ChatRoulette is the latest online fad/craze/time-waster to take off virally around the world. It's only function is to connect you with anyone else on the site at random - ergo, the "Roulette." In a matter of days, this site has exploded to feature tens of thousands of users online at any given time. Google provides over 2-million returns on the phrase.
Now, there isn't a lot to this site - and that's part of its "charm." It's simple to use, and the payoff - meeting random people from around the world - is immediate. However, with its success has come an unseemly byproduct: it seems that some of the people on the site are prone to - ahem - exposing more of their personalities than community standards would deem acceptable. That said, visiting the Russian-hosted site is family/work safe as long as you don't select the "Play" button. If you do, then you're on your own. (Like this guy above.)
But amidst all the brouhaha, it strikes me that there are 3 things that small- and medium sized manufacturers (SMMs) can learn from this new site to apply to their own online strategies. Whether via your own site or an outpost to promote your company like MFG.com or ThomasNet, these 3 things aren't just some parlor trick to jack the blog numbers - they're valid, and worth considering:
1. Your Design Doesn't Mean As Much As Your Content - Look at the design of ChatRoulette. There really isn't one. Like most of the Web's most usable/popular Web sites (think Craigslist or Google), your Web site is more about delivering what your prospects are looking for than what your site looks like. Sure, you don't want to look unprofessional, but too many SMMs focus on the wine bottle and not the wine. Focus more on examples of your work (pictures and descriptions), and you'll get more contact from interested buyers.
2. Your Content Is Your Functionality - While ChatRoulette's appeal is in it's functionality - it says it will connect you with others right away, and it does - your Web site and outposts imply by their exsistence that they are going to deliver what buyers are looking for from you. When they don't get what they're looking for, you're seen as not delivering and you're probably passed over in favor of another shop, plant or supplier that does. Make your site's (and your business') most valuable commodity - the content that differentiates you from your competitors - easy to find, read and act upon.
3. Your Web Site Qualifies Your Prospects By Its Content - The attraction of ChatRoulette is in its functionality and its wide-open nature (despite the warning on its home page that "offending, obscene" behavior wont' be tolerated, you can bet some are going there for just that). Similarly, the examples of your work, your qualifications, your blog(s), and your overall content should be built to attract those that you want to ultimately work for. The quality of those you attract - from specific industries, markets, geographies and technologies - will directly impact the quality of calls you get from buyers to grow a dialogue and a relationship.
As an SMM, you're not in the same game as ChatRoulette. The numbers they're seeing so quickly simply aren't feasible in manufacturing, where research and buying cycles are much longer and require strong due-diligence. But you can see stronger growth in traffic and quality prospects over your competitors if you consider these models when developing your own online strategies.