If you currently have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll forgive you straight away, because Bebo is a bit of a blast from the past - it launched as a social network in 2005 and faded from view towards the end of the decade following a couple of changes of ownership and the unstoppable rise of Facebook.
You may also have missed the PR relaunch, as it got a little lost in the pre-Christmas frenzy. Rather than being a fully-featured social network Bebo is now a ‘hashtag-driven messaging app for Android and iOS’. Users can create a cartoon avatar of themselves and ‘chat’ to friends, using hashtags which makes their avatar leap into action on the screen.
A few of the agency team downloaded it and have been using it for nearly a month now. Here is what we think:
Lucy: “This new Bebo is very good for conveying mood/sentiment. Its novelty is in the hashtag cartoons, and I think it will be a case of people using it for a little while for fun then losing interest.
It does reminds me of bitstrips a little bit, and the only person I see still using those is my middle-aged uncle!
Hashtags are an integral part of the social media environment now for all sorts of things, like categorising, irony, and subtext. They’re a fun concept and Bebo harnesses that."
Tom: "Bebo is better than emojis and, being a past user who wished his 15 year old self never made a profile, it feels nostalgic. That said, it won’t set the world alight, but enough people will use it for its competitors to sit up and take note.
The audience it will attract is likely to be people aged 18 and under as well as ex-Bebo users (likely to be 20-30), mostly for silly chats. I can’t see it being used day-to-day.
The hashtags need some work to bring it up to date and there’s room to include Gif style images in the future too.”
Charlotte: “I’m afraid it all feels quite pointless to me. The messaging apps market is sewn up by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and ‘silly’ exchanges are more than covered by Snapchat.
It is fun to see the avatars animated, but at the moment, the hashtags that work are very US centric which is always disappointing for Brits. For example, #curry came out as my avatar throwing a basketball. #what?!
I can’t see huge take up of the new Bebo, I suspect it will fade out before it even starts.”
Phil: “The moment that I saw the only two bald avatar profile choices were of a baby and a man with a comb-over, I realised I probably wasn’t the target audience.
The Line app style use of hashtag stickers is neat, and is the main USP. It could certainly be popular in the youth market - however, this audience wasn’t around in Bebo’s first incarnation, so there’s little value in the brand name.
I like the hashtags, but it would be good to have a few more. Probably more important is better search and group functionality to make it a robust messaging application.”
So, what opportunity does Bebo represent for public relations and other communication professionals?
It is still early days and there isn’t any opportunities for brands to become part of the platform yet (Snapchat was like this in the early days, though). That said, should Bebo grow, it will become a prime location for brands to reach young people. There is also a lot of opportunity for Bebo to work with brands, too. I personally would love to see a Marmite or Guinness hashtag.
Definitely one to watch in 2015!
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