Global Social Network Site Spotlight Series: Badoo

At the end of 2010, I wrote about the global trends of Facebook and promised future posts on the options besides Facebook in different countries. A lot of things have changed since the end of 2010, especially with the recent launch of Google+. And while 70% of Facebook users are outside of the U.S. and the number of active users (currently 750 million) is still climbing, we at Ignite know that Facebook is not the end-all be-all for social media.

For the local options out there that are alternatives to Facebook and the other big dogs based out of the US, I’ve decided to start a global social network series spotlighting social networking sites across the globe. If you’d like a lot more data on any specifics, make sure to check out posts by Brian Chappell, Ignite’s senior social search strategist, and his annual article on demographic and traffic data for a large number of social networks in particular.

First up in this educational series in no particular order: Badoo, a social networking site/borderline dating community site used throughout Europe.

Basic information on Badoo

(Check out Brian’s post for more graphs about Badoo’s growing popularity and insights on the demographics for Badoo along with many other rising SNS)

Badoo is clearly on the rise. The feel of Badoo is that of a dating site but that makes sense – it evolved from an earlier dating site based in Russia called Mamba. In 2006, Badoo was launched in London and its headquarters have been in Soho, London ever since. How does it differ from Facebook? Badoo has a constant emphasis on local. Facebook and Google+ are all about social circles and keeping in touch with friends, whereas Badoo is all about introducing people to one another in a very limited geographic area. It’s all about proximity.

How does Badoo monetize?

The basic service is free for everyone. For monetization, Badoo generates income through “Rise Up” and “Spotlight” features, a Super Powers premium package, along with advertising for products and brands. For the premium features, users can pay to be seen by more people in their area. For the “Spotlight” feature, a member’s photo and a brief profile shows at the top of every Badoo page in their area. For “Rise Up,” a member’s profile is put at the top of the search results in their area. The Super Powers package is a group of features for an individual which allows people to access more information about other members (similar to a LinkedIn premium account where you can see more information on who searches for you, full profile information, etc.) Badoo claims that over 5 million people visit the site every day – their claim is that the average user spends over 15 minutes per visit, generating 5 billion impressions a month.

In short, the key to Badoo’s monetization is promising people a way to break through clutter by charging for boosted visibility when others search for a date through Badoo. Badoo is technically a social networking service, though it walks a very fine line of being a dating site similar to the likes of and Eharmony. There is a lot of emphasis on using Badoo for dating, meeting new people and for sexual encounters.

Who uses Badoo?

From Brian’s data via Google Insights for Badoo, there are more women (52%) than men (48%) on Badoo and most people are between 25 and 54. The search data shows that most of the people on Badoo are in Italy then other random places across Europe and the globe. The average income is around or below $49,999k and most users have some college experience. Most do not seem to have a degree, however.

Badoo’s own data suggests differently, with much more emphasis on having users located in Brazil, Mexico and France. They also provide information saying their users are 53% male and 47% female. The feel of the site is that women are definitely outnumbered. The network definitely seems to be strong and present in Europe, even though data for Brazil and Mexico shows Badoo’s strength rising in North and South America.

But what kind of person actually uses Badoo? One looking to “meet new people.” You can see the motives of people on the main page, actually:

What are the opportunities for brands on Badoo?

For a brand seeking to promote itself on Badoo, there are Affiliate Pages and advertising opportunities. Becoming an affiliate is free of charge and there are also ways to whitelabel Badoo. I have yet to see an affiliate page or an actual advertisement on Badoo, however. There are no areas for visual ads for any products or brands.

An interesting note about Badoo is its integration with Facebook. While it’s a separate social networking site primarily used in Europe, Badoo’s Facebook application is the third largest on Facebook and still growing. This could be a big potential for it and advertising.

My experience with Badoo

Earlier this year Wired had an excellent piece on Badoo and Andreev, the mysterious founder, and I’m not going to rip off their article. It’s incredibly informative and titled, “How Badoo built a billion-pound social network… on sex.” So if you’re interested in finding out a more of the nitty gritty details about the website and the past, present and future of the website, make sure to check it out.

But since Badoo is available in English, here are my impressions of the site:

• The site only requires your first name – never asking for your last. I assume this is for people’s safety and they’ve been making changes to protect their users. Badoo is one of the least private social networks as of 2009.
• I am now one of the 130,000 new users per day.
• Badoo really wants a person to import their contacts upon entry. I’m always turned off by this idea. I’m also turned off by the email I got after registration saying “29 people in your area want to see what you look like and find out more about you!” But hey, this has to be appealing to some people. These are all people I’d love to meet, for sure:

• My self-esteem took a hit. It makes sense how people become addicted to the “Rise Up” features and doing whatever they can to become more popular and recognized in a local area, though. Andreev himself has described these features as addictive. I’m just glad the minimum age of a user on Badoo is 18 years old as this sort of feature would wreck havoc on a teen’s psychology:

• For the Super Powers feature, you can find out who wants to meet you, access profiles of people from Encounters, have an advanced search, know the status of your messages (whether they’ve been read by others), gain a more customizable profile, have an Invisible mode (view profiles secretly), grant your messages special delivery, and skip the queue to meet other popular users. 1 month is $12, 3 months is a total of $30 and 6 months is $40. You can pay with a credit card or with PayPal. The system is set up very smoothly and there are many ways to get into the payment screen. These features are similar to OkCupid’s A-List.
• The feel of the site is that there are many more men than women. In Cary, NC, there are only four other users and they are all guys.
• In summary: the site is in English so I can understand it (which is great), but I am ultimately sketched out by the feel of this borderline dating community/social network. It’s not officially a dating community but it seems like one and that unnerves me. Inevitably, there’s going to be an issue come up with sex offenders, rape, or any of the other issues that have plagued dating sites/social networks that encourage going out and meeting strangers. Badoo hasn’t dealt with this yet but they will eventually.

I’m definitely not alone in being creeped out by this site. You can’t communicate on this site without putting up a photo of yourself. That alone makes me feel uncomfortable, especially with the focus of the site being on local connections. But the brilliance of Badoo’s monetization (much like Google’s AdWords and emphasis on self promotion) and the path of Russia’s serial entrepreneur, Andreev, makes the site a very interesting model to keep an eye on.

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