Bebo Nostalgia – Lessons and a Possible Future?
AOL must have breathed a sigh of relief when the news of the sale of the social networking site bebo became official last week. The site which cost AOL $850 million two years ago is said to have been sold for a figure less than $10 million to Criterion Capital Partners, an investment firm. While Criterion’s plans for bebo are unclear as of yet, it has been speculated that the firm has serious interest in reviving the waning company.
Regardless of the investor’s plans for the social network, no doubt there will be countless articles in the next few weeks about AOL’s acquisition blunder. From tax implications to the halt in bebo’s development it appears that neither party benefited from the transaction. However an interesting post on the EMarketer blog reminds us that bebo was not always an outcast in the social media world. Remember the good old days when facebook ‘would never take off here’ and bebo was the place to be? With personalized skins, videos, quizzes, polls, whiteboards, and the ability to ‘share the luv’ we could not get enough of bebo in its hay day. Bebo provided teenagers with a platform to show and share a teenager’s favorite pastime; themselves! From a marketers perspective Bebo created some firsts that despite its current decline in growth cannot be dismissed.
Bebo may not have been as bad a buy as now appears. At the time of purchase bebo was extremely popular in Ireland and the UK, it had an impressive portion of the market compared with Facebook and appeared to be on an upward trend. It had become a concentrated hive of teenagers, bebo knew how to get the kids in and keep them there. All this provided a priceless platform to reach out and communicate to these lucrative consumers, and they were listening.
Bebo was one of the first pioneers in engagement marketing. Remember bebo’s branded pages? They allowed companies to create their own page to reach users to spread messages, games, downloads and more. Much like Facebook does now, albeit lacking Facebook’s precise targeting methods used in their advertising. However this was back in 2006 all two years before Facebook launched their engagement ads. Bebo had a number of successful campaigns including those with Disney to launch the movie ‘Cars’ and Meteor’s genie.
Bebo was also one of the first social networks to integrate video into their services. Bebo hosted KateModern the online interactive series. KateModern included product integration and was the first truly interactive show online, which utilized the tools available on Bebo to help fans interact. At the time this was revolutionary and provided yet another platform for marketers to communicate with their target audience cost effectively and efficiently. Companies got in on the game quickly and KateModern hosted campaigns for Disney, Toyota and Procter & Gamble. You know all those applications on Facebook that allow you to add content from a third party website, well bebo was first on the scene once again, several months before Facebook. Bebo users were able to integrate their personal widgets into their pages to share with friends, as pointed out in EMarketer’s article this is remarkably similar to Facebook’s ‘like’ button concept. Once again bebo continued to break new ground in the reach of social networks and their ability to aid a firm’s marketing plan. Indeed it appears that current successful social networks owe a debt of gratitude to bebo for contributing to growth in the social media revolution.
So what are bebo’s chances of turning away from its heavily muddied name, and starting to lead in the social media world again? While a large number of its users may have graduated on to Facebook or other social networks, there continues to be growth in the industry. As social networks continue to develop it seems certain that networks will become less ambiguous and more user specific. Demographics will play a key part in the development and growth of communities online. In the future this will give marketers more concentrated groups of their key consumers to communicate with. Social Media and its uses are becoming better understood and well recognized, to prevent the concept becoming jaded developers of sites will need to look towards improving not what is being said but how it is being said. Bebo has always been a youthful brand; there is hope that it could be reincarnated again. The real question is who will restore it to its earlier glory. Perhaps the only person with the know-how is the man who created the former giant himself……Michael Birch.