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BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) BBM: Can It Compete As A Social Network?

BlackBerry Ltd BBRY wants to use BBM to break into another competitive market: social networking. But will it be a hit or another bust like BlackBerry 10?

Well they say if all else fails, try again, and that’s what BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY - Get Report) (BB) keeps trying to do. It failed to get back into the smartphone industry in a meaningful way, but now it has its eyes on another industry: the social networking industry. The company wants to transform BlackBerry Messenger from a basic messaging app into a social network.

But will it work? That’s the big question as the company will have to face off with the likes of Facebook Inc (FB - Get Report), Twitter Inc (TWTR - Get Report) and LinkedIn Corp (LNKD - Get Report).

BlackBerry tests BBM Channels

One of the features BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY - Get Report) (BB) has said it would be rolling out soon is BBM Channels. Matt Hartley of the Financial Post reports that the company is testing the feature with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., as well as other potential clients. Maple Leaf executive Jeff Deline said he expects to see BBM become their newest tool for social engagement as they plan to use it to connect fans to its three major properties: the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC. They believe fans of professional players will enjoy learning more about their personalities and what they have done during the week.

Om the beginning, the sports company will create three main BBM channels for its professional teams. Executives remain open to creating more channels later, possibly with some of them dedicated to individual players.

Is BBM really anything more than Facebook or Twitter?

At this point, BBM Channels doesn’t sound like anything besides what Twitter Inc (TWTR - Get Report) and Facebook Inc (FB - Get Report) are already doing. People can subscribe to specific channels to follow their interests, just as they can subscribe to Twitter accounts or Facebook pages. They can also interact with celebrities on these pages, just as they can through BBM Channels. What the company really needs for BBM to be a major success is some sort of differentiation from these other companies.

BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY - Get Report) (BB) has been struggling to survive for quite some time, looking for revenue in just about every place. Instead of going private under the offer from Fairfax Financial, the company sold some debentures in an attempt to prolong its life. But will BBM Channels be the lifeline the company needs?

Why BlackBerry might have a chance

So far BlackBerry says there have been over 30,000 channels set up in BBM with 100,000 users of the app already following those channels, suggesting that the new platform might be an early success. The company said after establishing big brand names, it expects to generate revenue by providing target and relevant sponsored content to users, just like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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