Facebook Launches Rooms App
Facebook Launches Rooms App to Bring Anonymous Chat Rooms to Mobile Devices
On Oct. 23, Facebook introduced Rooms, an iOS application that brings the chat room concept of the late ‘90s to mobile devices. The application allows users to create rooms (i.e., virtual message boards) about any topic without revealing their true identity. Members can share photos, videos and text in an Instagram-style format.
The goal of Rooms is to create communities of users with similar interests. In the announcement, Facebook explained that, “From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends.”
The app’s features provide an opportunity for pharma companies to engage with these communities and reach patients they have not been able to reach on other social networks. The format, anonymity, and monitoring and moderation capabilities may make the new platform a viable option for pharma.
WHAT IS ROOMS?
Rooms is Facebook’s first application to encourage anonymity, allowing users to create pseudonyms to represent themselves in chat rooms so they do not need to provide their real names. In fact, Rooms and Facebook are not even integrated, so no Facebook account or email address is required to use the application.
Users can create rooms based on any topic, and Facebook hopes the application will connect people with similar interests. Rooms are invite-only, but the invitations are not unique to each user. Invites are sent and accepted using an innovative QR code method. Users take a screenshot of the QR code and upload it to the app to join a room.
Rooms are not (yet) discoverable, but the image-based invitations can easily be shared on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or via email. This non-searchable approach limits potential audiences and adoption for now, but since users are likely to find invitations in their online communities and join based on that interest, we expect them to be highly engaged.
Rooms comes loaded with several monitoring and moderation features. Room moderators can turn on pre-moderated posts and turn commenting off. Users can be banned from rooms, and posts can be deleted. Additionally, moderators can restrict the room to users who are at least 18 years old.
Room creators can customize the look and feel with their own background photos and names and can even change the Like button, enabling brands to customize rooms based on their guidelines or preferences.
IS ROOMS A SAFE PLATFORM FOR PHARMA?
Rooms has several unique aspects that, at first look, make it an appealing platform for brands in the pharma industry. The monitoring and moderation capabilities allow for brands to create content and manage rooms with complete control, keeping their room and content compliant.
The ability for users to create pseudonyms can be seen as an opportunity for brands to create rooms for patients who may not want to talk about their disease state on other social networks where their identity is known. For example, a recent blog post features a depression support group room that already has over 200 members. It provides a safe environment for people who want to discuss their experiences with depression or bipolar disorder with others anonymously.
The growth of individual rooms relies on users sharing invites with their networks outside of the app; brands promoting their rooms to people already following their channels; and/or brands promoting them through other digital media channels, like banner ads, to reach people who don’t have accounts on other social networks. The adoption rate for Rooms is still unknown, but it was built to help both small and large communities thrive.
Pharma companies, for example, can create rooms for focus groups or members of clinical trials where small communities are popular or preferred. This enables the brands to help facilitate and contribute to conversations that may already be happening elsewhere, but in a more secure, controlled environment.
Room creators can create a 200-character pinned post to display at the top of their room, which can include a message about terms and conditions or a brief disclaimer. Additionally, content posted by moderators can include links that drive to other channels, so links to information or registration pages are possible.
While it’s easy to see the benefit of creating small, moderated communities, there are some things to keep in mind as brands consider the platform. As previously mentioned, the adoption rate is unknown, so if the new application does not expand its user base in the coming months, organic growth for this channel may be slower than it would be on other social platforms.
Another consideration is the lack of data available. Rooms does not provide any tools for post analytics or user demographics at this time. The app’s anonymity feature may attract many users, but brands will know less about the users and their behavior than on other platforms. In addition, anonymous apps can more readily attract trolling, cyberbullying, and other negative and disruptive social media behavior.
Rooms may provide unique opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to not only connect with currently engaged patients, but also with patients they haven’t been able to reach on other platforms.
No immediate action needs to be taken since brands cannot claim a topic or vanity name in the app for future use. If pharma companies do want to set up a room, they should create a plan and develop moderation workflows, just like they would on other social platforms.
Intouch Solutions will continue to monitor Rooms for opportunities for brands to engage with communities.