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Friends Reunited, the site best known for reuniting old school friends, is preparing itself for a relaunch.

This time, it’s positioning itself as the home of nostalgia online, celebrating “EVERY blast from the past” with a campaign that uses the phrase “Remember when?” to draw people in.

The new site is due to launch in the next few weeks, and encourages you to search for anything you can remember. You can "find, collect and share the memories you love with the people that were there too".

Working with digital marketing agency Croud, the site has created the video below - which heavily draws from Google, in terms of content, music, layout and technical demonstration. It’s not a bad company to be inspired by, and the result is really quite moving, but is it too little, too late?

The site says it still attracts over 7m users a year, but this is a fraction of market share in today’s socially-saturated market.

Plus, with new communities springing up every five minutes that centre around mobile – something that’s more releveant to changing consumer behaviour – how on earth can Friends Reunited carve a space for itself?

Jon Silk, head of Studio D UK at Waggener Edstrom

Instagram, Path and Pinterest have shown that there are huge opportunities for niche networks.

Facebook and Twitter aren’t going to be rattled by the relaunch of Friends Reunited, but if the proposition is focused enough it could win some unclaimed ground.

Looking at its new marketing, the target market seems to be over 40s who want to reminisce about big events in their lifetimes and might not be comfortable sharing every detail of their life on the web.

It’s pretty easy for part-time social networkers to be intimidated by Facebook and overwhelmed by Twitter. If Friends Reunited gets the interface and financial model right, it could crack the middle-aged market wide open, and do very well out of it.

Stephen Waddington, MD Speed

The existing data and premise of reconnecting with people from your school days is still valid, but has effectively been mothballed for years.

Facebook made it much easier. Friends Reunited needs to find ways to reconnect around interest points, not just the fact that you used to sit in classroom.

Joanna Wiggins, ASOS Marketplace editor

I expect the revamped Friends Reunited might well find its key users in the increasingly active ‘Mum’ demographic, who consider themselves too old for Facebook, but are ready to graduate from the ‘reply all’ email chain to a platform that can provide them with an easier way of chatting over shared images and experience.

By taking the focus off the Facebook ethos of ‘this is who I am’ and instead stressing ‘this is what we did’, Friends Reunited may be able to not only attract older, first time sharers but also those who are increasingly ‘over’ confusing facebook privacy terms.

The key to winning over with both groups will be simple user journeys and transparent privacy settings. 

Max Tatton-Brown, account manager at EML Wildfire

It's an interesting pivot - and I think it speaks of the new age of social products that feature specialist functions and run across established networks like Facebook and Twitter. Instagram sucks in pictures, Pinterest for lists of things and it looks like Friends Reunited is going for memories. 

However, it seems to be coming from the same logic as Facebook's Timeline redesign - what happens when your Facebook page is 5/10/15 years old? That's a fundamental clash that will be really difficult to overcome, especially when you consider that they are overlapping so clearly with core Facebook functionality.

Tristan Garrick, PR manager for the Direct Marketing Association

When Facebook is your competitor, it’s tough to make any meaningful impact in the social networking industry. It’s almost like trying to find space for another cola brand.

While Friends Reunited's product offering ostensibly doesn’t seem to be hugely different to what’s already available elsewhere, it’s interesting to note that Friends Reunited is differentiating itself on the point of simpler privacy controls and settings. It's trying to step away from Facebook’s business model of relying on personalised, targeting marketing as a primary revenue generator.

It will be interesting to see if people are willing to ditch their Facebook accounts and sign up with Friends Reunited solely on the basis that they want an environment with lighter marketing content. However, I don’t think that Facebook has cause for concern just yet. 

Aisling McCarthy, senior account director at We Are Social

Even though Friends Reunited was one of the pioneers of social networking, it was Facebook that really shaped the culture and behaviour of the world of social. Although its usage is sure to plateau soon, I think that this year internet users are going to care more about sharing personal content on Facebook and discovering new tools for creation and curation.

There are a slew of new platforms out there at the moment but it looks like curation is a trend that is set to continue in 2012.

With the popularity of platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr; I just don’t see Friends Reunited getting a look in. I’d like to see it prove me wrong – but sadly, I don’t think it’ll be too long before the site admits defeat for the last time.

Joy Stefanicki, social media consultant at CrowdControlHQ

Friends Reunited's approach of providing public access to nostalgia-driven photo archives could really make people take notice, especially given the current love for such content and all things image-based (cue obligatory Pinterest/Instagram mention). 

I think it's being smart pushing privacy features as part of the relaunch, but is it original enough?

With Facebook now seemingly getting its privacy act together, G+ and Path catering for a more private experience, I'm struggling to see how the network will fit in. 

Even with the strong affection I'm sure I'm not alone at feeling for the brand itself, I just don't think it will be enough to bring it back to its glory days - although I hope I'm proven wrong!

