MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Facebook Video Chat - Will You Use It?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, July 07, 2011

Yesterday, Facebook announced the integration of Skype (currently being acquired by Microsoft) for video chat.  What does this mean?  It means that in addition to clicking the chat button to have an instant messaging system with one your friends who is online, you can now elect to have a video chat with that same friend.  Imagine Skype within the framework of Facebook - you have a pop-up window with the talking head of your friend.

This announcement was surrounded with a lot of hype.  Sure Skype gains access to Facebook’s 750 million users.  And Facebook gains access to arguably, the most recognized VoIP platform.  But do Facebook users really want to video chat with their friends?  I performed a quick verbal survey with my friends and they were all a bit quizzical about the need for video chat within Facebook.  Perhaps this is a generational issue.  I’m older than Mark Zuckerberg.

My friends and I use Facebook to stay in touch.  We do not post comments every minute.  We do not expect instantaneous response to any comment.  We share pictures, we comment on items in the news; we ask random (and often ridiculous) questions.  We promote our favorite causes.  We rarely use the existing chat function.  We actually enjoy the random updates and casual means of staying in contact with geographically dispersed friends.  It’s a light touch, not as intentional as an email or a phone call.  We feel “safe” in not actually verbalizing our thoughts, but sharing them in a few short sentences.

I’m a big fan of social networks.  I help companies identify their strategies for using social networks.  As businesses continue to adopt Facebook as another channel for communicating with their customers, I do see how B2C companies can use video chat to enhance their consumer relationships.  Any company focused on customer service, now has another mechanism for connecting to, interacting with and responding to consumer concerns.  Companies can expose their personality even further through the use of a live person, interacting with friends and fans.  I can imagine emerging technology companies who use Facebook as a recruiting platform, testing applicants’ interactive capabilities using video chat. 

Video is memorable.  Video is personal.  Video exposes both the individual and the company.  This additional exposure does not come without risk.  Representatives of the company, who are currently managing their social presence, will have to consider the impact on their policies and guidelines.  Further training may be required verbal communication requires a different set of skills than written communication.  For those firms already concerned about regulatory and compliance issues, video chat is something that will never be turned on.  If companies turn on video chat they will be required ‘walk the talk’ even more consistently then ever before.

What do you think about Facebook’s new video chat capabilities?  How will you use it?  Will you use it at all? 

What’s your perspective?