My first experience with social media was a subscription-based public chat room, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), mother to all social networks as we know them now.
I found AIM fascinating at first due to the instant gratification of camaraderie with groups of people with similar interests from across the country. Something that at the time, was very inexpensive to do because unlike talking over the phone or in person and it didn’t even require a plane ticket or a passport. I remember the excitement I would feel as the dial-up buzzed and whirred letting me know I was about to connect.
Many Millennials are way too young to remember AIM or weren’t even born yet. It was at the time, the greatest social network platform before the invention of Facebook or Twitter. AIM consisted of thousands of chat rooms. You could search your zip code and wham! – I was reaching out to like-minded cinephiles, or butchering my way through a beginners Spanish chat conversation!
Unfortunately, like everything else, chat rooms got commercialized, as they became synonymous with predators (remember the show Dateline: To Catch a Predator?), or cannibalized by newer web-based social network platforms.
As chat rooms faded social networks like Friendster, Myspace, and Facebook, had taken its place. It was as though all my family, life long friends, and online buddies got raptured up into the vast World Wide Web in the sky.
I am an outlier because I never took to the widespread practice of social networks like Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In my opinion, these social media institutions are intrusive. They require too much personal information and also allow for anyone to intrude into your personal life. I miss the anonymity and simplicity of chat rooms.
Chat rooms of long ago may not be making a big come back anytime soon, but web 2.0 has brought new features and capabilities to share photos, video and of course, chat apps. Despite their unpopularity in the USA, Chat rooms still serve a purpose for individual users and marketers in particularly in other countries.
Some advantages of using chat rooms as opposed to other modes of social media networks include:
#1 – Chat rooms are anonymous. They don’t require a profile or verification.
#2 – Chat rooms allow people to talk uncensored in real time with individuals who have similar interests, hobbies, religious cultures.
#3 – You can talk to more than one person at once, and others can jump in on the conversation at will. with other IM apps, you have to choose the group members.
#4 – As a marketer, you can directly try to influence the group members, by recommending products and services that they are likely to use (and of course, there are always traditional banner ads).
Disadvantages of using chat rooms:
#1 – Anyone regardless of age can get into chat rooms. That can be a problem, especially for younger children, so parents beware, and children watch what you share.
#2 – Ever had several people talking to you all at once? Unfiltered thoughts coming at you all at the same time can be hard to follow.
#3 – There is less room for users, marketers, and advertisers to send out content. Unlike apps like Twitter or Instagram. However, new technology like chatbots is changing this.
#4 – You can multitask while chatting. Specifically, the user may be accessing several programs or apps at the same time to browse the internet, check email, play video games, etc.
There is still a lot of potential in chat rooms. In 2014, Facebook acquired Whatsapp, the ads-free mobile chat app for $19.6 billion that boasted at the time, 500 million users which gives them access to users and locations where internet connectivity is scarce or nonexistent. Earlier this year, Facebook launched its chatbot program allowing marketers to the opportunity to reach content to almost 2 billion users.
Who knows, I may just find my old passion for chat rooms rekindled, or perhaps it’s about time that I, as the saying goes, “let it go and free up energy for something new and better.”