A couple of months ago I wrote a post on the mobile marketing opportunities of the Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and got a lot of positive feedback from people within the industry.
It seems that everyone is starting to think about how to use BBM in their marketing campaigns, so I wanted to shed some more light on the types of things users are doing and interesting ways they use features of the service.
Once you start using BBM you quickly realise that RIM weren’t expecting it to be a huge success. It’s lacking in so many features and enhancements, yet users find ways around this to make it behave in the way they want.
So what I wanted to do is tell you about one of its more popular features – status updates. As you would expect, the purpose of status updates is just like every other service that has them – to tell people what you’re doing.
BBM status updates don’t have any functionality, it’s just a plain bit of text which is displayed on your profile and friends activity feeds (also very basic). No commenting, no quoting, no liking, no nothing. People outside of BBM can’t see them either.
Despite this people try and use it in the same way as if they were on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook. I’ve put together a few examples of common status behaviour I’ve seen when looking at not just my friends (18-30, non-techy), but others groups too, just to make sure the stuff I’m seeing isn’t isolated.
The Twitter (frequent micro-updates, conversations, sharing URLs etc)
One of the biggest surprises of BBM is how often users update their status. If I was to compare my friends status updates on BBM to their Facebook accounts, they are roughly 7-8 times more active on Blackberry Messenger.
The updates are veeerry similar to the ‘micro-blogging’ style of Twitter and you would think their hunger to update all the time would make them the perfect candidates for the service. However I estimated that around 90% of my friends on BBM don’t have a Twitter account. When I asked a few of them why they didn’t have one, the response was “What’s the point of telling strangers what I’m doing?”.
Yet constantly updating your Facebook status is a no-no, despite all your friends being there. People generally take more effort in what they say on Facebook and only update once or twice a day max, otherwise you’re bordering on pissing people off. I’m sure you’ve all got friends who update constantly, filling up your feed and inching you ever closer to the ‘hide’ button.
These rules don’t apply to BBM updates, probably because of its unintrusive nature – the feed is not trust into your face when you open the app like Facebook on the web.
Here’s a example of a particularly active feed:
Another Twitter-like bit of behavior is users talking to each other in statuses. Even though BBM is about private instant messaging, it’s common to see a very public conversation take place within status updates.
What makes this even more interesting is that you get no notifications if someone mentions you – you literally have to keep checking the activity feed. There’s no @mentioning type of thing either.
Remember what I said about the lack of functionality? Imagine if Facebook status updates didn’t have commenting, and the only way to reply to your friends status was to update your own, think how quickly the news feed would fill up – yep, it’s like that.
The Tumblr (quotes, photos, memes)
Just like MSN and Yahoo Messenger, BBM allows you to change your profile. Nothing special there, but users update the picture almost as much as their status, in a way that you wouldn’t expect.
Profile pictures are used as a mixture of photo-blogging (live pictures of being out clubbing, on a beach, festivals etc) and Tumblr (interesting things found online, GIFs, quotes etc). This is literally like changing your Facebook profile picture every time you had something to share instead of using ‘Share/post to wall’ function!
It’s clear that BBM needs a ‘wall’ kind of feature but in its absence users are turning profile pictures into their own version of Tumblr.
In fact the profile picture is just as much a status update as the text version. Here’s one example:
The profile picture is often changed to relate to a conversation the contact is having (Shrek example below):
BBM even has it’s own memes believe it or not. I often see a friend’s profile picture get changed to something funny, then later on a unrelated contact will have the same profile picture. For example, a few months ago 9 of my contacts (who didn’t know each other) had the same picture below:
…and because you can save other users profile pictures to your own phone, they tend to spread virally.
There you have it! I hope you found that interesting.
As I’ve said in previous posts I think the popularity of BBM will drop fast. RIM simply haven’t added the features needed to sustain its users and now Apple has announced iMessage, you’ll find a exodus of users (like myself) who only hung around for the instant-messaging.
But in the meantime it still presents a great opportunity to come up with some innovative marketing, you could have a lot of fun with the profile picture stuff!