Betting on Chat Roulette

March 11th, 2010 by | 5 Comments

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At any given time, you can expect to find over 20,000 people on Chat Roulette, the new one-on-one video, audio, and text chat service. After a slow launch with only 200-300 users at any given time as recently as late December, Chat Roulette has exploded as the newest way to explore and connect. Based off the same principle as text-only Amiga, Chat Roulette pairs strangers in real time from across the world to chat via web cam. The motivations are varied—to practice English, find musicians to jam with, to meet girls, to live out a persona—but the service is still in the free-for-all early stage. Garnering massive attention through blogs of screen shots and the occasional story of running into the Jonas Brothers, Chat Roulette is still forming as a new social medium.

Still in its infancy, Chat Roulette certainly doesn’t have much structure, but as with most new technologies and services, key community players can help guide the service into what it will become. Luckily, marketers have a chance to carry this torch, much as Twitter has been defined in part by accounts like ComcastCares and Zappos. By building a valuable presence and helping demonstrate the opportunities and faculties of Twitter, these marketers actually helped blaze the trail and create some of the mores of the community. Chat Roulette, though chaotic at the best of times, listless (or naked) at the worst, offers a new platform for advertisers to help create a community aligned to their offerings.

So far, it has been the folks who use the platform for stunts of sorts that are getting the most attention: the Brazilian man who draws your picture, the guy in the Darth Vader mask, or the user with the sideways game. But one of these particular stunts stands out as the first to incorporate product promotion. A French man used his Moleskine notebook to create a mini flip book to use as a mask, showing his expression changing from sad to happy when meeting a new acquaintance on the other end. The interactions always ended with laughter, a thumbs up, or a smile, with some users even commenting on the Moleskine brand. But this fan video certainly isn’t the only case of promotion on Chat Roulette.

FCUK has jumped on board and taken one of the main intentions of the site—meeting girls—and made it into a promotion for the brand. Challenging users to actually woo a real live girl on Chatroulette, FCUK has offered a 250-pound  voucher to purchase a date-worthy outfit to the first successful man. The contest, which ends today, is certainly the first of its kind, but other brands are making headway on the site, too.

Musicians have found a home on Chat Roulette, with many users announcing sightings of everyone from Katy Perry to Guster. The avant pop band Nurses staged a concert via Chat Roulette earlier this month using 15 computers with active feeds. Each of these brands are finding their own way to provide a great experience to their fans, and there’s room for a lot more evolution and ideas on the site for brave clients.  The conversations coming off of all these stunts, both online and at the water cooler, are exactly what many brands are looking for: a top of mind, positive impression. It remains yet to be seen if brands will take the plunge and forge the trail.

Claire Grinton is a brand strategist and writer based in San Francisco. Find more from Claire or contact her at claire[dot]grinton[at]gmail.

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