Why Airtime, the “Random” Video Chat, Just Might Catch On

airtime logoFor the most part, video chatting is a second or third step in today’s high-tech social networking progression. It’s something you do with friends or acquaintances after you’ve already met them via some other social forum.

Sure, services like OOvOO, Ustream and Google+ have facilitated group video experiences (with varying levels of success), and Skype has been connecting folks willing to exchange usernames or numbers for years. But typically, users don’t make their first connections with these types of video chats.

Sean Parker—of Napster and Facebook fame—is hoping to change all that with the launch of his new video chat platform, Airtime.

Airtime is a web-based video chat service that introduces users to one another based on their shared interests on Facebook—along with “friends of friends” degrees of separation and location data, as well. You choose the parameters by which you’ll be connected when you log on to the site… and then, you sit back and see who pops up.

Airtime arrives in the controversial wake of another random video chat service, Chatroulette, which became notorious for the risqué behavior of some users. (So over-the-top risqué, in fact, that the site had to implement measures –like “safe” mode, etc. –to protect users from the exhibitionist tendencies of others.)

But what differentiates Airtime from Chatroulette—apart from Sean Parker’s considerable investment and endorsement —is the use of digital integration to make the random connections significantly less random. Airtime leverages the information people plug into Facebook to make pre-qualified introductions, and the rationale is that these data-driven connections are more likely to foster ongoing engagement between users of the site (and between users and Airtime itself).

Of course, contextual and behavioral targeting have been mainstays of online advertising for years now. Savvy marketers know that when they gather meaningful data about customers, and then align this data with their products and services, they’re able to engage target audiences with appropriate, customized offers. Because they’re so relevant, these offers are far more likely to meet with a positive response—and ultimately, convert to a sale.

Now, it appears social networking entrepreneurs are catching on to the power of this type of data-driven Integrated Marketing Management. By using a similar, integrated data analysis approach, Airtime hopes to make successful introductions between video chat users and build more “stickiness” into its service.

And as I see it, that’s exactly how Airtime will catch on where Chatroulette simply hasn’t: Airtime will be using all the data it can get its hands on to discover what users actually want.

What lessons can you learn from Sean Parker and Airtime? How could you be using your data to improve the customer experience and provide more value to your target market?

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