Jun 4, 2024 - Business

"Not your mom's Facebook:" Inside Meta's plan to win back the youth


Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

There are 40 million daily active users of Facebook in the U.S. and Canada between the ages of 18 and 29, says Tom Alison, the app's head.

Reality check: Facebook, which turned 20 this year, is being selective about how much it's choosing to reveal, but rough estimates suggest that's just 19% of its North American daily active user base.

  • The company said there were 205 million daily active users of Facebook in the U.S. and Canada at the end of last year. It no longer breaks out daily active users by geography.

The big picture: Teen Facebook usage has dropped dramatically over the past decade, earning Facebook a reputation as an app overrun by boomers sharing outdated memes and misinformation.

  • The company is finally revealing its Gen Z user numbers after starting to make progress winning younger users back, Alison tells Axios. (Figures from Pew Research Center support that claim, although progress is marginal.)
  • "In order to continue to be relevant, we need to make sure that the social products that we build work for them."

Zoom in: Facebook is focused on three major changes to win over Gen Z.

  1. Feed: The company has refocused its core product suite to focus on discovery of content relevant to younger audiences, including shoppable goods in its Marketplace feature, dating, groups and events. It's shuttered features that weren't core to social discovery, such as audio and news products.
  2. Reels: It's put a greater emphasis on short-form video within Facebook via Reels, and it's made it easier for users to share that type of content privately via messaging. Private sharing on Facebook has grown 80% year over year, Alison says.
  3. Creators: The company developed a professional mode to make the app more creator-friendly. It said more than 100 million daily active users globally follow at least one professional page.

Between the lines: The changes — which for now have mostly been focused on its most lucrative market, North America — have improved engagement across all cohorts, including older users, Alison says.

  • The U.S. "tends to be a bellwether for other parts of the world," which gives Alison confidence that Facebook's new focus will translate globally.

Zoom out: Alison's interview is part of a broader marketing effort to make sure Gen Z is aware of the app's new focus.

  • Facebook hosted an event in New York last week for younger creators, highlighting the company's plan to remain relevant for another 20 years.
  • The company handed out pamphlets to attendees that read, "We are not your mom's Facebook," but rather, "a hub for all things culturally happening in the platform's underground."

State of play: Despite continuing to invest in mixed reality and the metaverse, Meta is now more focused on ways generative AI can shape its content recommendations and fuel engagement across its social apps.

  • Asked how changes to Facebook differ from Meta's plans for Instagram, Alison says Facebook will be more focused on connecting young users to experiences via groups, events, dating, etc., while Instagram will focus more on content discovery and creator connection.

What to watch: The ongoing threat of a TikTok ban could be a boon to Facebook's push to win over younger users, but Alison says the firm's road map isn't contingent on what happens to its rivals.

  • "While we're kind of watching it, we haven't really adjusted our road map or are planning any kind of changes, because we just don't still don't exactly know how that's all going to play out," he says.
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