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Back Early, Back Often - what might Bebo's latest return hold?

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Most of you will have seen the recent announcement that Bebo is to make a triumphant return (again) to the social media landscape in February 2021. Some are surprised, some are excited – some are either disappointed or relieved that their old photos won’t be retrievable. It’s certainly grabbed the attention of the millennial generation. For those trying to market businesses large and small, you’re minds are no doubt turning to how the return of this once dominant platform might (or might not) be leveraged for your marketing efforts.

Screenshot of the original Bebo platform circa 2006.

Bebo’s latest comeback is unlikely to come from a place of altruism. Monetisation will no doubt be a major part of its return. This is somewhere that Bebo arguably never quite managed to get a solid footing in during its previous iterations (and it’s had quite a few). Indeed, in a newspaper interview, its founder Michael Birch once observed that he felt Bebo would become less fun once they hired a Sales team. How exactly monetisation will be executed this time round remains to be seen. Nonetheless, with just about every social media platform, messaging app and indeed apps in general embracing ads these days, once imagines ads will be popping up across the Beboverse just like any other.

Nostalgia value is no doubt a major factor here. In Ireland and the UK at least, Bebo was once a bigger social media platform than Facebook – despite the latter predating it. Many of its original audience will now be holding managerial level positions throughout the business world; some of these millennials have become business owners themselves. Arguably attempts to bring it back during the 2010s were, perhaps, a tad premature in this regard, however, now the time is just about right. Now is a time when millennial nostalgia is evident throughout decision making. We see it in everything from cartoon and movie reboots through to beverages. Why would social media be any different? I can envisage many choosing to include Bebo as part of their marketing mix.

As time goes on, it'll be interesting to speculate as to what features the new incarnation of Bebo will embrace. ‘Stories’, once the domain of Snapchat and Instagram, and a powerful marketing tool in their own right, have since proliferated into Facebook itself, WhatsApp (where they’re known as ‘Statuses’) Twitter and even LinkedIn. Big brands and small businesses alike have embraced them as a powerful marketing tool. It wouldn’t be surprising if Bebo included a variation of them.

TikTok has become a significant disruptor in the social media sphere – with Instagram rolling out its ‘Reels’ in direct competition. Will Bebo have its own variation? Together with the aforementioned stories, this may well become something Generation Z simply expects as part of a social media platform, much as DMs are a current expectation.

Dating apps are by now ten-a-penny – Facebook has even incorporated one into their structure. Bebo seems prime for such a feature. This is also something that can be easily monetised, be it from an advertising perspective or buy selling premium accounts.

Wall writing and ‘sharing the luv’ were cornerstones of the original Bebo, and something its original audience will undoubtedly remember it for. Will these elements be part of the new incarnation? Thought their original use might be considered juvenile by some, with a bit of creativity there’s no reason why business large and small couldn’t incorporate features like these into their marketing campaigns.

The actual name Bebo was once retconned to mean 'Blog Early, Blog Often'. The power of written content is never going away (you're reading this aren't you?). Could we see an expansion of this a new blog, or at least micro-blogging, platform? LinkedIn have capitilaised on this on a professional level with its Pulse offering. Could we see it place itself as a more informal journalling network, for those who have a social presence but don't want a blog as more of an adjunct than a full time commitment (and thus won't set themselves up on a specific blogging platform). Much in the same way Instagram and TikTok have let everyone become a photographer or muscian, could Bebo do this for the unawakened writers and poets in us all?

Music was also a fundamental component in Bebo's original form. With an array of streaming and music platforms now at our finger tips, will its new manifestation once again offer itself as a online shop window for bands? Will it try to cash in on current trends set by TikTok? Will it go in a completely different direction?

Demographic is an important consideration for any social media platform. As mentioned earlier, Millennial or Generation Y was its main audience base back in its mid-2000s heyday. It never quite managed to expand its catchment in the ways Facebook would go on to. It’s particularly interesting to contemplate on how the up-and-coming Generation Z will make of it. Most, if not all, would have been too young to fully embrace it when it was at its prime. Will they see it as an old ‘un-cool’ system making a tragic attempt at a comeback? On the other hand, will Generations X and older take to it?

Based on its previous rises and falls, for Bebo to make a lasting comeback its vital that it (1) makes a more effective attempt to monetise than previously, (2) embraces and develops new features expected of a dynamic social media network and (3) expands its demographic beyond its original millennial cohort. Time will tell, and with its unveiling happening very soon, this article may well become dated very quickly. It’s definitely one for business owners and marketers to watch.

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