Posted July 6, 2011 2:54 pm by with 2 comments

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Facebook has taken another giant step toward making sure you never have to leave the website. It’s a new chat system that is backed by Skype and it’s “awesome.”

Actually, “awesome” is Mark Zuckerberg’s word for it, I’d go with “interesting.”

Zuckerberg and CEO of Skype, Tony Bates took the stage today to make the announcement via live stream and to a room full of fast-typing reporters. The update has three parts; chat sidebar, group chat and video chat.

Have something you need to talk over with your friends, start with the new chat sidebar. Here you’ll find a running list of those you message the most.

Thanks to the new group chat functionality, you can choose multiple friends from the list and load them all into the same chat box. Discuss which movie to see or the merits of staying in your current relationship. Not sure if your best friend is mocking you? Switch to video chat so you can see his face when he tells you that you’ve found your soul mate. And since video chat is launching in 70 different languages, folks from all over the world can contact you with advice on your life, loves and career.

It’s so easy says Phillip Su of Facebook, even your least technical friend can get online and chat with one touch of a button.

What does all of this mean for marketers? I’m going to be very honest here and say I’m not sure. Group and video chat are already available through Skype and millions of people use them to conduct business. They’re excellent tools for virtual meetings, online training and one-on-one consultations. I’m having a hard time visualizing those same things happening through the Facebook interface. Not that they can’t, but will they?

Even though there are scores of business related pages on Facebook, it’s still considered a social place, a place where you go to play. Then again, we all know that a large number of office workers are logged on to Facebook while they’re at work, so maybe it is the best place to hold an impromptu meeting.

Marketers could use group chat to run a mini focus group. Video chat could be used to pitch products to consumers. Lots of coulds, but I remain skeptical.

Right now, I’d say this collaboration is a big step toward keeping people on Facebook 24/7. In one site you have entertainment, shopping, friends and now, a higher level of communication.

Next year, Facebook will be announcing a chip that you can have surgically implanted in your brain so you can contact your friends telepathically. It’s the only way they could make this any easier and in your face.

What do you think of the new Facebook features? Is there any marketing value or just more bells and whistles for the masses?

  • What happens the first time someone’s jailbroken Facebook Telepathy Chip bricks his brain during a firmware update? Would that count as manslaughter or a self-imposed consequence of breaking the EULA?

    You covered that IM applications have been doing this for years and I agree wholeheartedly. Only now, the newbies don’t have to worry so much about new accounts, new software and setting everything up. It’s also interesting to ponder World of Warcraft gamers finding a free group/voice chat in Facebook. The implications of bringing a guild to meet your other friends is even more unnerving.

    Worst of all: Video chat + privacy = Chatroulette. Who wants to imagine the next Congressional scandal with moving images involved?

    On the business side, I can see tutoring and fortune-telling finding ways to make a profit here. I’d be interested in seeing company pages to run several concurrent video chats for customer service reasons. Don’t require the client to go on camera or even voice: just the company employee.

    Maybe this is bias: A lot of creativity seems to be required for most types businesses to make any use of this. This seems very user-oriented.

  • Facebook vs. Softy?
    Beginning to dig these big-boy wars! 🙂