I joined Friends Reunited long before the term ‘Social Network’ was being used to describe a wave of sites that now connect millions around the world. In the early days you could not add photos (even a profile picture) without paying a subscription. Email addresses and website addresses were banned, leading me to resort to describing my site as wellbelove dot com. The ban was due to the fact that if you wanted to message an old school friend you had to part with the cash for a yearly subscription. Friends Reunited wanted to stop you getting in touch with your old school friends by any other means.
With the birth of services sits such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, where users are free to find and message to their hearts content. Friends Reunited stuck to it’s business model and with it suffered a decline in usage. This all happened as It’s new owners ITV (2005) was having lots of problems elsewhere and what Friends Reunited had really needed at that time was a fresh company with the energy and the guts to react fast and change before it was too late.
Only now, years after Friends Reunited have watched new comers come and grow, have they finally made it free for you to message and receive messages from friends.
Friends Reunited has a big issue with thousands of dormant accounts, many who signed up originally will have changed their email address several times losing contact with the site. How annoying to finally be able to message your friends only to find out that they are no longer there to pick up your message. Careful management of dormant accounts is needed so that we do not have to sift through lots of dead wood to reach the occasional active one.
Friends Reunited are planning a multi-million marketing campaign to help them regain the ground loss to fresher rivals. This will hopefully tempt those who have been away holidaying on the Facebook beach to come back and see if there is anyone else out there who isn’t also on Facebook.
Friends Reunited now needs to go the next step. Enable people to make their profile public – you currently have to be logged in to see any content – what better tool for driving traffic to the site than a million names on a search engine. Integration with other social networking sites would also drive usage. A Friends Reunited Facebook application is needed (if not already planned), a step to far for the owners at ITV maybe?