BBM Channels is an overlooked, under advertised but curiously embedded feature within the BBM app. Before we explore why it may be overlooked and under advertised, I would like to put on my BlackBerry glasses and share the compelling elements of Channels.

With BBM going cross-platform and Windows phone support coming soon, BlackBerry has placed themselves in direct competition against almost every other social network in one single swoop. BBM Channels is in a position to grow enormously because it’s an intelligently embedded feature of BBM.

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BBM and its features could make the case as one of the strongest messaging application in the world. Yet, BBM Channels is on its way to making a bid as the strongest, most secure, and unique mobile social networks around. The fact that Channels is baked directly into the BBM experience is nothing short of brilliant if you think about it.

Most people have multiple apps on their devices that they regularly communicate and interact on. Let’s consider a few of the most popular ones such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. These four apps are more-or-less found on any given device today and they operate independently from each other. Despite the positives and negatives these apps may possess for a user, they are commonly “linked”; where all one needs to do is update one app and the others will follow suit, but overall it’s still a fragmented experience. The “In and Out” of various applications is an old paradigm.

“BBM Channels is on its way to making a bid as the strongest, most secure, and unique mobile social networks around.”

If this sounds familiar that’s because it’s the way things work now on most popular mobile OS platforms. BlackBerry has evolved this experience by marrying their powerful communications application with a unique social platform that connects people with brands, business, and the communities that matter most to their customers through a real-time engagement experience.

How can Skype, Whatsapp, Instagram, and the rest of the cross-platform mobile apps compete with the security, efficiency, and the compelling features of BBM now that Channels is embedded in the app? Especially if BBM is available worldwide? And for free. The exciting thing about this development is that it is only the beginning of the adventure. BBM Channels has only been in use for a mere 8 months and already comprises of half a million channels, according to BlackBerry’s Year-End and Fourth Quarter Fiscal 2014 Results conference call.

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However, BBM Channels has a long way to go if they are going to remain competitive. There are still a boatload of bug fixes, features, and UI adjustments that must be addressed ASAP across the mobile platforms. For this next segment I’m going to take off my BlackBerry glasses and explore 16 essential things that BBM Channels needs in order to remain relevant and become a stronger app.

  1.  We need an API so we can connect to other services (as in posting on BBM Channels will automatically push through to our Instagram, Facebook, etc.). This ability will streamline the process for users and in a small way advertise BBM Channels on other networks via a signature with a possible link to join/subscribe to BBM and Channels.
  2. We need to be able to edit a post after posting it … seriously.
  3. The ability to embed a BBM Channel post on a webpage. Just look at the way many people on the web embed their Instagram on blog posts with quick video tips, etc. (this would include comment streams). We want to be able to do that within our BBM Channel posts too, but we can’t right now.
  4. We definitely need to be able to have our BBM Channel running on more than one phone. Right now, the main N4BB Channel is on Lucas’s BB. That means anybody else who wants to post on the channel from the N4BB team has to do so from the web panel. This is lame and not only kills the flow of content we love to do across the team, but also the real-time connectivity of our site with its members.
  5. The whole Statistics page needs to be more useful. It needs to show comments, visitors, likes, percentages, etc. On posts, the Read count works but how exactly is that calculated? People who just see it in their stream of BBM updates, or actually go to the page?
  6. The option to reply to Channel comments from your personal name and/or your Channel name. On Lucas Atkin’s BBM account, he’s Lucas Atkins, but when he goes into the N4BB Channel and replies to a comment, it always comes from N4BB. In some cases he wants those replies coming from Lucas Atkins and he should be able to do so.
  7. Threaded comments need to be in descending order. It’s so frustrating and confusing to read replies to comments on BBM Channels and not knowing which comments are referring to what. Following a conversation is beyond annoying. Fix it. Please. Perhaps implementing a feature that collapses replies to comments by default, with user ability to expand/collapse them, can help keep things tidy.
  8. There are too many steps to access your personal channel(s) from the home screen on your device. As it stands, it’s 6 steps to reach your own channel! This is unacceptable. There needs to be an intuitive way to have quick access to your own BBM Channel.
  9. Add the year, along with the date and time, for each post created. I scroll through my old posts, dating to last year, and there’s no consistency of information – let alone a year that labels my posts appropriately. This will come in handy with request number 14.
  10. We need to be able to respond to BBM messages while in BBM Channels. How is it I get neither toast notifications nor the ability to quickly respond to BBM messages without going back 4 steps? This needs to be rectified.
  11. The default home feature page of BBM Channels is weak and unattractive. If anything, it probably needs to resemble BlackBerry World. Channels should be categorized like apps, with the most commented Channels, most liked Channels, BB approved Channels, most subscribers, etc., on a home page. They could also categorize them in themes like fitness, food, cars, sports, photography, etc. This would make it easier for users to browse and discover new interests.
  12. We need to have the ability to add multiple channel owners, community managers, and moderators. Currently it’s a nightmare to run and manage Channels for businesses, communities, and brands because they can only be done by one person and that person is tasked with maintaining absolutely everything on the Channel. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
  13. The ability to post playable videos directly from your Channel, not just the link. Again, streamlining the process and eliminating unnecessary steps is a must have. We want to be able to do it all from within the app and not default to multitasking when we don’t have to.
  14. Implement a way to access a specific post without scrolling endlessly. The most annoying thing about popular apps, such as Instagram, is endless scrolling to reach a particular post. How awesome would it be to have a search option where we can put in a criteria to access related posts? Perhaps “Smart Hashtags” can be useful here (“Smart Hashtags” limits the number of tags that can be used and requires categorization to keep tags accurately related to content. Yes, this is my original idea).
  15. Give us the ability to leave voice notes and videos in posts and comments. This one feature would be epic. Imagine the significant level of interaction that could be made between Channel owners and subscribers with this feature alone? Make it happen BlackBerry.
  16. A “Glympse type” feature needs to be implemented for posts. We can already disclose our location to specific people or groups on BBM but how fun would it be if we can set expiration times on our channel posts whether it be video, images, voice notes or text? Brands can post expiring coupons on their channel, Business can post images of future products/services for a limited time etc. This level of excitement will bring BBM Channels to the forefront of must-have apps!

If these 16 features could be implemented in a respectable time frame then I suspect it’s goodbye Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and many other social apps for a great number of people. It would simply eliminate the need for other social platforms. BBM Channels would do everything we want it to do more effectively, efficiently, securely, and productively than the competition.

“Mobile communications that flow with our lifestyles is the future we want.”

Mobile communications that flow with our lifestyles is the future we want. No more multiple devices and apps taking up our energy, money, and valuable time. No need to stay on top of different things in different places. We would just require one device and one powerful application. BlackBerry is about flowing, peeking, balance, remembering… and now “Channeling”. Channeling all of these elements through one brilliant, seamless, integrated experience: BBM.

BBM Channels is poised to become the strongest, most secure, and unique mobile social network around. Its BBM integration may give it enough ammunition to be the one app to rule them all. It’s up to BlackBerry to make it happen.

So BlackBerry; Get it done.

 

Edited by Sharon Mamolo