Facebook reveals new plan to woo Gen Z users back to the platform

Facebook reveals new plan to woo Gen Z users back to the platform
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Two young women crowd together to look at a phone screen.

Once a must-have for college students, Facebook is now more commonly reputed as a watering hole “for old people.” As other social platforms have risen and evolved to fill the needs of younger generations, Facebook has been peddling election propaganda to folks who can’t tell the difference between AI-generated images and reality. Now, “Boomerbook” wants to reverse course.

At an event in New York City on May 31, Facebook execs presented their strategy for ensuring the “next 20 years” of Facebook: wooing young users and applying AI everywhere. “We’re still for everyone,” President Tom Alison told the crowd, “but we also recognize that in order to stay relevant, we have to build for… Gen Z.”

It’s not exactly rocket science. In research, Alison said, “We noticed… this is the time in [Gen Z’s] life when they start making a lot of huge transitions: moving, going to college, getting their first job, getting their first apartment, finding a romantic partner… They want a way to explore their new interests and they want to find real people and real experts who share them. And that’s where we think Facebook comes in.” Over the next 40 minutes, executives cycled through to explain the platform’s new monetization features for creators and how AI tools can do everything from transforming the backgrounds of your photos to helping write a post.

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However, Facebook’s overall value proposition for Gen Z remained nebulous.

The event suggested that Facebook may suffer from a more significant identity crisis. Its theming was uncannily Instagram-forward: visitors made vision boards, ordered custom airbrushed totes, and snapped selfies in no less than four curated photo ops. Facebook Marketplace, the platform’s resale product, was also a massive topic of conversation. Employees noted Marketplace is frequented daily by more than 10 million of Facebook’s 40 million daily active in the U.S. and Canada between the ages of 18 and 29 and that some of the event furniture and decor had been sourced using the tool.

There was also talk of recommendation algorithms, especially for video. In a blog post outlining the strategy, Facebook said it hoped to “have the world’s best recommendation technology” by 2026 and that it was introducing updates to its video recommendation algorithm that will deliver more clips “more effectively” to user feeds.

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And then there was the focus on AI, a topic that notably elicits mixed feelings among Gen Z. Facebook VP and Head of Product Dane Glasgow (who was brought on stage to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” a wildly on-the-nose choice), called Facebook’s incorporation of AI “fun, engaging, and helpful.” This came just a few days after Europe’s privacy requirements revealed that Meta AI would be training itself on Facebook users’ content and would not request permission from U.S. users to do so.

Glasgow ended his portion of the presentation by introducing the final segment: “a chat with some young adults.” It was an apt end to a presentation that felt like a real-life imitation of a 30 Rock skit in which a character in his 50s went undercover as a high schooler. His opening line to his peers is, “How do you do, fellow kids?”

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