Best practices for BlackBerry instant messaging

Six tips for BlackBerry Messenger


BlackBerry Messenger, Research In Motion's (RIM) mobile IM application that uses unique "PIN" codes associated with every BlackBerry to connect RIM smartphone users, isn't new. But due to the BlackBerry platform's rising popularity, BBM, which you can think of as a mobile version of AIM or Google Talk that only works with BlackBerrys, is suddenly getting a lot of attention. And not all of it is positive. In fact, web security software maker McAfee recently posted a warning about BBM spam and hoaxes on its TrustedSource blog.

To me, BBM is a valuable tool that I use every day for immediate contact with important colleagues, associates and family members. But the app can subject BlackBerry users to unnecessary risk if used improperly or without a certain degree of caution.

Here are half a dozen BBM best practices to help ensure that you get the most of your BBM experience while avoiding any potential trouble.

Add new contacts sparingly

This is the most important point in my post, so I'll say it again: Add new contacts sparingly.

I know I'll catch some flak from some of you loyal BlackBerry users out there who seem to be playing a game in which the goal is to gain as many BBM contacts as quickly as possible. But the value in BBM, for me at least, is that it's not just another IM service, I have BeeJive for that.

BBM users add new contacts in a few ways: 1) You can share your unique PIN with others and have them invite you, or vice-versa; 2) you can add new contacts by sharing email addresses associated with your BlackBerry smartphone and 3) you can "scan" other BBM users' unique PIN-barcodes with your BlackBerry's camera, assuming you're using the latest BBM version (5.0).

I only connect with colleagues, family and friends who I want to be able to communicate with instantly, at any time. And when I connect with someone on BBM, I mostly expect him or her to respond to my message as quickly as possible. And I know most of them expect the same in return.

So, to the point: Do NOT share your BlackBerry PIN or barcode with just anyone; Do NOT post your PIN or barcode on your public Twitter account or any other social network; Do NOT include your BlackBerry PIN or barcode in your fixed email signature.

Are you getting the idea here? Good. Furthermore, you don't have to accept all BBM invites you receive. Don't worry about hurt feelings or bruised egos. Your BlackBerry will thank you.

On that note: There's really no right or wrong way to use BBM. But there are smart and effective methods of employing the service. Adding tons of contacts defeats the purpose of BBM for me and diminishes the app's overall value.

Backup BBM contacts regularly

As with any computer or handheld, it's a very good idea to backup your BBM, and your entire BlackBerry, regularly. If your smartphone is associated with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), RIM's latest version of BBM (v5.0) added a new feature that lets you manually backup your messenger contacts to your device's internal memory or a microSD memory card. In the past, a separate, PC-based BlackBerry Desktop Manager or other piece of software was required for backup, but today the whole process can be device-based.

To backup your BBM contacts manually, open BBM and hit your BlackBerry Menu key, located directly to the left of your "trackball/trackpad." Scroll down to the Contact List section and open the box next to "Save a copy of your contact list." Next, choose whether you want to backup your contacts locally (on a memory card) or remotely to RIM's BBM servers. (Note: You'll need to associate your BBM account with an email address to access the remote contact backup feature.)

Be wary of BBM Groups...

In addition to the contact backup option, RIM added a number of new features and functionalities to BBM in its 5.0 update, released late last year. Among those features is a new BBM "Groups" option. BBM Groups, basically a mobile group chat app, can be quite useful in coordinating disparate workgroups or for communicating during large conferences or events.

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