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Dissecting the ChatRoom

How does one think through new product development for chat? Last October I found this an intriguing question and with a little help developed the exploratory framework below.  Today it is perhaps more relevant to the learning required to enhance collaboration with emerging social software. The target of this chat exploration was focused on determining the consumer frameworks to aid decision-making.

I really appreciated the recent comments to the buddy list envy.  So it seemed natural to step from IM to CHAT.  May also open up some thoughts on IM. Afterall an exercise like this could similarly apply to IM.

Visit chatrooms and one soon realizes how dynamic the conversation is, even if you don't fit in. While many may delight in referring to chatrooms as a waste of time, I have a feeling that they are an emerging world. Perhaps fantasy or a warped reality, yet lump them with broader collaboration tools and new avenues open up for exploration.

So in this post I'm purposely sharing some diagrams (click to expand), without all the words.   Last October when these were done I thought there may be a mulit-client possible in this area.  (There still is - or could be.  I'd be delighted to do it! I'd add this is all inferred it's not from a statistical sample or at an x% confidence level.).

For others the model and segment names will either provide the justification or a few laughs. 

Why do this? What research objectives might you consider? (From a chat perspective).

  • To provide a dynamic framework for understand the chat /IM market, and the various need segments within it.
  • To determine the relative strengths of the various brands, how they are positioned within the market, and how they are positioned to satisfy the needs fo the various segments within it.
  • To identify what opportunities exist in the chat market for new brands / products (Use this for collaboration building, not necessary to restrict it to MSN/AOL and Yahoo!)

Chat is to the digiworld, like the street, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, diners, bingo halls, and the PTA meeting is to the physical world. It why I'm sharing a model with you that draws on my food and beer days.  (This is adapted from the Heylen Model for those in research)

Why is chat interesting

  • Rapid expansion is reaching critical mass. Like IM - CHAT skews younger.
    • Instant messaging: 59 percent of those aged 19 to 34, compared to 49 percent of those aged 35 to 54, and 45 percent of those 55 and over.
    • Chat: 47 percent of those aged 19 to 34; 37 percent of those aged 35 to 54; 31 percent of those 55 and over.
  • Access new business opportunities - growing corporate interest
  • Service not yet a money spinner --- new entrants
  • Rapidly increasing functionality around voice, video and mobility….
  • Emerging promotion and marketing opportunties.
  • Peer to Peer evolving communities… becoming more realtime…
  • And as we know instant messaging is a super e-mail that lets two or more people hold a real-time conversation online.

My temptation is to say more about why chat communities are posed to forever change marketing.  However this post is about disecting the chatroom, what goes on and the bare minimum detail to infer the life inside. 

These are stories framed around a dynamic segmentation.  One size does not fit all.   By dynamic this approach reflects that as a market evolves and chat users become much more sophisticated they may not just have one set of Chat needs solved by CHATTING in a particular situation, but can be motivated quite differently at other times. The guess is that chatters often select and act in different occasions in the same week. They may very well approach this using different brands.

Our Hypothesis There are two fundamental dynamics, which drive consumer CHAT behavior.  (click to enlarge diagrams)

  • First an occassion based dimension around usage, frequency, times etc
  • Second a horizontal based axis around social dynamics and orientation


Two additional elements. Trust / Transparency and Involvement. These provide an inverse interplay around the social dimension which affects our interpretation of usage/frequency occasions

  • First levels and types of Trust and Transparency in groups and between individuals
  • Second the type of involvement be it extroverted or more introverted; telling or listening, controlling or facilitating, testing or supportive…. Etc. >


This enables six segments to be defined.  They are not all equal in size or profit potential.  Approaches to brand, product/services and the needs in each segment are different.  Even where products should be launched, lifecycles etc can be defined.  Typically a chart like this is provided with stories, encounters, (collages help).  Examples would include names from chatrooms.  Much could be said about the use of colour, fonts, size, the impact of music, welcoming rituals, emoticons etc.  


This final chart may encourage a few to really consider the Exploring dimension.  This realm is i'm certain the largest segment --- (American SUV territory, or Bud territory) and biggest opportunity. For online auctions this space is eBay.  If one ever needed to think though the ramifications of social software it is in this realm.  For my two cents this is where "fast trust" and digital identity solutions will really make a difference.  The opportunity exists to enable this within corporate communities. 

Is chat like beer?  I can't be certain. I do believe that chatters can be comfortable in more than one environment. Just like a fancy restaurant serves a long neck beer, in another setting clearly a can or even a mug may be more appropriate.

Traditional chatrooms were limited to words yet today, voice and cam’s are becoming more commonplace. Perhaps more importantly these's a whole world here growing rapidly running 365/7/24. It different to our physical world and yet similar. It’s only now that we can begin to see how people live virtually – and accept that is part of life that we can begin to look at the sheer variety of online exchanges that a person might have. Particularly when we think consumers and traditional entertainment or out of home “friendly connections”. Think for the moment about the venues and exchanges we have day to day… from the coffee shop to RSA, and Nightclubs and Bars, to more passive theatre. Then add in online gaming etc. 

It's late.  I hope you still know where to go for a drink after playing with the Chat Map. They tend to serve them up in room 9.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dissecting the ChatRoom:

» Chat Map from iWire
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» Chat Rap Map from Conversations with Dina

Dissecting the ChatRoom. How does one think through new product development for chat? Last October I found this an intriguing question and with a little help developed the exploratory f... [Read More]

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hello i want chat map please

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