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Bebo offline: cheap publicity stunt or real deal?

Twitter was abuzz with speculation last night as it appeared that social networking site Bebo had been shut down.

It all started with one Tweet from Bebo’s founder Michael Birch. He posted: “Am super sad the Bebo has gone. Some very fun times with very cool people. #RIPbebo – keep sharing that luv!”

It led to a barrage of Tweets from disgruntled users, with many saying they had lost thousands of memories out of the blue.

But it has now become clear that Bebo was not dead, just offline due to the age-old excuse of ‘some technical difficulties’.

Bebo publicity stunt?

But given that the site has not done anything in the way of publicity or member-drives for months, was the Twitter furore just a cheap publicity stunt?

Birch, who started the confusion, has recently re-invested in the company. Since then the site has done pretty much nothing, until now.

Since going offline, the word ‘Bebo’ has been trending highly – the kind of publicity it can only dream of. And we’ve had nothing in the way of Tweets reassuring users from the site’s official Twitter accounts.

Bebo struggling

There was a time when Bebo held its own in the social networking world, and was as big as the likes of MySpace and Facebook.

After being founded by Birch and his wife back in 2005, with just £8,000, the site was bought by AOL in 2008 for £540 million.

But the US computer giant had no idea what to do with its new acquisition, and the site rapidly lost users to the Facebook machine.

And by 2010, AOL cut its losses and sold the site to Criterion Capital Partners for a reported £6.4 million – not great for two years’ work.

Maybe the ‘technical difficulties’ are a genuine mistake, or maybe it is just some excellent marketing. Either way, we’re talking about Bebo much more than we have ever done before.