| | 12-08-2012, 02:42 PM Thread Author #1
Is BBM still relevant...
Hi all, I've been regularly following the threads on this forum for a few weeks now, so much so that I'd like to get involved and share an idea I've had for a while. I'm not sure what will come of sharing it - but I hope you all enjoy it and see the same potential in it as I do.
I'm sure many of us are familiar with the notion of how 'sticky' a platform is. That ability to keep hold of its user base. Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all extremely sticky. The instant gratification of a new follow, the smile a 'like' can bring or the sense of being involved in the life and times of friends & family. These (in my opinion) are some of the major contributing factors to their growing success as networks.
BBM was (and some would argue still is) the undisputed champion in terms of Instant Messaging (IM). In terms of UX, OS integration and features it stood head and shoulders above the rest. However, it hasn't been developed as quickly as many would have liked. Things like Whatsapp have come along and arguably stolen the crown. It would seem that many (if not the majority) are willing to trade a larger cross-platform base for a poorer user experience and feature list.
Contrary to how it might be sounding, I'm not here to propose that BBM go cross platform. I firmly believe that keeping it exclusive will prove to be the correct decision in the long run - but only if they build upon what it is currently. It is proving over time to be less effective at retaining its user base (in some countries) - which is somewhat surprising when you look at its dominance as recently as a few years ago.
I feel this is because the main strength of BBM is also its biggest weakness - connectivity. The user experience of BBM is (generally speaking) proportional to the number and/or quality of your contacts. The more contacts you have the better and more useful your experience (again, generally speaking).
I'm sure many of us have seen ever decreasing numbers by way of our BBM contact list - and this is the where the main weakness resides. The more contacts that leave BBOS (and so BBM) the worse our experience of BBM gets - and the easier it then becomes for us to leave also - which then trickles down to our contacts and so on and so forth. So a platform that is incredibly sticky when the reachable user base is high becomes increasingly toothless as the size of that base decreases.
Maintaining (or even increasing) this reachable base for the average BBM user is the key to keeping BBM as a unique selling point for BlackBerry as a brand.
In the run up to BB10 I've heard RIM referring to BBM as a social network in itself. I'd somewhat agree with that statement but I'd also argue that they could do more to live up to that moniker - especially with the unlikely result of BBM going cross-platform any time soon.
BBM as it currently stands is very much a closed, private network. There's no way to reach out and find others like you can do on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. There's currently no native way to grow your network. The rise in popularity of PIN sharing sites shows that many people are interested in such a feature - increasingly so as many of their friends and family switch to other mobile platforms.
With the acquisitions RIM has made over the past few years - the pieces are all in place to do something very special. We've seen the new photo filters and effects that RIM is baking into BB10. We've also heard of the amazing video editing that will come by way of Jaycut. I think RIM has an opportunity to aggregate all of this content under the banner of BBM, much like they did with BBM Music and launch a new/revamped service called 'BBM Profile' - or simply shortened to 'Profile'.
As it stands BBM Music allows a feed of all of your contacts' BBM Music activity - so all of their playlists, alterations to playlists, new song additions, connections, comments and status updates are aggregated into one central feed. This is done through you creating a profile and then interacting and sharing your content with others - much like a friend request on Facebook.
What I'm proposing is that RIM replicate/extend this service to include the new BB10 filter photographs and Jaycut edited videos - along with other things such as Blackberry World updates, app downloads and 'Games' scores/activity. Also, if third party APIs will allow for such functionality you could also include - Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook activities (if you decide to connect them to your BBM Profile that is). Thus providing the richest content stream of any social network that I'm aware of - and crucially all exclusive to BlackBerry users.
They have the infrastructure in place with BBM Music and its music streaming service. Granted, extra bandwidth would be needed for the addition of videos (over say a relatively small 6MB song) but RIM has a long history of efficient data compression - so I wouldn't see it as a logistical impossibility, especially if some sort of data cap was put on file uploads.
With a few tweaks on the existing mechanics and framework of BBM Music we could have our own amalgamated version of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The simple addition of a 'follow' button, a 'like' button and the continued supporting of the 'invite to BBM' button could really transform it into something special and more importantly something of value to the average user. For example, take a typical user that left BlackBerry because Angry Birds (or any other app) wasn't available - do you think they'd be as quick to leave if they had say 1,000 followers because of their talent for shooting stunning photography, creating amazing playlists, editing breathtaking videos, or being the best gamer? I'd argue not.
...Just imagine if you could get Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or anyone else of a similar social ilk to create a BBM Profile. Imagine how many people they would attract to the brand. It could put BlackBerry back on the map (even if there were still app and other platform deficiencies).
It really could be something special - and would automatically mean that BBM Profile would become one of the largest social (mobile) networks in the World - with 65 million users!
When you throw in Blackberry World updates and 'Games' scores you also start to increase the value proposition for developers - through increased app visibility and interaction between connected users. Say Justin Bieber downloaded a new app and posted a Profile update about it - I'm sure it would go viral in minutes (making the developer very wealthy in the process).
Admittedly, such a service wouldn't be for everyone - but I strongly believe it would be for many. Especially when you look at the recent growth of something like Instagram. People like to share and people like to connect. BlackBerry is often held up as the bastion for all things social in mobile and I think this would definitely enhance that status.
Another benefit of having a service like BBM Profile ahead of say BBM comes from the elevated status that BBM Profile could be given. It could be promoted as the new jewel in the BB10 social crown - which would then allow for greater flexibility in terms of BBM (or a bare bones version of it) going cross-platform - as you wouldn't be throwing away your ace card. The obvious benefit of this is that a cross platform BBM then has the opportunity to try and reclaim the 'top spot' back from Whatsapp.
So to conclude - I think it can be done and I think it should be done. I think it could be great and most importantly I think the people that left BlackBerry will think it's great too.
Apologies for rambling on - I hope you stuck with me to the end.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on the feasibility or appeal of such a service.