Instagram Struggles With Fears of Losing Its ‘Pipeline’: Young Users

With the leadership changes, Facebook went all out to turn Instagram into a main attraction for young audiences, four former employees said. That coincided with the realization that Facebook itself, which was grappling with data privacy and other scandals, would never be a teen destination, the people said.

Instagram began concentrating on the “teen time spent” data point, three former employees said. The goal was to drive up the amount of time that teenagers were on the app with features including Instagram Live, a broadcasting tool, and Instagram TV, where people upload videos that run as long as an hour.

Instagram also increased its global marketing budget. In 2018, it allocated $67.2 million to marketing. In 2019, that increased to a planned $127.3 million, then to $186.3 million last year and $390 million this year, according to the internal documents. Most of the budgets were designated to wooing teens, the documents show. Mr. Mosseri approved the budgets, two employees said.

The money was slated for marketing categories like “establishing Instagram as the favorite place for teens to express themselves” and cultural programs for events like the Super Bowl, according to the documents.

Many of the resulting ads were digital, featuring some of the platform’s top influencers, such as Donté Colley, a Canadian dancer and creator. The marketing, when put into action, also targeted parents of teenagers and people up to the age of 34.

Even so, Instagram’s angst grew. One 2019 marketing memo noted that while teenagers were still flocking to it, they showed no interest in Facebook or the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp. The company should focus on just getting teenagers to use the photo-sharing site, the memo said, adding that “we are not seeing cross-brand interest.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, driving people to stay at home for safety, “teen time spent” increased to an average of three to four hours a day in the United States, compared with one to two hours previously, two former employees said. Adults were spending 30 minutes to 45 minutes a day on the site.

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