personality, but to also encourage an interest in science. And this is a perfect marriage, since Snapchat is all about relating to your target audience on a totally human level.

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Social media has undoubtedly leveled the playing field.  In a world where everyone can be a recording artist, photographer, food critic, model, etc. out of the comfort of his own home, the once staunch hierarchy of celebrity vs. commoner no longer exists.  Millennials and Gen Z’s are all about, “Each person matters and has a story.”  When retailers can successfully grab hold of this concept and present their products in real time and in a fun and human way…skies the limit. In today’s market, ripe with “delete-ist” consumers, providing the most relevant, real and relatable social platforms, will make the difference between click-throughs and click-offs.

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