How Mobile App Success Rests on Where Your Users Spend Their Time


Paul Barnes, Territory Director Northern Europe and Middle East at App Annie

Apps have become one of the most influential devices in driving consumer behaviour, with over 900 billion hours spent in apps worldwide in 2016 and over 30 apps on average used per month. People now manage a myriad of different aspects of their lives with apps – a ubiquitous component to everyday life.

The reality is that, on a daily basis, the average consumer uses approximately 10 apps. By understanding how these apps are used, where consumers are spending their time and in which apps, mobile marketers gain a unique insights into behavioural trends of a highly influential audience.

One of the most prolifically influential apps on the young millennial market has been the social media app Snapchat. What is especially interesting is the way in which Snapchat users appear to behave. We learn a lot by looking at the cross-app usage between Snapchat and other top social apps.

Social media apps have proliferated over the past several years. While most started out with a distinct differentiator, the increasing pressure to bolster their user base and attract advertiser interest has led many to borrow key features or UI elements from the competition. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

So it would be natural to assume that, by this point, the user bases of leading social and messaging apps are similar enough that you can market on one or two platforms and essentially hit your entire audience.

Of course we all know that’s wrong. Just as cross-posting on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram with the same content simultaneously does no business any favours.

Using App Annie Intelligence, we analysed user overlap across some of the most popular social and messaging apps. What we found is that Snapchat, has a truly unique and exclusive audience. Digging into the data, the implications for marketers become clearer.

Where Do Snapchat Users Spend Their Time?

We analysed smartphone users in the United States and the United Kingdom during Q4 2016 to see how they divide their time between social apps, with a specific interest in audience overlap with Snapchat. Overall, the most overlap occurred with Facebook’s main apps: Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.



However, it’s clear that there is a distinct audience that shows a preference for Snapchat. On any given day in the US, 35% of Snapchat’s daily users cannot be reached by Facebook, 46% can’t be reached by Instagram and 58% can’t be reached by Messenger. Given Facebook’s global reach, marketers should take notice that a significant number of Snapchat users are not using Facebook on a daily basis.


While there’s more overlap in the UK — especially with WhatsApp — the findings are similar. Back in June 2016, Snap CSO Imran Khan shared that on any given day, the app reached 41% of US users aged 18–34. This demographic is coveted by advertisers for their disposable income and propensity to spend money. So, in order to reach Snapchat’s valuable audience, you should strongly consider developing a Snapchat-centric approach.

What does this mean for marketers?

The data shows that social app users don’t view these services as interchangeable — they’re picking one or a few platforms and centralising their time there. This means that marketers should make sure their audience profiles account for specific app preferences and behaviour. Painting a picture of your audience with broad strokes could be a costly and time-consuming mistake. Instead, learn your users’ app habits to learn more about their communication style, media preferences and, most importantly, where they’re spending the majority of their time.

Furthermore, speaking more widely, there is no one size fits all approach; there’s huge variability across categories in user behaviour. It is important to define KPIs based on your app’s specific use case, in addition to aligning your engagement strategy and your app itself around user behaviour. In the new digital economy, time is money. Put your money where users are spending their time.

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