Facebook Hopes Creators and Live Hangout Spaces Lure Young People
(Bloomberg) -- Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook is trying to lure young users away from buzzier, youth-oriented social networks like TikTok and Snapchat, and it’s starting by creating more places for them to hang out online and offering enticements for creators to share their content.
The social network has been losing popularity with young adults and teens for years, according to internal Facebook documents reviewed by Bloomberg News, and competition has eaten away at Facebook’s dominance. It’s a reality that threatens the company’s user growth and future advertising appeal, and it’s not something that can be fixed quickly.
When Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg spoke in late October on an earnings call, he said making sure the company’s apps appeal to young adults -- people age 18 to 29 -- was its new “north star.”
Tom Alison, head of the Facebook app, said the company is looking to improve with young adults on a two-year time horizon, but it’s also an “evergreen” issue because young adults today will eventually age up into different age brackets. He said young people want to spend time together online, live and in real-time.
“What we see is a desire particularly among young adults to not only have broadcast, asynchronous spaces, but to be able to get together in these kinds of smaller, more synchronous spaces,” Alison said in an interview this week. “A lot of our product development will be along that theme over the future.”
Facebook’s efforts include a push to lure creators to post original content to the network, hoping that their fans will follow from other apps. The company announced a $1 billion creator fund earlier this year, and it also plans to focus more on features to bring users together in real-time, like audio and video-chat rooms.
On Wednesday, Facebook also said it will pay some creators a bonus of as much as $20 for each new subscriber through the end of the year under its fan subscriptions service, up to $10,000 per creator over the course of the program.
The company, which changed its name to Meta last week to reflect its focus on augmented and virtual reality rather than social media, has spent years scrutinizing the ways young adults and teenagers use its services. Research from the past few years found that Facebook is no longer as appealing to young people as it once was, in part because Facebook doesn’t offer them a clear and simple reason to use the service every day.
Meta plans to expand its research efforts to focus even more heavily on the younger cohort, Alison said, seeking answers to some fundamental questions: What features do young adults need within Groups? What kinds of merchandise do they want to see in Facebook Marketplace? What types of online games or videos do they care about?
“When we prioritize features in our products,” Alison added, “we’re going to prioritize the ones that we think will resonate most with young adults.”
Meta is also pushing further into groups, the online places where users of the social network often meet with other people who have a shared interest or identity.
The company on Thursday rolled out a handful of new groups features, including the ability to sell merchandise within a group or create “paid subgroups.” Joining a subgroup would require a fee, and might be good for “coaching or networking or deeper conversations,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.
Groups have been a top focus at Facebook for years, and while the smaller, more intimate communities are popular with users -- more than 1.8 billion people use groups each month -- they also lead to misinformation and polarization, as people join like-minded groups where posts are less likely to be flagged.
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