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Summary:

We Heart It is a success with teenage girls, but can it rise above its roots and hit the mainstream?

Teens and younger adults are a special kind of currency for social media sites: high concentrations of the under-24 demographic is often seen as a sign of longevity or potential (think SnapChat or Tumblr), while a decreased number can lead some to believe that the platform is struggling to keep up (see: Facebook). San Francisco-based Photo-sharing platform We Heart It — which operates like a mix of Instagram and Pinterest and emphasizes the communication of feelings — is hitting it big with teen girls. Four out of five of the site’s over 25 million users are under, and more than 70 percent are female.

The demographic makeup of We Heart It is probably the most fascinating thing about the service, created in 2007 in Brazil but only incorporated in the U.S. in 2011.  It focuses on strong visual imagery and emotions, but strips out comments — and the potential for negative interactions. That high concentration of young women is apparent on the platform, where pictures of quotes and landscapes are  broken up with shirtless pictures of Zac Efron or swirly notebook drawings.

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We Heart It is now trying to turn its success with teenagers into a full-blown revenue stream with Collections, a service it released from beta Wednesday that allows users to group photos together into a package and share them. For example, the company held a Collections contest entitled “Spring Escapes” in March that encouraged users to put together a collection on what vacation means to them. Substitute that sentiment for a collection photos of how its user base consumes Nutella or wears the latest fashions from Abercrombie and Fitch, and the company has fashioned a hyper-specific way for brands to connect with their target demographic, and We Heart It gets revenue from the campaigns.

But success with teen girls doesn’t mean success with a broader audience, and when asked, We Heart It CEO Ranah Edelin was vague with how he plans to bring his social platform out of that coveted niche and hit a broader mainstream audience. Edelin, who was on the ground floor at music service Rhapsody, says that the company is focusing on opening up those revenue streams as a way to get to a broader audience. Plus, he adds, it’s easier to transition from a younger audience to an older audience, rather than the other way around.

They are much more comfortable expressing themselves visually, as evidenced by the popularity among young people of visual services like us, Instagram, and Snapchat,” Edelin said. “It should also be noted that it’s very common for women to be fueling the growth and activity in these next generation social services.”

The platform remains a fascinating case study in how to get into the minds of teen girls, and if it manages to turn that special currency into actual currency, then it can sustain the social platform for its young audience.

Featured image from Kateryna Yakovlieva/Shutterstock

  1. A new app to research, maybe?

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