Social media platform Instagram was internally concerned about losing teen users, a new report claims. Moreover, the Facebook-owned app reportedly assigned a large portion of its marketing budget to make the app more appealing to teens.
“If we lose the teen foothold in the U.S. we lose the pipeline,” an internal memo said. This memo is from October 2020 and was accessed by The New York Times (via). In 2018, Instagram reportedly directed almost the entirety of its annual worldwide marketing budget towards promoting the app among teens.
Marketers told NYT that focusing on a particular age group on that scale is unusual. The report also mentions that the final spending included messaging directed towards parents and young adults. This may have been the consequence of stiff competition from the likes of Snapchat and TikTok.
Facebook responded to the report in a brief statement
A Facebook spokesperson issued a statement denying the report’s premise. “While it’s not true that we focus our entire marketing budget towards teens, we’ve said many times that teens are one of our most important communities because they spot and set early trends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are a part of our marketing strategy,” the statement read.
The past few weeks have been particularly harsh on Facebook, especially following the Senate testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen. She alleged that the company’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”
Not too long after, Facebook said it would slow down product development in order to conduct “reputational reviews.”
“I’ve asked leaders across the company to do deep dives on our work across many areas over the next few days so you can see everything that we’re doing to get there,” Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said at the time.
In September, a new kids platform known as Instagram Kids was put on hold. Facebook wanted this to be a service focusing on children under the age of 13. Kids below the age of 13 currently can’t open an Instagram account. However, the company is aware that kids can easily lie about their age to create an account on the platform.
In any case, regulators are wary of this app, eventually leading Instagram to pause the project. The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act restricts corporations from storing or collecting personal data of children under the age of 13.