BlackBerry takes on Twitter with BBM Channels

BBM Channels will allow users and brands to create their own followings, just like Twitter and Facebook.

BBM Channels on display. Brian Bennett/CNET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- BlackBerry wants to take on Twitter by creating its own social network through its BlackBerry Messenger service.

The company on Tuesday unveiled BBM Channel, which allows users and brands to create a BBM profile that other users can follow, similar to how people can follow brands and users on Twitter.

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, speaking at the BlackBerry Live conference here today, touted the strength of the BBM network, which has 60 million users, and 10 billion messages sent and received each day.

More importantly, Heins said that half of the messages received are read within 20 seconds, touting the high level of engagement that BBM boasts.

BBM Channels will launch in beta today. Heins touted high-profile users such as Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton, as well as Mercedes Petronas racing team (for which BlackBerry is a sponsor), as early supporters of BBM Channels. Alicia Keys, who serves as global creative director for BlackBerry, will also have her own channel.

Users will be able to receive notifications when new posts are available, and are able to choose how they will be notified. In addition, they can comment, "like," and share other comments. There's also the opportunity for one-to-one chatting, allowing brands and notable users to create private dialogues with other BBM members.

Brands and users, meanwhile, will be able to track metrics such as subscribers and engagement, Heins said.

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