SAN DIEGO, Calif. (TheStreet) -- Ephemeral photo-sharing startup Snapchat raised more than a few eyebrows in 2014 when it secured a $10 billion valuation, more than triple what Facebook (FB) - Get Report was said to be willing to pay for the company in 2013. What makes the social media platform with comparatively little actual revenue worth so much?
The answer lies in several eye-opening audience measurement statistics. Launched in July 2011 by a couple of Stanford University students as a way to share photos that disappeared after being shared, Snapchat had as many as 100 million monthly active users by August, according to TheWall Street Journal. Such rapid growth puts it on par with the early growth of Facebook and Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report .
On Dec. 31, Snapchat filed a Form D with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing that it had raised nearly half a billion dollars, or $485.63 million, from 23 investors. The filing detailed its most recent round of financing, which had been rumored for several months. The financing, the company's sixth round, is its largest yet and brings Snapchat's total publicly disclosed fundraising to $648 million.
Given Snapchat's growing popularity, several research companies and analytics firms have set out to understand the size and demographic makeup of the app's audience. GlobalWebIndex's third-quarter market research study on digital consumer behavior found that not only is Snapchat's audience the youngest among all social and messaging apps, but the app is growing at a faster clip than its peers.
Not all of the statistics collected by third parties are glowing. ComScore found that Snapchat accumulated 20% fewer minutes in November than it did in October. The firm also measured U.S. adult unique visitors as highest in May of 2014.
Still, it seems to fair to conclude that Snapchat has the kind of numbers that warrant a $10 billion valuation, particularly if you compare the app's engagement figures with those of Twitter and Instagram. Instagram, bought for $1 billion by Facebook in 2012, is still in the early stages of monetizing its service. Citi Research recently gave it a $35 billion valuation. Twitter has a market capitalization of about $23 billion.
What follows are some of the most eye-catching stats about Snapchat's audience.
No. 1. Snapchat users send 700 million "snaps" -- a.k.a. photo and video messages -- per day, and view 1 billion "Stories" per day, according to the company. Stories are a Snapchat function released last October that allows users to share snaps with all of their followers in digital diary-like format. Snaps in Stories live for 24 hours instead of a few seconds.
Given those figures, Snapchat users seem to have an especially voracious appetite for consuming content and oversharing. Though not an apples-to-apples comparison, Twitter users send more than 500 million tweets per day and Instagram users post around 70 million photos per day.
No. 2. In the U.S., Snapchat's mobile app had 24.9 million adult unique visitors in the month of November, according to ComScore, and that excludes the app's core demographic of tweens and teens under the age of 18. By comparison, Twitter had 35 million mobile application unique visitors 18 and older and Pinterest had 28.5 million mobile application unique visitors in the same month.
Snapchat's adult U.S. audience, then, is closing in on Pinterest's adult audience and is already in the same ballpark as Twitter's adult audience, which could mean that the app has more universal appeal than original believed and could grow into the next great social network.
According to the report, messaging app Kik has the second youngest audience, with 50% of users in the same age bracket.
The same report found that Facebook was the only network in its study to have seen a drop in active usage -- down half a percent in 2014 -- from youngsters in the 16 to 24 age range.
"The teen problem is present here once again for Facebook: teens over-index more strongly for Snapchat than any other app, with the highest usage rates among this audience coming in key markets such as the U.K., Canada, the U.S.A. and Australia," Jason Mander, GlobalWebIndex's head of trends, wrote in the report.
No. 4. Further demonstrating Snapchat's appeal among youngsters, a July 2014 poll conducted by media research and services company NuVoodoo found that 36.8% of 14-to-17-year-old U.S. Internet users said they used Snapchat at least weekly.
In a survey of 7,000 class of 2014 high school graduates, 65% of respondents said they used Snapchat at least occasionally, 46% indicated they used it daily, and 39% said they "snapped" multiple times per day. That's according to Niche, a content site founded in 2002 to help students and parents make educational choices.
The survey also said 45% of those asked don't use Twitter and 92% don't use LinkedIn (LNKD) .
No. 6. In a July 2014 poll, 70% of U.S. college students ages 18 to 24 who used social networks said they used Snapchat at least once per day, vs. 46% who used Twitter daily and 11% who posted to Facebook daily. The poll was conducted by the college community site Sumpto with some of the results published and analyzed by eMarketer.
The same poll found that college students felt they had the most privacy on Snapchat and the least privacy on Facebook.
The app grew its audience by 56% with particularly high adoption rates among young people in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Ireland and Canada. During the same period, Facebook Messenger grew its audience by 52%, Instagram grew its audience by 47%, and Line grew its audience by 44%.
No. 8. More than a tenth, or 11%, of 18-and-older Internet users in the U.S. accessed Snapchat in a 30-day period, according to the November 2014 "TWTR/Social User Survey" conducted by Cowen and Company, the brokerage arm of Cowen Group (COWN) - Get Report . A Raymond James survey from September arrived at the same figure.
According to the Cowen report, during the same 30-day period, 2% of U.S. Internet users 18 and older accessed Tinder, 10% accessed Tumblr, and 18% accessed Instagram.
The usage figures highlight that Snapchat can capture the attention of adults just as successfully as its peers.
No. 10. Snapchat still has room for improvement, of course. In terms of total minutes, Snapchat accrued 3.15 billion minutes in the month of November from U.S. Internet users, according to ComScore, while Twitter raked in 6.42 billion minutes and Instagram saw 8.94 billion minutes.
Still, getting 52.5 million hours of U.S. Internet users' time in a single month is quite the feat for an app that appeared on the social scene just three years ago.
--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in San Diego, Calif.
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