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The launch of Facebook’s Slingshot app and the trick of engaging teens on social media

Written by Louise Orpin Monday, 23 June 2014.

This week, in a bid to be seen as "cool" again to teens on mobile and social platforms, Facebook launched its latest app Slingshot. It was around last month too as Facebook accidentally pushed Slingshot live in Malaysia and then pulled it out again.

This newest app allows users to share photos and videos with friends and send so called reaction shots. The app uses an unlocking mechanism whereby photos that are received from friends must be unlocked by "slinging" a different, self-destructing photo back to the original sender. The launch of the app is quite obviously Facebook's answer to SnapChat and an attempt to attract teens who increasingly are losing interest in the social network.

Increasingly people think the reason Facebook is seen as uncool and 'dead' among teens is that parents of these teens have started using Facebook - therefore putting teens off. However, looking at the data and looking into it in more detail, having mum and dad on Facebook is only part of the story - there's more to it.

Chat apps, photo-sharing social networks, and single-purpose apps in general are better for social networking and media consumption for teens. This is the reason behind the rise of SnapChat and WhatsApp, which now boast more than 26 million and 500 million users respectively. As a result, Facebook isn't the best place for a young and connected individual to spend their time, hence the social network giant is now seen as 'uncool'.

It seems as if Facebook itself has accepted the fact that it has lost its cool and that single purpose apps are the social network's future in order to survive. With its 1.28 billion users the social network still is still king of social when it comes to user numbers. Teenagers are not necessarily leaving the social network permanently; they may still have their account but are simply indifferent to its existence. As Fast Company reports, the reason for indifference is far more complex, individual, and due to the proliferation of better, more exact tools for communication.

This may explain why user numbers for single purpose apps are growing by the day; WhatsApp now has 500 million active users and Messenger and Instagram both have 200 million. The launch of the Yo app, which caused a buzz online last week, is also an illustration of the quick pick up of single purpose and defined apps. Overshadowing the release of Slingshot, the Yo app that only lets users say 'yo' to friends unexpectedly topped Facebook's Slingshot on iOS. The founders claim that there's more to the app, as it introduces a new way to get lightweight, non-intrusive notifications.

It will be interesting to see how Slingshot and Yo will fare in the long term and whether these apps will reach the success level of SnapChat or WhatsApp. One thing is certain; Facebook is finally starting to think beyond the single big blue app and thinking more about multiple defined and single purpose apps.

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About the Author

Louise Orpin

Louise's journey to become a woman in tech has been an interesting one. Louise has a background in marketing and education, having worked as Managing Director of Sense Interactive before setting up LOCo (LO Consulting) in 2005. Through work on Sense Interactive, she developed a vested interest in and knowledge of online privacy and social media. She launched TimeAppsule, a social messaging app in December 2013 as the first time-locked messaging app. The app has generated online traction and received positive reviews, with several thousand downloads in the first few months after launch.


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