Facebook's 'Meta' Name Change Has Also Sparked the Beginning of its New Effort to Win Back the Youth
Can Facebook reclaim younger users and re-establish itself as the go-to social media platform in the future?
It's no secret that Facebook is losing momentum to TikTok and Snapchat among younger audiences, as trends have shown for some time and were verified by the latest Facebook Files data dumps. Indeed, among the thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents shared by former Facebook engineer Frances Haugen were various notes and charts showing that younger audiences have been steadily losing interest in The Social Network, including this graph, which shows that platform usage among those aged 18-24 has been declining since 2012.
That's a big problem because, while Facebook still has 2.9 billion users, making it by far the most popular social media app on the planet, its usage in established regions (North America and Europe) is pretty much static, even declining quarter-by-quarter, which, if it can't reverse such trends and re-engage younger audiences, could see the platform lose relevance entirely, and lose touch with a whole new generation of digital consumers who may no longer care about it. That's what happened to MySpace, and as Facebook looks to the future, it recognizes the importance of maximizing its youth appeal to stay on top of the heap, and, more importantly, to drive interest in its next metaverse-aligned change.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged this in the company's most recent earnings report, saying that re-establishing connections with younger audiences will be a significant focus moving ahead. Facebook has claimed that instead of optimizing for the bigger number of older individuals, they are retooling their teams to focus on servicing young adults. As with anything, there will be trade-offs in our offerings, and the rest of their community will likely expand more slowly than it would otherwise. However, it should also mean that their services for young adults will improve. This move will take years, not months, to completely implement, and I believe it is the best strategy for long-term community and company growth.
So, how can Facebook accomplish this, and will it be able to re-engage younger audiences given that the site is perceived as more intrusive, less cool - and far behind TikTok as the go-to place for the current trends?
We're only witnessing the beginnings of this new strategy right now. Following the launch of its new 'Meta' branding last week, Facebook released a series of video spots featuring – not surprisingly – TikTok stars discussing the change. Facebook has worked with numerous high-profile TikTok creators to put a more light-hearted, trending spin on their corporate rebranding emphases, as you can see in this clip from the genuinely wonderful Emily Zugay (whose delivery is just so right on).
A comment from Angry Reactions and another one from Khaby Lame, the originator of common sense, are among the other clips.
Note the #metapartner tag on each of these videos; these were not made at random, and these influencers were not naturally prompted to respond to Facebook's change. These people were paid by Facebook to generate these clips, which they subsequently promoted from their own branded accounts. At the same time, Facebook is attempting to capitalize on other similar memes and trends in the hopes of increasing youth involvement.
Even if it feels forced, using these popular influencers and acknowledging web trends could help Facebook boost its youth appeal, either by softening its brand image through more lighthearted takes or by appearing on the profiles of these popular users and becoming a part of web trends, rather than being the brunt of such jokes. It's difficult to say whether it will succeed, and a business body attempting to embrace web culture can certainly fail. There are 100 brands for every Wendy's Twitter account that attempt and fail to post snappy, humorous retorts, and wind up seeming needy as a result. And some of Facebook's early initiatives appeared to be in the same direction.