Recently, internet users all over the globe have been fascinated by the Web’s latest hit, Chatroulette.
Like a mix of StumbleUpon, Skype, and YouTube, Chatroulette randomly pairs you with another video chatter from anywhere on the planet. Spend five minutes on Chatroulette and you will come across all types of people- men, women, children, singles, groups of friends on one screen, public figures, and some of the strangest characters the Internet has to offer. Once users have been paired, either side can click “Next” to spin the imaginary roulette wheel and instantly be partnered face to face with someone new.
Naturally this new phenomenon has many marketers and brands wondering how they can take advantage of the platform. Here are a few considerations:
1) An important aspect of advertising and sponsorship is associating your name with a positive experience. Often marketers will link their names to hit shows, music, events and personalities. Chatroulette does not fall in any of these buckets. While many people enjoy the experience of using the site, some are disgusted by the high level of weirdness, nudity, and insults on the site. Realize that you will be right there alongside some very questionable and inappropriate material if you chose to participate. It may not be an experience that you want associated with your brand.
2) Some may be tempted to stream TV style ads on repeat, but this may not be worth the time or effort. Unlike TV, there is no way to target specific demographics. Chatroulette is completely random in assignments and users come from all over the globe, making geography another challenge. In addition, streaming content would not capitalize on the “chat” aspect of Chatroulette. Users expect to connect and interact with people, therefore anything other than that would be considered interruption advertising.
3) Product placement is another way brands and marketers may think they can benefit from Chatroulette, but again this is not the best platform for that type of marketing. By design, you can only reach one person at a time on Chatroulette. Sites such as UStream.tv allow for large audiences to tune into one channel, which would be a much better location for a celebrity endorsement or product placement. On Chatroulette, you are just as likely to come across Joe Schmo as you are Joe Montana. There are many rumors of celebrities on Chatroulette, but this POST by Vayner Media shows that most are fakes.
Many enhancements could be made to Chatroulette and the platform will certainly evolve. However, until it is possible to narrow down the audience you will chat with, it is not a great choice for most brands. The only viable player at this stage may be a large, multinational brand interested in casting a very wide net. In this case they could run a contest or tie their activity on Chatroulette to another platform to extend the experience. Even this would be very difficult to control, so in my mind Chatroulette is currently a tool best reserved for personal use.
Do you have any ideas on how Chatroulette could be used by marketers?
Tim Allan is an intern with GY&K. He is currently a full-time student at Plymouth State University, graduating this spring with a major in Business Administration.