Portland PR to aid Bebo in fight against MySpace

Social networking site Bebo has appointed Portland PR as its first UK PR agency, handing the agency a wide-ranging corporate, consumer and public affairs brief.

The online community site has also hired Firefly Comm­u­nications for crisis communications.

The account is led by Portland MD Tim Allan, with Firefly's ­account being headed by CEO Claire Walker.

Bebo was launched in July 2005 and today has 31 million registered users worldwide, with 8.5 million of them based in the UK.

According to internet res­earch firm Hitwise UK, Bebo is the UK's ninth most popular website and is the second most popular social networking site, with a market share of 1.15 per cent, compared with MySpace's 1.19 per cent in March 2007.

Bebo's global director of comms Sarah Gavin argued that Bebo stands out from other social networking sites because it ­focuses on the 16-24 demographic and encourages groups of friends from schools and colleges to stay in touch.

‘It is more of a community; Bebo users often become friends in real life from the experiences online.' she said.

She said that users ‘spend longer on the site', with Bebo users spending an average 32 minutes and 14 seconds on Bebo, compared with an ave­rage of 25 minutes and 20 seconds for MySpace users, ­according to Hitwise UK.

Portland and Firefly were appointed without pitch. Gavin said that she and ­recently appointed Bebo president Joanna Shields - formerly MD of strategic partnerships for Google - had worked with Allan before. Google is a Portland client.

Bebo appointed Gavin as its first global director of comms last summer, with ­responsibility for UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, the US and Canada (PRWeek, 16 June 2006).

Prior to joining Bebo, Gavin ran Cancan Communications's corporate and B2B division as a senior acc­ount director.

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