In pursuit of the next hot social networking trend, Facebook announced its acquisition of a positivity-focused polling application called tbh, a stylized abbreviation for “to be honest.” The polling application targets the coveted demographic of high school and college students, allowing users to anonymously answer kind-hearted multiple-choice questions about their friends, who then receive the results as compliments.
Users may be presented with questions like, “Who is the best person to bring to a party?” or “Who is more honest?” and are then given four names from their synchronized contact list on the app as answer choices. The unique angle of tbh is its focus on positivity — users can only pose and answer questions that are uplifting. Although users can submit their own poll questions, tbh reviews each entry to allow only those that are inoffensive and interesting.
“If we are raising the mental health of millions of teenagers, it is a success for us,” explained Nikita Bier, one of the co-founders of tbh, in a recent interview for TechCrunch.
While other similar apps like Secret and Yik Yak have become a source of cyberbullying, tbh is taking a different route.
“You don’t necessarily need the ability to say whatever you want but to be able to say what you feel to others,” added Bier.
Since its launch this past August, tbh already has 5 million downloads and 2.5 million active users. Available only on iOS, the app counts over 1 billion poll questions answered.
Its exponential growth has catapulted the young app to the top spot on the iTunes free apps charts — tbh is ahead of YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. The value of the acquisition by Facebook was not publicly disclosed but TechCrunch estimated the deal to be at less than $100 million. For comparison, Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 were valued at $1 billion and $19 billion, respectively.
Facebook believes that this new wave of millennials using tbh represents the next generation of social media communication. Instagram, for example, jumped from 30 million monthly active users to 800 million monthly active users in only five years. WhatsApp had 540 million users when it was bought by Facebook in 2014 and today has over 1.3 billion users. Despite tbh launching only a few months ago, Facebook felt the need to acquire the app immediately before it experienced further explosive growth.
“When we met with Facebook, we realized that we shared many of the same core values about connecting people through positive interactions. Most of all, we were compelled by the ways they could help us realize tbh’s vision and bring it to more people,” the company stated on its official website.
Following the acquisition, all tbh employees will work at Facebook headquarters located in Menlo Park, California. There, they will have access not only to funding from the social networking giant, but will also take advantage of Facebook’s experienced engineering team and anti-spam technologies such as intelligent moderation. Facebook reported that they will allow tbh to operate somewhat independently with its own brand.
The tbh team admitted that they have yet to think through monetization strategies or in-app purchase ideas. For now, it would likely be unwise to obstruct growth with any monetization. Given the fickle nature of teenagers and social networking app adoption, tbh is concentrating on retention and scaling as much as possible.
“Improving people’s self-esteem — that’s been the most rewarding aspect of this product,” Bier said. “Raising a ton of money, all that other stuff, it’s just an accessory to the goal. The goal is, can we make this generation happier?