Piczo launches new features to stem decline

In the UK, teen social network Piczo’s market share is dropping like a stone. Can new features allowing it to target advertising based on how users decorate their profiles stop the rot?

According to Nielsen//NetRatings yesterday, Piczo has lost 40% of its unique users since December 2006 and has only 3% active reach as against Facebook and MySpace’s equal 20% and Bebo’s 14%. Nielson says Piczo is currently sitting on 851,000 unique users in the UK, although they themselves claim 4 million users in the UK (their largest market, followed by Germany with 2 million) out of its 28 million total registered users globally. Facebook is now judged to be the biggest social network in the UK, while Perfspot is coming from left-field as the fastest growing. All in all things don’t look so great for Piczo compared to last year, but perhaps their new features will help?

The new feature – dubbed Piczo Zone – is now in private beta and will be released generally in a few weeks.

TechCrunch US has reviewed Piczo Zone, which is a way for users to decorate their profile pages in much the same way as teenagers decorate their rooms – with posters, music, movies etc. Users put images, videos, style sheets or just about anything else onto their profile. Each content item also includes descriptive data and tags. Anything a user creates can be added by another user to their profile page, creating a viral effect.

Being able to track what users add to their pages (artists/bands, movies and brands) means the site can build a more detailed demographic and psychographic profile of the user for greater targeting in advertising. So, for instance a music label could target advertising for a new band around kids who have added a similar band to their profile. Since the users are effectively pre-sifted, sales and clicks for a campaign should go up.

So far, so obvious.

More interestingly, Piczo can track the trend of a band of brand’s popularity, getting an early warning on a surge of interest in a band that could be just about to break into the mainstream, for instance. Piczo’s users, mostly teenagers, are the trend-setters, making this a particularly powerful tool.

Equally you could track if a band was going out if fashion and drop them from their record contract!

Piczo is following other sites into this trend-prediction area, such as HotLists released by HotOrNot. HotLists are made up only of images, but like Piczo, users create them themselves and they are spread virally.

UPDATE: Piczo’s Chris Seth responds: “The fact is that Nielsen has never picked up our numbers to any degree, due to their panel methodology and to the fact that they don’t include under 15 in their sample (the audiences for the networks you mention below are all predominantly over 16 now). ComScore, which has us at 3.9 million in the UK, is a much better reflection of our own internal numbers. Our reach into the young teen audience in the UK is second to none.”