What is the new Facebook ‘Rooms’ app and how can brands use it?

Last week Facebook launched a brand new app called Rooms. The app, which is currently only available on iPhone, allows users to create discussion rooms based around a subject of their choice and invite people to join them.

facebook-rooms

Once in a room, users can post a mixture of text, photo and video content – a bit like Facebook. Engagement comes in the form of comments or room-specific ‘likes’ (that’s a ‘yum’ in food rooms or a ‘save’ in tech rooms) with images that put the iPhone’s emoticons to good use.

Sadly there’s no search function in Rooms and so the only way to know that a room exists, is to be invited. This is in line with Facebook’s closed community feel and suggests that Rooms will primarily be used for private conversations between individuals who already know each other in some way – a bit like Whatsapp.

The second thing worth noting is that unlike other social networks, there is no such thing as a profile on Rooms. Users simply choose a nickname and this can be different for every room – a bit like old school chat room users flitting between different forums and using different identities in each. Coming from a network that takes so many steps to encourage users to give their real life identities, it’s quite surprising that anonymity is such a central feature of Rooms, but Facebook product manager James Miller says it will give users the opportunity to “be whoever you want to be”. However, as users will most likely have been invited to a room by someone they know, I’m not sure they’ll feel quite as free as Miller suggests…

So there you have it. It’s a bit like Whatsapp , a bit like old school chat forums and a bit like, well, Facebook. So, how might businesses use Rooms? Here are three ideas.

#1 Reach a new audience by posting in related rooms
While there isn’t a search function, the app does highlight a handful of popular rooms. And if it grows in popularity, people and companies will soon start sharing room invites more openly with their Facebook and Twitter audience. Looking out for rooms that are based around your brand’s subject area could provide another outlet for content.

#2 Use it as a space to share ideas on-the-go with an exclusive community
As it’s been made specifically for iPhone (with an Android version to follow) Rooms is easy to use on-the-go, while its invite-only set-up gives you complete control over who is invited. It could be used as a private space to share ideas with colleagues, as a community forum for customers or simply as a place to chat with other people who are interested in the subject that your business is in, with you as the host.

#3 Ask for honest feedback on a specific event or campaign
If you’ve held an event or launched a new service or product and want some honest feedback, Rooms could be just the ticket. The fact that people can create a different nickname for every room means that they’ll be able to give feedback anonymously and without it impacting on their conversations in other rooms, which could encourage greater honesty. Content can also be moderated so you would have the option to not publish something if you felt it wasn’t appropriate.

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