Vikki Chowney

Published 23 March, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

249 more posts from this author

Comments (17)

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Peter McCormack

Peter McCormack, Founder at McCormack Morrison

Is this not just Facebook timeline?

You can't blame them for continuing but they are flogging a dead horse now.

over 4 years ago

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David Childs

It looks pretty similar, but I think they will provide the content for you, so all you have to do is search for it and collect it. I don't think many people will bother going back to fill in their timelines pre-2006

over 4 years ago

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Edwin Hayward

Perhaps they need a rebrand as well as a strategy change? Friends Reunited sounds like such a mouthful in a world of Twitter, Pinterest, etc. plus it no longer accurately reflects what they're planning to be (it's not just about friends per se, but about shared experiences in a particular time/space).

Perhaps they can still pull a "MySpace" and accept that there's value in serving a tighter niche even if you're now much smaller than you once were.

(Related aside: we have Revisit.com / net / .co.uk for sale and while I'm obviously biased, that at least sounds closer to what they're trying to achieve...)

over 4 years ago

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Killian

@Edwin, good point. Rebranding would make a lot more sense not just to tighten the name and meaning, but because all these friends are already reunited and have been for years! There is basically no more major demand for that core offering. I do like the direction they're attempting to go in here though. I still wouldn't bet on this though.

over 4 years ago

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Martin Castellan

If I was running Croud, I'd demand payment from Friends Reunited up front.

Back on 2002, my company, they hired my company, Sud Media, to build, launch and market their sites in Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain. We were supposed to be paid by commission on memberships during the life of the sites.

As soon as we delivered them all, Friends Reunited cancelled the contract, leaving us with the development costs.

They then succeeded in convincing ITV that the lot was worth £170 million.

over 4 years ago

Vikki Chowney

Vikki Chowney, Head of Social at TMW

@Martin Gulp...

over 4 years ago

Louis Wahl

Louis Wahl, Chief Customer Officer at Wex PhotographicSmall Business Multi-user

Monetising these sites is still a numbers game; high traffic for ad serving, playing games, etc, and most of that is monopolised by one big player. It's hard to see where the space is for this without a major differentiator that steals market share, or creates incremental viewing time, and most of what seems to be on offer can be done anywhere else.

I wish them well, though. A single dominant player isn't good in the long run.

over 4 years ago

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

I think it is too late. There may be a small niche to target but not enought to make a huge profit.

over 4 years ago

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Mari

What was once straight-forward is now without focus. Even my list of schools was hard to find on the home page! It was also incomplete and inaccurate. I gave up looking for schools and people as there just did not seem any way to find them.

over 4 years ago

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Dominic Fulsgrove

Any design company that can do as much damage for a site as Croud did to FR should be sued. Its absolutely dreadful and unusable, and is 100% pointless. Typical arrogance of "design luvvies" tellign the client how to run their business. Sum it up in one word CRAP.

over 4 years ago

Panos Ladas

Panos Ladas, Digital Marketing Manager at Piece of Cake

- "Is it too late to save Friends Reunited?"
- YES. Yesterday and last year was way too late to save it. Why even bother????

@Louis, @Oliver: agree.

over 4 years ago

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Bernie

Agree with Mari and Dominic. Couldn't even get on it for months on my laptop so tried the library...and at last! But then sorry I bothered. Wasted over an hour trying to work out how to find people. All I could get it to do was present a list of people with the name I'd searched for without any clues to their identity..just comments they'd made (I think)
Gave up..bring back the old Friends Reunited and get rid of this rubbish!

over 4 years ago

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Peter Tabois

Agree with Mari, dominic and Bernie .Not now user friendly for the basic searches which we all want i.e. names of people who went to schools, clubs etc. in particular time . If you find a school there is just a a-z list of all pupils undivided as to period and finding surnames is a time consuming nightmare.

over 4 years ago

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Roger Andrews

It's hard to imagine that we used to pay a subscription of £5 / year to be a full member that allowed us to contact old friends. Then it became free, now there is no point in logging on to FR as the data base has gone and with it any hope of finding someones name that turns up in a long lost address book or diary.

over 4 years ago

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Christine

I'm sorry, but it is absolute rubbish! And why remove the chat function? It seems impersonal and confusing and I rarely bother with it now.
I think the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" was never more apt.

about 4 years ago

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paul fisher

I have just checked the new website and am so disappointed. No more focussed ability to contact workgroups of scholl/university friends by year or place, just 'memories' and 'rooms'. I spent half an hour trying to find old friends, failed, gave up. Agree entirely with previous comments like if it aint broke etc., because now it IS broke.

about 4 years ago

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Colin Barnard

I agree with you Paul and with previous comments, it is now "Broke". I used to enjoy logging in leaving messages for old friends, finding out about reunions and general chit chat. I can no longer find my street and old nieghbours and all the tags on the photos seem to have gone missing... Not much point using FR any more, shame really!!

almost 4 years ago

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