Marketing on Bebo

As Bebo is the UK & Ireland's most popular social network, it's no surprise there are many different ways that businesses and organisations can tap into Bebo as a means of engaging fans, spreading the word and just plain entertaining people. There are currently 40million user profiles on Bebo, and it has been the seeding ground for some groundbreaking developments in online communication, perhaps best known for onlilne drama series such as Kate Modern and Sofia's Diary. The fact that Kate Modern won a BAFTA and one of the most popular episodes of Kate Modern received 1.5million views (when the Big Brother final TV episode that same year only received 900,000 views) is a testament to the success of the platform. The most common and simplest way to market on Bebo is to create a profile page for your product or brand. Hundreds of these pages exist, but I wonder what percentage of them are ever actively in use. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to hurriedly stick something up and then realise that they don't have the resources to actually do anything with the page, explore Bebo and identify potential 'friends', or worse of all - respond to requests. Creating a page on Bebo is the easy part; managing the replies, requests, enquiries - and let's face it - spam, is quite another. But by far, the most successful profile pages on Bebo actually offer something back to the community. Freebies, contests, fun games or useful widgets are sure to win you more brownie points than simply shoving a marketing message up on a profile page and expecting Bebo-ers to engage with it. No one wants to engage with an ad.

The Bebo guy* speaking at ad:tech  mentioned a good example of how to do it right: Fanta ran a contest on their profile page, in which every Friday at 5pm, they would choose someone from their community of 'friends' and get their profile pic on the main Bebo homepage for 15 minutes. Their profile pic would also appear on the big 'neon' at Picadilly Circus for 15 minutes at the same time. Naturally, the winners were more than thrilled to tell their friends to check out Bebo's homepage or the lights at Picadilly Circus. The Bebo member gets to have their 15 minutes of fame, Fanta gets some free viral promotion, Bebo gets more clicks on their homepage (and thus more ad views): everyone's a winner.

Another way to tap into social networks is to harness the energy of your existing fanatical fans. There are hundreds of unofficial fan pages on Bebo and other social networks, set up by regular people who just like whatever it is. It all started when Bebo added a module that allowed members to create fan pages for their favourite bands, but this soon evolved into fan pages for just about every product, service or brand out there. Can you believe that the unoffical Tesco fan club page on Bebo has over 62,000 members, and more than 10,000 members subscribe to the blog updates? Believe it or not, it's true. And that's just one of the dozens of unofficial Tesco fan clubs - on just one social network. And it's not a conventionally exciting brand, either.

When Top Gear decided they wanted to get into Bebo, they noticed that they already had more than 90,000 fans on several Top Gear fan club pages. So rather than compete with these, they decided to involve the 3 guys from Wales who set up the first and largest Top Gear Appreciation Society on Bebo. They decided to give these guys all the photos, videos etc and just let them get on with it. To me, that's the best way of marketing on Bebo: to let it stay in the community, and be run by the community. These 3 guys would have kept doing what they were doing anyway, so why not let them feel closer to the brand in this way. Furthermore, the folks over at Top Gear only need to be marginally involved rather than running the whole thing and moderating the page, so it's a no-brainer, really.

Marketing on Bebo or any other social network isn't for every company, and success rates will vary wildly. But there are definitely opportunities to be had, and I think it's a much smarter move to tap into existing social networks than to try to build your own. People are far more likely to engage with your company or organisation from within a familiar framework than to sign up for yet another username & password on a community website based around a brand. Would YOU read and post on a toothpaste website's forum? Don't expect your customers to, either.

This post is Part I of Thoughts from this year's ad:tech London conference. More to come as soon as I can type 'em.

* Possibly Mark Charkin? Ordinarily I would have gladly referenced his name, but he was a replacement for the published speaker, and he's not listed on the ad:tech site. Let me know if you know who this was.