Somehow it just happened. We went from casual conversations with our coworkers by the watercooler to communicating almost entirely via emails, status updates, and text messages—even when those coworkers are in the very next cubicle.
As technology allowed us to become more "social," face-to-face communication inadvertently took a backseat to typed words on a screen. Emoticons replaced facial expressions. But they were still no substitute for the real thing.
Historically, interactive video only existed in a silo, forcing you to rely on solutions such as GoToMeeting, webex, or Skype. That also meant you had to send all of your users to other sites—less than ideal when you’re trying to build your business. Then Facebook and Google hopped onboard the video train, and that began the movement toward mainstreaming interactive video communication for the masses.
After winning this season’s American Idol, Scotty McCreery hosted a Facebook video chat using TokBox’s OpenTok Video Platform. In one hour, he was able to engage and interact with 1,433 fans face-to-face. 90% of the fans connected via Facebook; 10% came directly from McCreery's site.
The interactive chat allowed him to have meaningful connections with a broad swath of his audience.
"Video chat more easily offers the ability to create ‘backstage moments’ and engage one-to-one or one-to-many, whether fans visit the ‘virtual stage’ and ask the artist a question directly, or observe passively as part of the audience," said Chris Garnett, CMO of CKX, Inc., the parent company of 19 Entertainment, the folks who manage the American Idol contestants. "In either instance, it can feel personal and special."
McCreery was also able to easily scale the event, on his own site. "When people are talking around a focused topic, conversations are more robust and last longer. That increases the amount time visitors spend on your site and drives engagement," said Ian Small, CEO of TokBox.com.
Fans aren’t the only ones benefiting from the rise in video chat. Causes, the world’s largest platform for activism and philanthropy, is using TokBox’s OpenTok platform to integrate seamless, one-click video creation into their site. Through their "Create a Causes Wish" campaign, 400,000 people have been able to raise more than $13 million for charity by using short video clips to encourage peer-to-peer donations.
"We’re all about lowering barriers to participation, and video is a big part of that. Technology is making it possible to put powerful tools in the hands of people who want to get things done" said Matt Mahan, VP of Social Impact. "With one click they’re able to create a message with their own voice and facial expressions, all in high definition."
Not surprisingly, much of the uptick in interactive video demand is being driven by smartphone, iPad, and tablet users. According to a recent study by Juniper Networks, nearly two-thirds of smartphone owners and 86% of tablet owners have watched video on their device. By 2015, In-Stat forecasts mobile video consumption to surpass 693 billion minutes (that’s billion).
"Mobile is changing what video is. We’re now able to document our lives and interact with each other in new ways. Everyone has mobile," said Alain Rossmann, cofounder of Klip.com, a mobile video app that topped 100,000 downloads in its first six days. "It’s hard to tell stories through tweets and pictures. It’s much easier to use videos."
Interactive video stands to mark the triumphant return to face-to-face interactions, becoming an incredibly powerful tool for businesses, brands, and nonprofits and reducing reliance on static status updates and still pictures to communicate with our audiences.
[Top image: Flickr user Moritz Petersen]