Some days, it seems like there’s never a dull moment at Facebook. Almost every month, their social team comes up with some exciting new feature or tweak to the hugely popular social network.

The latest work coming out of Facebook Creative Labs is an app called Rooms. The tool was designed to harken back to the early days of the web, when forums and message boards were the main methods of communication, but on the decidedly modern platform of a smartphone. As with a forum or message board, each Room has a key topic. Members of a Room can share photos, videos, or text related to whatever the central subject is.

Any new social media tool automatically piques the interest of brands and marketers, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of interest in whether Rooms could have some new applications for business. Let’s break down the basics.

Entering the Rooms

As described earlier, Rooms is about gathering people with a shared interest. Each room gets a topic, often something very specific. It might be centered on great examples of street art or parkour or beekeeping.

Each room also allows a large level of customization. The Room’s creator can set the name, the background color, and even the look of the like buttons. Regardless of what the subject matter is, members will get to have their conversations in a chat area suited to their specific topic.

The tool is also offering an interesting take on privacy. Members of this network do not need to use their real names; in fact, you can have multiple usernames across multiple Rooms. Therefore, Facebook Rooms accounts do not sync up with Facebook profiles. Also, the specific settings for each Room can be tailored according to the needs of the community.

Brand Potential

Rooms does open up some interesting options for brands. Some businesses have turned social media into a modern take on a fan page; Rooms offers a similar capability. If your company has some product or service that has developed a fan following, then it’s possible Rooms would offer a good place to connect with those people.

If you do choose to jump into Rooms, think about the community first. Whether your actual product is the focus, or whether you opt to create Rooms based on other topics more tangentially related to your business, your focus should be on creating a genuine community.

As we’ve seen with any new social media tool, from Ello to Hyperlapse, it’s not ideal to throw yourself into another platform without a little consideration. Just because there are some possibilities for this new tool, you’ll need to consider several important questions first.

  • How will Rooms play into your social strategy without traditional marketing?
  • Is your audience on Rooms?
  • Will they want to join your community?

When it Works

Since there is no need for members to provide identifying information when you join a Room, brands won’t have the same options for targeting potential customers on their demographic information. Remember, the point here is to create community, not to create a marketing base. A company planning to use Rooms needs to bear in mind the tone and the purpose of this app.

Rooms are not a place for branding or pitching. If your business wants to get involved, then you’ll want to walk a fine line in how you present yourself. You could have somebody create a Room centered on your product, but you shouldn’t push its presence aggressively. This app is set up as one that thrives on organically-cultivated communities and mutually-shared interests.

The question of anonymity also creates a conundrum. Since members can use any name they want, businesses won’t find out much about them. If a brand or an employee joins anonymously, then there’s no way to verify that you are who claim. Masking identify can be a boon for many individuals, but it makes building trust between company and customer nearly impossible.

Also, at this early stage in Rooms’ history, here are no clear rules about how and where businesses will play into the membership. So far, the tool is endeavoring to stay small. In fact, it has intentionally left some common functionalities out. For instance, there’s no way to search for Room topics. Members need to explore and adventure on their own through the many available topics. This restriction on what’s available will also mean that people need to work extra hard to find their way into any community your team has created.

Rooms does have a narrow window of use for brands but it is not a reasonable new tool for most businesses. If you have a social media strategy that’s forward-thinking and flexible, then it might be worth the adventure, but don’t expect the same type of benefits and interactions you’d find on the parent network.