In late October, Mark Zuckerberg revealed the three-, five- and 10-year goals for Facebook. Some of these goals won't come as a surprise to anyone: The company has money earmarked for more acquisitions, it's aggressively moving toward attracting a billion users for every product it offers, and it believes augmented reality is the next big thing.
What's interesting, though, is while there are many product acquisition plans, the social network also continues to build its own products. Case in point: the iOS app called Rooms.
Released in October, Rooms is meant to recreate the idea of anonymity on the Web. The smartphone app allows you to chat with anyone about anything but anonymously, if you so choose. You create a username that either sticks with you in every Room you join, or you can change it for every experience. You can even change your username later, if you decide you hate it or just want something different. There are food Rooms, baseball Rooms, 18th century playwright Rooms, DC Comics Rooms, trail running Rooms and English literature Rooms. And if you can't find a Room to fit your hobby or passion, you can create one.
The Anonymous Web
In the early days, everything you did online was anonymous. But that eventually changed and you had to use your real name because of hate messages, cyber bullying and even crimes. If you weren't going to say what you had to say using your real name, the zeitgeist decided you probably shouldn't be saying it at all.
But this year, apps such as Whisper, Secret and YikYak have emerged in the midst of an increased interest in anonymity. Once again, we can air our grievances online with little risk of real-life consequences.
There are two big reasons for this change of heart: We miss our privacy a great deal, and communities of commonality are important, which is pretty evident in online places, such as Pinterest as we follow boards about things that interest us instead of boards our friends post that don't matter to us.
Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook, recently addressed the launch of Rooms on his blog: "One of the magical things about the early days of the Web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life. Forums, message boards and chatrooms were meeting places for people who didn't necessarily share geographies or social connections, but had something in common."
Rooms for Business Use
With Rooms, you can connect your prospects and customers in a new way that allows them to talk about how to use your product or service, or solve one another's issues together. It can be an incredible PR and customer service tool.
For instance, you can create a Room for your industry, topic of interest, or even your product or service. Run a restaurant? Build a Room that focuses on the type of food you serve. Own a software-as-a-service business? Build a Room that provides tips and tools for people to better manage their time or let your users talk about new ways to use your product. Run an accounting firm? Have a little fun with numbers, and build a Room that helps other business owners with the financial side of their organizations—give them a daily tip on managing cash flow, creative ways to collect past-due invoices, or what kind of paperwork to save for a rainy day.
What's interesting about this new app is the anonymity part of it. Now customers and prospects can provide feedback that you need to hear without fear of retribution. Your unhappy customers might reveal their true feelings—feelings they never would have revealed in person because they would have been too uncomfortable. Under the cover of anonymity, you might begin to hear the kind of feedback you really need to improve your business.
Rooms helps build external awareness, it provides another customer service angle, and it helps you gain the feedback you need to improve your operations. While you can't expect all your prospects and customers to jump on board immediately and start engaging, launching a Room of your own to see what type of feedback you'll get is an interesting test to run.
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