Internet marvel Bebo in first comms chief hire

Social networking site Bebo, the UK’s most popular online community, has appointed its first global director of comms as it prepares to launch a London operation.

Sarah Gavin joined this week from Cancan Communications, where she ran its corporate and B2B division as a senior account director.

At Bebo she assumes responsibility for PR and marketing in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, where Bebo is already the most popular networking site. Her remit also includes Australia, the US and Canada.

Bebo launched just 11 months ago in San Francisco, California, and today has more than 25 million registered users worldwide.

It is the most popular online community in the UK, according to internet research firm Hitwise UK.

It differentiates itself from other sites – such as News International’s MySpace – by encouraging groups of friends from schools and colleges to stay in touch. Unlike some networking sites, this young demographic tend to know each other in the real world.

Bebo’s London office will open next month, with Gavin reporting to an MD, who is yet to be unveiled.

Other UK appointments include Dr Rachel O’Connell – formerly of the Cyberspace Research Centre – as chief safety officer. This role is crucial for Bebo, which must ensure it takes safety seriously to fend off media concern over children being targeted by paedophiles.

Gavin ruled out taking on a consumer agency for Bebo for the foreseeable future. Bebo is, however, using Powerscourt for City PR, with the financial agency being retained by venture capital fund Benchmark Capital, which last month invested $15m (£8m) in Bebo.

At Cancan, former head of tech Jools Moore will take on Gavin’s responsibilities as head of both consumer and B2B technology.

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