Facebook wants young people back
On Monday, the public got a glimpse of Mark Zuckerberg’s fears that Facebook might wither to fade.
On a conference call to discuss Facebook’s financial results, Zuckerberg said he plans to reform the company to make its apps more attractive to those under 30. “We are retooling our teams to make serving the young people their guide rather than focusing on more of the older,” he said, adding that it would take years to make this transition.
Many organizations are really obsessed with continuing to reach out to young people, so this announcement may not have come as a surprise.
And Zuckerberg, who always seems worried about “something,” has a habit of making bold statements about Facebook’s priorities, which sometimes turn into just a lot of talk.
Mark Zuckerberg: “We are retooling our teams to guide young people, rather than focusing on more older people.”
The truth is that Facebook has for years lost popularity with young people, but that didn’t really matter, as the company was generally attracting more users and making loads of money.
The company has also adapted to appealing to young people, including by buying Instagram nine years ago and then copying Snapchat and TikTok features.
Zuckerberg’s comment, as well as recent reports by The New York Times, Bloomberg, and others, suggest that this time may be different.
Deep inside Facebook, including inside Zuckerberg’s corner office, the awe appears that the social media giant must turn itself inside out to attract younger users.
Zuckerberg is well aware that the dominant technology companies do not stay in this position for long.
The company’s announced reconfiguration raises the question: Does Zuckerberg fear that a lack of youthful interest will lead to a long-held prediction by technology watchers that the company is doomed to become a company of the past?
Let’s see what happens. Facebook may be able to rise to this challenge once and win over the youth.
Over the weekend, Facebook executives did not describe a grand plan to restore youth, but rather spoke vaguely about more focus on the so-called “Reels”, which is Instagram’s attempt to imitate “Tik Tok”, as well as talking about Zuckerberg’s obsession with the so-called virtual world. Or “Metaverse”.
The truth is that Facebook has lost popularity with young people, but that didn’t really matter, as the company was generally attracting more users and making a lot of money.
A small part of my mind also wonders if Zuckerberg’s glimpse of fear over the weekend was intended to portray Facebook as a trembling frail rather than an unbeatable internet star, his critics say.
As my colleague Kevin Ross in the New York Times has written, Facebook can be a dominant force and at the same time fearful for its future.
As much as the company appears to care about young people who use Facebook and its other products, it can remain extremely wealthy for a very long time without the youth.
The most important factor in Facebook’s financial success is its ability to gather a lot of information about what people – mostly in the US and other wealthy countries – do online, and then harness that data to help companies sell their pajamas, file cabinets, or apps more effectively. .
Young people can escape it in droves, but Facebook will still make those advertising dollars, at least for a very long time. And as we saw from its earnings release last Monday, Facebook is pretty good at making money.
But the company’s internal deliberations on youth may turn out to be among the most important documents collected by Facebook’s former production director, Francis Haugen.
Reports about those documents and discussions with the other company show that Facebook is concerned that teens are spending less time on Instagram this year, that its user base is aging rapidly, and that young people who like Instagram are not drawn to the Facebook app as they get older.
But seeing anxiety in private deliberations between parties or marketing documents is one thing, and Zuckerberg himself sounding the alarm publicly is on another level altogether.
© New York Times Foundation 2021
It was transferred to Al-Arabiya, “Al-Jazeera’s Leadership” page.