Avid readers of the business press will be familiar with the rumours that are doing the rounds that Bebo has a $1 billion price tag on it. Most of you have probably heard of MySpace and Bebo and the term “social networking” but chances are that unless you’re under 21; a parent, or an internet early adopter you’re probably not sure what it’s all about! This post sets out to explain what social networking is about and to introduce you to a typical Beboer.
According to Wikipedia (which has replaced the Encyclopedia Brittanica as the source of all knowledge), “a social network is a map of the relationships between individuals.” MySpace and Bebo are two of the most popular social networking sites with upwards of 125 million signed up members between them. [125 million yes! Can you imagine getting at that number of people for your product or service! Now hold that thought…]
But what is MySpace? And what’s so great about Bebo that teenagers are spending an average of 2.5 hours per day on it?
MySpace and Bebo are free services that allow users to submit photos, blogs, videos, music, and to communicate with other members.
A typical Bebo page looks like this: http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=8545142
This is Laura Barret from Blackrock. She’s 16 and loves to type in sms speak – “blackrock-best place ta live no matta wat ne1 not 4rm dre sez”.
Laura lists her musical influences, films she likes, what she’s scared of, and what makes her happy (“bein wit mi m8s” = being with her mates).
Scrolling down her page, you get to see pics of her friends. It’s cool to have loads of friends and for them to be cool too, so hey – some things haven’t changed! There’s a space for comments where you can leave comments for Laura. Now don’t go freaking the poor girl out and posting loads of comments on from old fogey corporate types!! She’s also got a blog she kept about putting on HMS Pinafore with the local boys school. She’s got her fave videos on there too probably lifted straight off utube another cool site that lets you create movies, upload them and people rate them.
The point is – Laura can put whatever she likes on her page. There are no rules. And that’s why sites like Bebo and MySpace are so popular. A teenager’s world is fraught with rules – school and parents inflict so many that it must be pretty refreshing exist in a space where they can’t get at you. . .
Imagine how different your life would have been if you had a Bebo or MySpace when you were 16!
Bebo is the most popular social networking site in Ireland. MySpace has really taken off in the US. Both are vying for lead position in the UK. One of the reasons why News Corp paid $649 million for MySpace in July 2005 is because this is where the kids are – online. Magazines for teens are finding it difficult to make sales. Advertisers are looking for ways of reaching Beboers and MySpacers because they’re no longer sitting passively watching ads on television.
Apart from the numbers (MySpace signed it’s 100 millionth member last week), it’s also a great way of distributing media content. Shortly we’ll be able to pay for download and keep DVD’s of fox movies on MySpace. And Google have just paid $900 million to be the exclusive provider of text based ads on MySpace.
I mentioned before in a previous post that it’s all eyes on the teens because they are the first generation to only know the wired world. The way they behave and interact is a good indicator of how it will be for future generations. Your 13 year old’s memories of growing up will be very far removed from your own. But his kids will likely share common experiences to what he’s having now.
MySpace, Bebo, Xanga – to many these reside firmly within “youth culture”. But if you’re in the business of selling a product or a service that’s going to be around for some time, then you’d be wise not to just leave them to the kids. Get to know them. Become familiar with them, because Social Networking is here to stay.