The Truth About Advertising and BBM

BBM

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 9.36.20 PM

Last week, I posted about new BBM features that we are beta testing, including Stickers and the BBM Shop. The response has been really good and we’re continuing to drive toward our global launch, so all of our users can have some fun with these. More recently we’ve started to push sponsored content to some of our external beta testers and I’d like to go into some more detail about this and set the record straight from the get go. While some will want to label what we’re doing in a number of different ways (advertising, sponsored content, targeted content, etc.), we are focused on ways of helping brand partners drive community growth. This is not traditional advertising by any stretch of the imagination.

Since introducing BBM Channels we’ve been transparent about our intent to work with brands and businesses to build their communities and provide a new social network for engagement with those communities. We have discussed before that we would look at promoted content opportunities for our partners, but we have been very clear that this content will be direct, relevant, friendly and will in no way impact the chat and sharing experience. In fact, we knew we had to find ways to have the content enhance the sharing experience.

BBM Chats Are Untouchable

First, let me be clear. We will not be inserting sponsored content of any kind in to BBM chats with your friends, family and colleagues. We understand that keeping the BBM chat experience you know and love free of this type of content is important to you. Instead, we are taking a very measured and deliberate approach to connecting BBM Channels users with content they might be interested in from BBM Channel owners, which will include brands and businesses.

Let Me Count the Ways…

There will be three ways that we will be promoting BBM Channels content in BBM. I will detail these a bit below and hopefully answer some questions. First though, I want to stress that when we offer these opportunities to brands, they will be select, premier opportunities and we will be very strict about the amount of content we would ever allow to be pushed to our BBM community.

1. Featured Placements

BBM Channel owners will have the ability to secure space on the Featured Channels tab to help promote their channel. As this is the landing page for BBM Channels, it is a great place for channel owners to promote their channel to millions of highly engaged and active customers.

2. Sponsored Invites

To help BBM Channel owners grow their channels, and help BBM Channels users find relevant, interesting channels, we’re offering channel owners the ability to invite BBM users to join their channel.

By defining certain characteristics like age, location and interests, channel owners can ‘invite’ select BBM users to join their channel. These invites will appear in the invites tab of BBM, clearly marked as sponsored invites. As with invites from contacts, BBM users will have the control to accept the invite from the channel owner (subscribing them to that channel) or decline the invite.

If a BBM user declines an invite they will not receive invites from that channel in the future. BBM will be tightly controlling the number of sponsored invites a given BBM user will receive. We anticipate that we will limit these to a maximum of three per month. We will also control which brands/businesses are able to utilize Sponsored Invites; we want our ecosystem to be populated with high-value content that our users will find engaging.

3. Sponsored Posts

Within the Updates tab in BBM, we will allow BBM Channel owners to place sponsored posts alongside updates from your BBM Contacts and the BBM Channels you are already subscribed to. In the spirit of being open and transparent, these sponsored posts will be clearly labeled.

Just as we give BBM users control over their privacy and contact list, we’re extending this control to which channel owners are able to present sponsored content in your updates feed. Allow me to explain. Let’s say you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and you are presented with a sponsored update from a competing hockey team. You can easily block future sponsored updates from this other team. The benefit to you, the user is clear – you won’t see sponsored updates from channels you’re not interested in. But the benefit also extends to channel owners as well as they won’t be wasting time and resources reaching uninterested BBM users.

One of the pieces of feedback we’ve heard from our customers is that they are looking for new ways to find interesting, relevant content in BBM Channels. Sponsored posts and Sponsored Invites are another way to help highlight posts from channels that customers might be interested in.

We will dynamically determine how frequently Sponsored Posts appear in the Updates feed. We know that some of you love the “social” aspect of Updates, and would love to hear from you as to how often and where Sponsored Posts should be presented. And, because BBM puts you in control, if you filter Updates to only show Contacts, you won’t see any Sponsored Posts.

A few words on privacy

As we introduce new ways to help connect BBM Channels users with channel owners, protecting user privacy remains a top focus. We know that privacy and control are two of the reasons you love and choose BBM. We use the information you provide when you first open BBM Channels (age, location, gender) to help personalize your BBM Channels experience. At no time is personally identifiable information about any BBM Channel user viewable by any channel owners or advertisers.

We think we’re on to something here in terms of relevant, unobtrusive and engaging content. Let us know your thoughts below.

About Jeff Gadway

I'm the head of product and brand marketing for BBM. This means I work with our engineers, product managers, growth hackers and marketing communications team to create and communicate the magic of BBM. Off the clock, I'm a dog lover, coffee enthusiast and love helping start-ups with marketing stuff.

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