A few years back, before Facebook and Twitter became synonyms for social media, the site everyone wanted to beat was Bebo. The brainchild of Michael and Xochi Birch, Bebo was one of the first mainstream social networking sites, ranked alongside Facebook and Myspace, and was purchased by AOL for £540 million at the peak of its popularity in 2008.
As Facebook grew, AOL sat on Bebo and it consequently stopped being a major social media force. They eventually sold the site for just £10 million earlier this year to Criterion Capital Partners, run by Adam Levin, who believe the time may be right for a comeback.
They’re working with Michael Birch, who is coming back on board both financially and actively, working in a hands-on role developing new Bebo products. In a press release to announce the move, Mr Birch stated ‘Things have moved on, and I have a lot of thoughts and ideas about how to make Bebo relevant again’.
As Birch has noted ‘Facebook doesn’t own the social networking space’ and his intention is to provide ‘a slightly more light-hearted and fun experience’, something which Bebo has started to work towards in previous weeks with new services, including video chat and gaming sections that allow you to play with virtual cash.
Bebo has a strong core following of teenagers and young people, which could be tapped to be highly marketable. Many SME’s struggle to reach this key demographic, even with the rise of social marketing, and it could provide an excellent platform for working with, and marketing to, younger potential customers.
Between them, Levin and Birch hope to re-establish Bebo as a serious, if niche, player on the social media scene. As Levin commented ‘”We are still early on in the social networking evolution … we are working hard with new products to make the site a destination for people.”
Whether it’ll manage to break Facebook’s monopoly remains to be seen.