It’s official. Chatroulette is the hottest thang on the web right now! The buzz machine has rapidly filtered through to the mainstream media, who seem to have found a (temporary?) alternative to the Twitter hype. comScore data tells us Chatroulette’s user base increased 900% to almost a million US users in February. Whoa! And as we all know, where people go, marketers follow. We’ve already seen brands such as FCUK & Sunny Queen Eggs enter the fray. To which I say… ho hum! Just because a service achieves instant popularity, doesn’t mean that marketers should jump in blindly. In fact, I can think of a bunch of reasons why marketers should stay the hell away from Chatroulette…
1. Chatroulette is seedy
Really seedy! If there’s one warning that continues to emerge from people trialling Chatroulette, it’s to prepare yourself for what you’re going to see… cocks. And a lot of them. Informal research revealed a 14% skew towards perverts and masturbators. Anecdotally, some claim it is much higher. Regardless, it’s an environment few brands would want to be associated with. In fact, the only industry that should be gravitating towards Chatroulette right now is XXX. Stick a pornstar in front of the webcam and watch the perverts flock to their webcams…!
2. Chatroulette is random
By nature, Chatroulette is random. Completely random. Which is of course the novelty of the whole thing – connect with a complete stranger and see what happens. Which is exactly what makes it a disaster for marketers. The point of any marketing campaign is to connect and communicate with a defined audience. Yet the random factor makes it impossible to achieve that simple goal. Businesses can’t select who they communicate with. And more importantly, customers can’t connect with brands if they want to (I’m highly doubtful they would want to in this environment anyway). So what are we left with? A brand searching randomly/aimlessly for people to speak to. Sounds kinda like advertising to me…
3. Chatroulette is private
Unlike Twitter, Chatroulette is a private environment. Chat sessions are a one-to-one experience, as opposed to the one-to-many format that Twitter and Facebook embrace. This is a significant difference. Brands can’t (and shouldn’t) penetrate private communication channels. You don’t see brands trying to invade private conversations on traditional instant messaging services such as MSN or Yahoo Messenger. Nor do we attempt to infiltrate private telephone conversations (although we do try to create new ones via telemarketing). So why should Chatroulette be any different?
4. Chatroulette fails to offer any tangible benefit
As far as I’m concerned, there is next to no benefit for brands participating on Chatroulette. We already know it’s untargeted. Furthermore, it’s lacks a registration process. The implication for brands is the absence of a branded profile, such as you might see in Twitter or Facebook. So we have no profile (and therefore no crawlable links), no history & no ability to generate real web traffic. Just random interactions with strangers. Heck… even if you do create a positive experience, there’s still no word-of-mouth benefit because the interaction is private. The sharing element that makes other social environments so appealing to marketers is absent as well. All we’re left with is that fuzzy fallback position that display advertisers love - branding… ewww!
Getting past the ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome
Chatroulette is hot. But so what… Just because something achieves fad status, doesn’t necessarily make it an effective marketing tool/channel. Being the first to implement a campaign on a new service is not a marketing goal. Nor is making your agency look “cool”… at least not for your clients (who are the one paying the bills after all). The rush of brands towards Chatroulette was entirely predictable, yet ill-advised in my opinion. Yes… marketing on the web will always entail an element of innovation and experimentation. But that doesn’t mean innovation for the sake of it. If you can’t see a tangible goal at the end of it, what exactly are you trying to achieve…?