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Snapchat Could Overtake Facebook, Instagram Among Young U.S. Users for First Time

Facebook's user growth is expected to slow this year among teens and young adults in the U.S.—two demographic groups that are highly coveted by marketers.

Facebook's loss of monthly users between the ages of 12 and 17 will accelerate to 3.4% this year compared to a 1.2% drop in 2016, research firm eMarketer said on Monday. Meanwhile, growth in users under the age of 12 and between 18 and 24 will slow 3.1% and 14.5%, respectively, for the year.

The predicted decline (or slower growth) among younger age groups is a problem for Facebook as it tries to retain younger users to remain an attractive destination for advertisers. In the most recent quarter, Facebook reported nearly $9.2 billion in ad revenue, up 47% from the same period last year.

But Facebook's struggles with younger users are gains for its subsidiary, the photo-centric service Instagram, as well as for social media rival Snapchat. For the first time, Snapchat will overtake Facebook and Instagram among the 12-to-17 and 18-to-24 age groups in terms of U.S. users this year, eMarketer said, while Snapchat's share of U.S. social networks users will grow to 40.8%, up from 31.6% last year.

Overall, Facebook's total monthly users are expected to increase 2.4% this year, to 172.9 million in the U.S., signaling that the service is far from hopeless. The eMarketer report attributes Facebook's overall user uptick to "increased adoption by older internet users."

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EMarketer has better news for Facebook-owned Instagram, which is expected to post growth in monthly U.S. users of 23.8% this year. Monthly Instagram users under 12 years old are expected to increase 19%, with the 12-to-17 group growing 8.8%.

"Facebook is fortunate that it owns Instagram, which remains a strong platform for teens," eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in a statement.

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