This blog has previously made the case that the current make-up of the social media landscape is not necessarily a permanent feature. It may seem like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are entrenched as the dominant players. But as we’ve pointed out in discussing the rise of TikTok marketing, those giants are not without their challengers.
Recently, it was announced that another player was entering the field, albeit one that has already acquired some cache with previous outings. You can be forgiven if you didn’t notice Bebo prior to its 2013 bankruptcy filing or its 2019 closure. But if you have professional social media managers, they should probably be aware of its story. That’s especially true if they were working with clients in the United Kingdom around 2007, when Bebo actually became the most-visited social networking site in that country, overtaking both Myspace and Facebook.
At the time, the company was only two years old, and its early success soon led to it being purchased by AOL. After that, it took a quick downturn, but its bankruptcy set the stage for it to be acquired by the Amazon-owned Twitch, which relaunched it in 2015 and ran for about four more years.
The rise and fall and rise and fall of Bebo was sufficiently noteworthy to make it a point of curiosity for social media managers. But of course, its failure to secure a long-term user base meant that those same social media managers never really had to integrate it into their clients’ marketing strategies. Still, the possibility exists for this to change with the new relaunch, which appears to be capitalizing on a lingering interest in something the platform was able to provide.
If you never got acquainted with Bebo, you may be able to ask your social media managers about what set it apart from the other major players in its era. Even if they never used it themselves, the buzz surrounding its relaunch should have prompted them to read descriptions of what it was and what it still could be.
Those descriptions highlight the fact that our understanding of social media’s function has been somewhat pigeon-holed by the familiarity of Facebook and Twitter. Bebo was more customizable than either of those platforms, allowing users to add and rearrange modules on their own pages in order to post not just text and pictures, but also music, videos, questionnaires, and so on.
It’s not yet clear whether the user interface for the new version will exactly as it was back then, but considering that the re-launch seems to be driven at least partially by nostalgia among those who enjoyed it during its brief pea, it seems likely that it will be similar. Different social media managers may have different notions about whether that approach will be more successful now that Bebo has the backing of Amazon’s capital. It seems fair to say that it could go either way.
On one hand, your vision of the new, old platform may seem reminiscent of how Myspace operated prior to its trouncing by Facebook. The customizability of Myspace pages was a selling point early on, but it ultimately made the platform more cluttered and less user-friendly than its single-use alternatives. Had it stuck around for longer, it also probably would have presented more of a challenge to social media managers, who would have to build an entire Myspace brand identity from the ground up, as opposed to just populating a Twitter feed with relevant content.
The inherent difficulty of customization may be an obstacle to Bebo’s effort to reclaim its place of prominence in the social media landscape. But on the other hand, that difficulty might actually be something that users – and by extension social media managers – have been looking for. There’s a real chance that Bebo will provide opportunities for individual expression and direct person-to-person interaction that have been somewhat lacking throughout the heyday of Facebook and Twitter.
There are times when appeals to nostalgia are just novelties that will wear off in time. The existing demand for Bebo’s relaunch might just be opening the door for one of those situations. But it might also be a genuine expression of people’s belief that in making social media what it is today, they gave up something that might have actually been worth keeping.
If you started reading this article in hopes that it would give a definite answer to the question of whether your social media managers should start using Bebo when it launches in February, then I’m sorry. All this article can really offer is some food for thought as you consider what it might be. We can make educated guesses about whether it will take off in certain demographics or regions, but we can’t make any claims with a very high degree of confidence. I don’t think anyone can.
The main point of this article is just to reinforce the point that was made in the introduction: The future of social media is not set in stone, and it’s a good idea to hedge your bets if you’re counting on any one or two platforms to remain dominant among your target audience. Social media managers should always be ready to adapt to new trends, and they should be constantly monitoring those trends as they emerge.
This is one of the major selling points when it comes to employing social media managers in the first place. If you’re already running a business that you hope to promote on Facebook, Twitter, and any other platform that emerges, you probably don’t have the time or energy to personally manage that social media campaign. You certainly can’t be expected to start engaging with new or recently-revived platforms as if you have specialized knowledge of who is using them, and how, and why.
These are all essential questions that professional social media managers should be able to answer long before the time comes to promote your business to a new audience, via a new outlet. Inevitably, there will be other questions that can only be revealed through hands-on experience and the passage of time, but there’s no need for any social media marketing campaign to start completely from scratch.