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Anti-social media
Tottenham riots give Blackberry a PR boost & win in teen market

The UK press today is blaming social media for helping spread information and details about the riots in Tottenham and elsewhere and two platforms in particular are getting the coverage/blame – Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger.

Twitter’s getting attacked for the real-time nature of updates while BlackBerry Messenger is being attacked for being a private communications network (that’s free, hence the popularity).

And while some are asking if this is another kick in the downward spiralling BlackBerry, could it actually be the opposite and be seen as a defining moment in securing the teen marketplace ahead of iPhones and Android devices?

BlackBerries have been growing in popularity of late with teens for a few reasons – many parents have been handing them down to their kids as the adult gets an iPhone or Android phone, the data tariffs have been coming down and many are taking advantage of BlackBerry Messenger being free to use (as opposed to SMS which incur a charge).

Blackberry usage against smartphones like iphones

Now for teens, one of the most important things is being able to have private chats – a box which BBM ticks – but there’s also that part of teenagehood that wants to do the opposite or be different from parents. So if the parents are all about the iPhones/Androids and Twitter/Facebook where’s a teen to go for private chat or to rebel? BBM.

On top of that, the media reporting today will – even though it’s not directly meant – make BBM and BlackBerry seem quite cool to a lot of kids and teens. Its use in the riots will actually increase the desirability.

Let’s bear in mind that what’s cool to an adult – or what an adult thinks is cool for teens – is normally nowhere near what teens themselves consider cool.

The other question to be asked though is this: Does BlackBerry see this as a positive thing? Is this a Cristal/Burberry moment for the brand or will it put on an official face of “no comment” while working out how to maximise on this behind the scenes?

(Of course the real downside is that there’s now a bunch of free phones going about the area because of the looting, so there may not be any extra sales out of it.)

(And note, I’m not subscribing to the ‘any PR is good PR’ mentality – which I debate with Kate Matlock in this social media podcast (RSS link)- but the more the authoritarian press is seen to decry BBM, the more it will appeal to certain people as it will look edgy and something that gives private ways of chatting without snooping in.)

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