American teens still love Snap's (NYSE:SNAP) Snapchat more than ByteDance's TikTok and Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Instagram, according to Piper Sandler's (NYSE:PIPR) latest "Taking Stock with Teens" survey, which polled 9,800 U.S. teens regarding their favorite brands.

Of the respondents, 34% ranked Snapchat as their favorite social media platform. TikTok also notably surpassed Instagram and claimed second place with a 29% share, while 25% of teens still favored Instagram. Snapchat's popularity with teens isn't surprising, but Piper's latest findings counter the bearish notion that TikTok and Instagram will throttle its long-term growth.

Three teenage girls take a selfie.

Image source: Getty Images.

How fast is Snapchat growing?

Snapchat's daily active users (DAUs) rose 17% year-over-year to 238 million last quarter, marking its fourth straight quarter of double-digit growth. It also continued to gain users on a sequential basis:

DAU Growth

Q2 2019

Q3 2019

Q4 2019

Q1 2020

Q2 2020

YOY

8%

13%

17%

20%

17%

QOQ

7%

3%

4%

5%

4%

Source: Snap. QOQ = Quarter over quarter. YOY = Year over year.

Snap's DAUs grew on both iOS and Android, as well as all three of its global regions (North America, Europe, and Rest of World). Snap expects its DAUs to rise 15%-16% year-over-year in the third quarter.

How teen users are supporting Snapchat's growth

Snapchat, like Instagram and TikTok, became popular with Gen Z users as Facebook's core platform attracted older users -- including their parents, older relatives, and teachers. Those three platforms were considered safe havens for teen users, and Snapchat's vanishing messages made it a secure platform for private communications.

Two girls take a selfie.

Image source: Getty Images.

Snapchat has been expanding its presence among older users by simplifying its app and adding more videos to its Discover tab, but Gen Z users are still supporting the long-term expansion of its ecosystem.

During a conference call this April, Snap's chief business officer Jeremi Gorman said Snapchat offered a "unique and powerful way for marketers to engage with Millennials and Gen Z, which control over $1 trillion in direct spending power and have grown up using their mobile phones." During the same call, CEO Evan Spiegel noted that "more than half" of the Gen Z population in the U.S. was watching news content on Discover.

Spiegel reiterated that percentage during last quarter's conference call in July, and noted that the pandemic and recent protests were supporting that growth. Spiegel also noted its bite-sized Snap Originals "continued to attract audiences that rival those of top TV series, and have reached more than 75% of the U.S. Gen Z population so far this year." As for advertising, Gorman declared the strength of Snap's video-based ads "signals a broader shift in how Gen Z and Millennials consume content."

Expanding its ecosystem to widen its moat

Snapchat's expansion from a simple photo messaging app into a sprawling ecosystem of streaming videos, filters, and video games will likely lock in its Gen Z users and widen its moat against Instagram and TikTok.

At first glance, the competition seems formidable. Instagram, which cloned many of Snapchat's defining features, has about a billion monthly active users (MAUs). TikTok, which is battling a potential ban of its U.S. app, reaches about 850 million MAUs worldwide.

It's tempting to consider these larger apps Snap's direct competitors in the Gen Z market, but many teen users likely use all three apps for different purposes: Snapchat for chats, filters, and videos; TikTok for short videos; and Instagram for posting filtered photos or following brands and celebrities. There's likely plenty of room for all three platforms to expand without trampling each other.

The key takeaways

Snap will post its third-quarter earnings on Oct. 20. Analysts expect its revenue to rise 23% year-over-year, but for its bottom line to stay in the red. Snap's stock isn't cheap at 18 times this year's sales, but it also isn't nearly as frothy as some recent tech IPOs.

I believe Snap still has room to expand, that its growing ecosystem is locking in both younger and older users, and that the competitive threats from Instagram and TikTok are overblown. Piper's latest survey supports my thesis, and I believe Snap's growth over the next few quarters could finally silence the bears.