It's no secret that Facebook is losing touch with the youth, with numerous reports highlighting the platform's slow fall in popularity among young users while Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok continue to grow in popularity.
As indicated by this data from the latest Facebook Files breaches, Facebook used to be the dominant platform for teenage social participation, but it has since lost its extraordinary appeal and has become more of a shelter for older users. Despite the addition of Stories and the integration of Reels into the more extensive Facebook experience, it isn't catching on like it used to. In the long run, which might cause enormous problems for the platform – and which Zuck and his colleagues are currently addressing.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in yesterday's Q3 results announcement that the network would make regaining the youth a top focus moving forward, even if it means losing older users as a result. Instead of optimizing for the more significant proportion of older individuals, Facebook is retooling its 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 transition will take years, not months, to completely implement, and Zuckerberg believes it is the best approach for the long-term growth of their community and company.
Zuckerberg understands that young trends are critical to long-term growth since they are the entrance point for future users. Losing contact with the youth means eventually losing touch. Thus Facebook is putting a greater emphasis on youthful users, resulting in significant changes to the app.
But what exactly changes?
First and foremost, Zuckerberg singled out the expansion of Reels, the company's TikTok-style short video platform, as a primary focus: On Instagram, Reels is already the critical driver of engagement increase. It's pretty fun, and Zuckerberg believes that it has much promise ahead of it. They anticipate that this will continue to expand, and he is confident that it will become as vital to our products as Stories. They expect significant changes to Instagram and Facebook to emphasize video further and make Reels a more prominent aspect of the experience in the coming year.
To put it another way, if you're not familiar with Reels yet, it's worth spending some time with it to gain a sense of why short-form video is so fascinating – and how you can use it to communicate your business message. In terms of making Reels a more central focus, as I mentioned in my recent 2022 predictions post, I believe that Instagram will eventually open to Stories/Reels instead of the traditional feed, emphasizing those elements. In contrast, on Facebook, I think you'll see much more prominent Reels panels in the meal, as well as likely improved access to a full-screen Reels experience – such as a swipe left option to take you straight into that feed.
From a marketing standpoint, the emphasis is that you should be striving to get a feel for this format, as Facebook will be pushing it in the following months and years. You'll most likely see an increase in reach and engagement as a result of this. In addition, the newest Facebook Files leak featured this graphic on re-engaging the youth:
Fix the Basics — Assisting young users in connecting with the people, interests, and content that matter to them.
Help young users feel good about the time they spend in the app and connect to what's going on in the world by enabling positive, productive experiences.
Assist YA in achieving their goals and effecting change - Provide outstanding services to assist young users in resolving issues.
The focus is on providing young users with better outlets to contribute to critical discussions and debates and engage them through their capacity to influence change via Facebook's unrivaled scale and reach. These are conceptual notes, so there are no specific platform changes or updates as a result. It's unclear whether this is yet another crucial part of the focus, and it might just as quickly have been another idea among Facebook's many options. However, it provides additional insight into the company's thinking about reclaiming the youth and guarantees that Facebook remains essential in the long run, rather than fading out as other platforms replace it.
What does this signify for Facebook's older users and overall engagement? It's difficult to predict, but the platform has become such a vital tool for many people these days that I don't expect them to abandon it in droves due to this campaign. However, seeing more youth-focused features and potentially more postings from young people who are unlikely to have the same opinions as older users could compel more older users into groups and other components where they can continue to post on the most important themes.
This could be another factor to consider in this drive. Redirecting older users away from the main feed may help reduce the divide by focusing more attention on more progressive, youth-specific themes. Much depends on how Facebook implements such changes, but it might be part of the platform's overall shift away from controversial content and toward interaction with younger conversation drivers.
As Zuck points out, it appears to be a significant shift in either direction, which will take years to achieve. In that time, Facebook will also be considering the subsequent phases of a connection, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and the growing metaverse notion. Another incentive for Facebook to preserve its younger appeal is young users who will drive adoption of the next wave of changes. As a result, your Facebook usage and, as a result, your Facebook marketing process may alter.