Exclusive Interview with BlackBerry Mobile Social Media exec James Nieves

BerryReporter was recently fortunate to spend some time with BlackBerry Mobile’s Social Media Manager, James Nieves for an exclusive interview. If that name isn’t familiar to you then it should be, James was a member of BlackBerry community for many years prior to joining BlackBerry Mobile in 2017. Founder and Editor in Chief of BlackBerry fan blog Berry Flow, James also wrote for CrackBerry; N4BB and NerdBerry (the latter two sites he was a Senior Editor for) over a 5 year period and was an active member of the BlackBerry community online. Berry Flow was renowned for their creative content and marketing ideas as well as their fervent support for the brand which has lead to a dream role for James who is now heading up BlackBerry Mobile social media team last year.

We caught up with James in London where he was in town for the BlackBerry Key2 launch event. We spoke on the balcony of the historic 5 star Ned Hotel and members bar overlooking the Bank of England in central London. We discussed their flagship device the Key 2, one that the company describes as an “An Icon Reborn” on what was the hottest day of summer to date in London. This was an apt moment and ideal location to catch up in the midst of the launch of what is the legendary company’s hottest, most powerful and secure mobile device to date.

Berry Reporter: Thanks for taking time to speak with us at Berry Reporter. After being a blogger and active member of the BlackBerry community for so many years, how has the transition been from blogger to working in your dream role with BlackBerry Mobile?

James Nieves: It’s been great working with the company (BlackBerry Mobile) and the support has been special. I’ve always been supportive of BlackBerry on social and I feel like it’s one of the lowest hanging fruit that they (BlackBerry Mobile) had to address. So being able to get my hands and elbows into it so to speak, as crazy as that sounds is really satisfying you know. And with the support of a team that is relatively small overall you know right, but working on a global scale with one channel.  One of the challenges BlackBerry Ltd faced back in the day was its scattered social approach with a lot of different regional channels. So to have a distinct central voice is such a refreshing take for a brand that is essentially a global brand you know.

BR: Yep exactly. So please explain to the readers what exactly is your role at BlackBerry Mobile?

JN: So I help support on social. Like any agency would, we really help support and go in there and are involved creatively but also take their lead on a lot of things. So really just help on support on pre-orders, on sales, on availability, on discounts or deals. It’s about getting that out to the community in an effective way and on a global scale.

BR: So with Berry Flow, you came up with a lot of creative ideas marketing wise, advertising-wise, and creatively across the board. Have you been able to utilize some of those ideas and channel that creativity into your role at BlackBerry Mobile?

JN: You know I’d say intrinsically yes but technically no. It’s such a different brand, one’s BB10, one’s all Android. So now with an Android approach its an entirely different conversation but think that’s for one for the better.

Where I was talking into a chamber of folks who you knew were really interested in one thing whereas Android opens up the conversation to so many more millions of people. It’s a very different approach you know, its a fan service vs customer engagement and purely understanding that dichotomy as it pertains to social. It’s a revolution that’s taken a hold you know of BlackBerry Mobile social.

BR: Would you describe what you’ve done in the past as somewhat speaking into an echo chamber of sorts?

JN: Absolutely, I think so. When I look at sites like CrackBerry, Berry Flow or BerryReporter you know it’s very much an echo chamber I think. It’s good because if you have a really strong reverberation of sound you can sound you can potentially break the ceiling and get much broader. So it’s the advocates… so if the blogs and the echo chamber within the community don’t buy or like or say that its a great product then it will never go mainstream. So I think it’s important to talk to those people, address them and build something for them. But at the end of the day, this a global brand and you’re looking at a much broader audience that you need to talk to.

Relevancy is the game and BlackBerry is incredibly relevant with the Key2. Its an incredibly modern; lightweight, feature-packed phone. I think there are benefits that people that aren’t necessarily involved with tech will appreciate.  I’ve put this phone into so many ‘ignorant’ hands who have never held it before and there blown away by the productivity, security and the whole unique vibe.

BR: So what are some of the difficulties that you have come across with some of those ‘ignorant’ non-BlackBerry users?

JN: I’d say to those people ignorance is bliss you know. But I think honestly with that focus sometimes I think with them its like I like my thing the way it is. You know they say I like my iPhone coz it works this way I like (points to an imaginary device) but I think people are also just a little bit adverse to change. But when you show them something a little bit different or show them the phone in their hands it makes it real. When you balance the USP’s and you mention the battery life, you talk about productivity and security and really being efficient with your time I think it really changes people’s perception. I think it’s more of that, that needs to happen to perpetuate a new view.

The other challenges on social are BlackBerry Ltd has its own accounts that are very well established over many years already so you are almost competing with yourself and your partners (BlackBerry Mobile). We have people from India reaching out asking when will they see the Key2 all the time and I’m like I don’t know dude, you need to talk to the BlackBerry Mobile licensee in India. So you know right there is a little bit of competing against yourself. But at the end of the day, the fragmentation is annoying as maybe as it is beneficial for the brand as it allows each specific partner to address there market very succinctly and they understand it the best. If dual sim, for example, is really relevant to that market then they will bring it, that attention to detail is what BlackBerry Ltd has put together with this network of global partners.

BR: So with your position at BlackBerry Mobile obviously with your background as being an advocate for the brand over many years do you have any input to the building of devices and the software etc?

JN: I will say moving forward one of the things I appreciate at BlackBerry Mobile from working with them is they have got a roadmap. So in terms of feedback, there in the forums, they are reading the tweets and I’m compiling those reports for them. The community is very much heard and I think with the Key2 you see that. KEYone got a little sluggish after a while, let’s get it more powerful, it’s a little heavy, hey let’s make it lighter. Aluminum and screen could be stronger, let’s make it stronger or the improved dual camera too. So I think they are listening and I think you can see that with the Key2 in such a meaningful way. It looks the same as the KEYone in many ways but until you hold it and use it and engage with it you see it’s not the same as a previous product. You realize then those subtle refinements come together into a dramatic upgrade.

BR: Finally what sort of devices should we be looking forward to seeing from BlackBerry Mobile in the future?

JN: So early this year at CES I believe we referenced two new BlackBerry devices out this year coming to market with keyboards so I say stay tuned the years not over yet! 

Thanks to James Nieves, Camille Gere and the rest of the team at BlackBerry Mobile for making this interview happen! Don’t forget the BlackBerry Key2 has launched in 30 plus markets worldwide already with many more including the US to come this month and throughout the summer! Bookmark BerryReporter for more Key2 content rolling out throughout the summer!

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BerryReporter's International Correspondent based in London, UK and has been a BlackBerry user since 2004 across 16 different devices. My first BlackBerry was a blue 7290 and I'm currently using both a BlackBerry KEY2 and Motion for work and personal use. I love running and going to the gym plus I'm also a huge music, movie, tech and sports fan. My favourite sports include Boxing; MMA and Athletics to Basketball (Miami Heat) and Football (Liverpool FC). You can add me on BBM via my custom PIN: USMmedia

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