The Revolution Will Be Telepresenced

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For some reason, I have never fully adopted the use of video conferencing.

In my defense, I think I’ve been pretty accepting when it comes to incorporating new technologies and communications platforms in my daily routine.  Over the years, I’ve expanded from AIM and AOL chatrooms to GChat and message boards, from (gulp!) MiGente to Facebook and Twitter. But, so far, I’ve resisted the siren call of real time, face-to-face communiqué.  And I believe my rationale is sound: I’m lazy.

Given my social circle, it would probably be laborious (and aggravating) for me to attempt to migrate my friends and coworkers into fully adopting a telepresence. And frankly, call me old fashioned, but I still prefer to be texted, emailed, and, depending on how serious the circumstance, (gasp!) called.

However, there is one desirable consumer segment that is already embracing (and taking ownership of) the telepresence platform as a viable platform for communication: teens.

Here’s Looking at You, Kids

The youth market- which I’d like to think I’m not completely removed from- is unique.  They’ve never known a life without some form of digital-enabled, hyper-communication.  And because of that, the rapid adoption (and abandonment) of new technology is second-nature to them.

Recently, I was chatting with a colleague who mentioned that her daughter (and all her friends) took to ooVoo every night to socialize.

Wait, ooVoo, the video conferencing software that I use to connect with coworkers is being used by 13 year-olds to casually shoot the breeze? Seems like overkill.  (Almost as absurd as anyone other than doctors using pagers for communication!)

But upon further inspection, maybe I’m just a Luddite. In March, Ad Age reported that “although video calling and video instant messaging are still a small fraction of overall internet traffic, video communications will increase tenfold from 2008-2013.”  Skype, ooVoo, iChat, GChat, Stickam and a growing number of other services have created a playing field for a new culture of communication that will likely have far-reaching cultural implications.

Teens’ use of  “video chatting” might be the catalyst that precipitates the widespread adoption of the technology.  If text messaging, IM, and prior to that, beepers are any indication, teens tend to sit at the vanguard of electronic communication, not only creating the credibility and initial user base that allows the critical mass to migrate, but also defining the rules of engagement (lexicon, etiquette) for the new platform.

The question is, however, how can brands offer value by engaging consumers through this platform-from-the-future?

Move Past Paid Media

The simplest method is to purchase media against the new platform.  But just because it’s easy to throw up some direct-response banner, doesn’t qualify mean it’s the best approach. According to AdAge, ooVoo’s CPMs can cost up to $25, with no standout success stories.

But telepresence is about more than just another place where consumers spend time.  As a new communication channel, it is bound to shift cultural patterns as well.  Just as instant message relaxed grammatical standards and created an entirely new lexicon (w00t?), a resurgence of conversational acronyms (LOL?) and the first acro-conjunctions (ROFL-COPTER?), video chat will likely introduce it’s own cultural quirks.  The Chatroulette introduced noun-turned-verb “nexting” is just the tip of the iceberg.

Video chat will not only affect language, it will also have a dramatic effect on consumer expectations.  Just as, IM and SMS created an expectation of immediate response that consumers found preferable to email, videochat will shape perceptions and expectations for top-quality customer relations.  Already, services like HelloHealth are using video to connect consumers and doctors in real time.  Brands that can track and adapt to these and other culture shifts will be well poised to connect with consumers on the new platform.

The Revolution Will Be Telepresenced

Video chat is a platform that is seeing tremendous growth with teens, and, given the growing mainstream consciousness of emerging platforms like Chatroulette and iPhone 4’s Facetime, all roads point to these services evolving into valuable branding tools.

I’m truly looking forward to seeing where our younger counterparts take it next.