Friendster enlists agency as it contemplates next steps

SAN FRANCISCO: Friendster, which shot to popularity as a pioneering social networking site only to lose traction to upstart MySpace two years ago, has hired a new agency as it looks for new users and contemplates what to do with a social networking patent it received recently.

SAN FRANCISCO: Friendster, which shot to popularity as a pioneering social networking site only to lose traction to upstart MySpace two years ago, has hired a new agency as it looks for new users and contemplates what to do with a social networking patent it received recently.

Friendster has signed Big Sky Communications to implement media relations, an executive speaking program, and strategic counsel campaigns.

The Web site, which launched in 2002, received plenty of media attention and became the most popular social networking site, until MySpace, which launched as a way for bands to showcase and market their music, took the lead in March 2004. MySpace is now the most trafficked Web site in the US and has 99 million users while Friendster only has 30 million. In a May 2006 study by Nielsen/Net Ratings, Friendster wasn't even in the top ten social networking and blogging Web sites.

Friendster is working hard to positioning itself as more mature than other social sites, which target teen demographics, its agency said. To fill a void, Friendster aims to appeal to post-college, working single people.

"The majority of players in the space are teen focus," said Jeff Roberto, Friendster PR and marketing manager. "The early adopters tended to be slightly older, post-college, and we feel there is strong play thereā€¦. We are building a site that gives users a higher quality per visit - you don't have to view 40 to 50 profiles to see an update on your friend."
 
Within the past several weeks, the PR team garnered interest from top-tier business media outlets and Friendster's management team spoke with Associated Press, BusinessWeek, CNET, CNN, Financial Times, Dow Jones, Red Herring and The Wall Street Journal, according to Mary Devincenzi, Big Sky partner.

Friendster's patent develop provides the Web site with a number of marketing and business opportunities. Industry watchers have speculated that Friendster could conceivably go after MySpace and other competitors for either licensing deals or litigation, like NTP did when it brought Blackberry maker RIM to court, eventually winning a licensing deal. Friendster hasn't committed either way yet.

"We are evaluating," said Roberto. "It is difficult to say which direction we're taking."

Big Sky won the account from a formal RFP and started work in June. Billings are undisclosed.

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