Teen app TBH taught Facebook a 'psychological trick' to target high schoolers

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Facebook closed teen social app TBH last month – but not before learning some sneaky tactics for targeting high schoolers. In a leaked internal memo obtained by Buzzfeed News, TBH’s founders shared what they called a “psychological trick” for attracting young users.

“Our team obsessed with finding ways to get individual high schools to adopt a product simultaneously,” it said. “We designed a novel method that was reproducible, albeit non-scalable.”

The Golden Launch Hour

That method involved Facebook’s own photo-sharing site Instagram. Many teens include the name of their high school on their Instagram profiles – a fact TBH used to its advantage.

The company would make a private Instagram account for a targeted school, and invite everyone with the school’s name in their profile to join. It would spark students’ curiosity with a tempting message like “You’ve been invited to the TBH app at [school name] – stay tuned!”

The TBH team would wait 24 hours for students to follow the account back, then add the app store URL to its profile and make it public. It did this at 4pm, just as kids left school for the day – a time it called “The Golden Launch Hour™”.

TBH described its methods as “too ‘scrappy’ for a big company”, but suggested using similar methods. For example, Facebook could request push notification permission, then send messages to targeted users en masse during the Golden Launch Hour.

Uncool for kids

Facebook declined to comment on the memo, and whether it used the tactics described by TBH, but it stands to reason that it would be interested. Market Research indicates that, while more users over 55 are using Facebook, teens are starting to lose interest in favor of apps like Snapchat.

Facebook is aware of the problem, and reacted last year by launching Messenger Kids – a version of its chat app designed specifically for pre-teens that only lets them speak to a list of contacts pre-approved by their parents. The idea is that, once they’re 13, kids will be comfortable enough with the idea to make their own Facebook account.

The company is also working with schools to deliver lessons about online safety, which has the handy benefit of raising its profile among youngsters.


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