It’s small comfort for Facebook that many users are heading to Instagram, its sister platform, but the social media giant has recently bled an uncomfortable amount of Gen Z (18-24-year-old) users to Snapchat, the new destination of choice for that demographic.
Enter Facebook LOL, a short-lived experiment to bring Gen Z back into the Facebook fold. It briefly took the place of the ‘Watch’ tab for a 100-strong group of high school beta testers, but was intended to grow into a standalone app or an extension to either the Facebook app or Messenger.
LOL was built as a meme feed. The content in question was divided into multiple categories such as ‘Animals’, ‘Pranks’, ‘Fails’, and a ‘For You’ section. Who’d have thought we would live to see the day where Facebook served us daily curated memes? As it turns out, that’s a reality nobody was asking for.
LOL failed to create any traction on its “small-scale test”, with subjects describing the feature as “cringey”.
Unlike many great art forms, like painting, literature, cinema, and latte art, memes are not so timeless. It’s their relevance and authenticity that make them funny, consuming the internet in a brief storm before their spot is taken by the next big thing.
With content now being produced and consumed at lightning pace, Facebook’s attempts to recycle old memes goes to show it may be a little out of touch with the generation it’s struggling to hold on to.
But Facebook isn’t stopping there. After all, recapturing Gen Z could create a massive boon to Facebook’s already colossal user base. Their youth team have shifted focus to Messenger Kids, Facebook’s stab at a messaging app for children under 13 (which makes them too young to sign up for Facebook’s regular service).
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We spoke with Facebook expert Mireille Ryan, who said that her own kids “only use Facebook as a messaging app.” This seems to be a fairly common occurrence amongst Gen Z, who are usually only looking to communicate with one person or a small group of friends. The traditional, more public Facebook experience simply isn’t attractive to the younger generation.
Facebook shouldn’t be too concerned, however, as older demographics are still feeding their user base. Meanwhile, the predominantly Gen-Z platform Snapchat faces the opposite problem — the need to bring in older users to bolster their numbers.
Mireille (of the Social Media Marketing Institute) summarized Facebook’s generational divide like this:
[Facebook] used to be a cool place to hang out, but then the mums sign up and all the kids move off. They move to Snapchat, and the mums have no idea how it works. Facebook’s problem is that they expect everyone to use [their platform] the same way.
How Facebook solves this problem is anyone’s guess. For now, all we can be sure of is that LOL probably isn’t the answer.