Facebook’s New Feature for Young People
During the past few years, the perception of Facebook as a social media platform has shifted from being a cool app which appealed to all ages, to more of a visual message board which family and friends could make great use of. That change has undoubtedly reduced its appeal to younger audiences, and it is known that millions of teens have abandoned Facebook in favor of other platforms which have greater appeal to them.
Facebook is well aware of this trend and has made numerous attempts to win back young users who have left the platform. Some of these efforts have included group video chat apps, Snapchat clones, and the video app known as TikTok. However, none of these efforts have had the desired effect, and all of them have been discontinued within just a few months of their launching.
This doesn’t mean that the world’s most popular social media platform is giving up without a fight though, and it has therefore launched another section on the platform, within the main app, which will focus on sharing trending GIFs and memes. This new section is called LOL, and Facebook is hoping to recover a number of youthful users with it, so as to stem the tide of abandoned youth.
What LOL is all about
LOL is a section which includes a special feed of GIF clips and funny videos and is divided into categories such as Pranks, Fails, Animals, and For You. The content comes from News Feed posts by the most popular meme Pages on Facebook. At present, the new LOL section is being beta-tested by a group of 100 high school students, who have all signed nondisclosure agreements with Facebook, and who have parental consent to participate in focus groups and one-on-one testing with staff members from the platform.
Facebook is uncertain as yet whether LOL will become a separate feature under the main app, or whether it will be given a dedicated app all to itself. While making it a dedicated app has some advantages, that has not worked out well historically, as noted above.
Will LOL achieve the desired results?
Social media experts are skeptical about this new feature being tested by Facebook, and which is planned for future launching. For one thing, they point out that high-schoolers are not likely to want to log onto Facebook to see memes that are already several weeks old, and which are curated in a Watch-like tab.
Young people in particular generally prefer to see memes which are very fresh and not those which are already weeks or months old by the time they’re made available. This does seem to be a major restriction of the new feature, and while all aspects of the new feature are not yet known, if it goes no further than what is already understood about it, it seems likely that it would suffer a fate similar to Facebook’s other youth-oriented attempts.
Keeping in touch with youth
Some social media experts feel that Facebook would be much better off by abandoning its own attempts to predict the next big thing among youth, and simply purchasing a platform like Reddit, which seems to have the market cornered in that area. Most industry experts feel that Reddit is the one platform which has the best pulse on key trends among youth, and which always seems to appeal in the strongest way to younger users.
While Snapchat also has a large following among young users, and Instagram is likewise very popular among the younger set, Reddit seems to be the king of social media platforms which appeal to youth. It already has more than 330 million users and that figure grows daily, primarily because it has effectively managed to capture the essence of almost all trends as they are rising.
While no such deal between Reddit and Facebook is contemplated, it would seem to be a match made in heaven for both parties. If Facebook could somehow acquire Reddit, it would not have to continue to invest massive amounts of capital in the development of new tools and new tricks, and all of its other efforts to appeal to young users.
Reddit, on the other hand, has already accomplished this and appears to be quite adept at maintaining its position and its powerful appeal to young users. When Facebook acquired Instagram, it allowed that platform to continue under its own identity with minimal interference, and it could do the same in an acquisition attempt with Reddit. It could allow Reddit to maintain its own identity, while Facebook expands its reach and enjoys a great many opportunities which would then be opened up to the social media giant.
Chances of success
So what exactly are the chances of success for Facebook’s new feature, LOL? As you might infer from the above, social media trend experts are fairly skeptical about its chances of succeeding, given what is known about the new feature. The fact that it recycles memes which are already weeks or months old, does not bode well for capturing the attention of youth, who are all about immediacy and freshness.
It also seems that this latest attempt by Facebook to recover a young audience is beginning to take on the aspect of desperation, especially given its track record of failures for youth-oriented apps and features. Each time Facebook rolls out another cool app designed to recapture its lost young audience, it seems more and more like a lost cause, and less like an exciting new feature with a legitimate appeal.
While it is possible that there are some unknown features of LOL which add to its general appeal and freshness, it’s likely that what is already known about the new feature is the limit of its capabilities. If that is truly the case, the odds seem to be in favor of another failed attempt on the part of the social media giant to win back younger audiences. However, the proof is in the pudding as they say, and when LOL is rolled out sometime in the near future, that will be the real test of whether or not Facebook has succeeded in attracting a younger audience.
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