Skype launches video cards in Facebook
Just in time, perhaps, for those of us who haven't yet sent all our Christmas cards, Skype this week launched Skype Video Cards, as both an application in Facebook and also as a standalone feature at SkypeVideoCards.com.
The concept is quite simple and it works well as a Facebook application. You choose a basic card, record your video message and send this to your friends. They receive a personalised flash video message from you (and with Skype branding!). It's a nice application, and out with good timing as we enter the festive season with a force. It's simple to use (in four clicks you can create a card), creates a personal message and sends a flash video card which means it can be viewed directly from a web browser.
So what can we learn from this?
One question that this application raises is why is Skype doing this? As some people have noted, the video card tool doesn't make use of any Skype technology, it doesn't even integrate with your Skype contacts list to send to your friends.
For me this doesn't matter, especially not for the Facebook application. If this were only a standalone feature, then it would be odd that it didn't actually showcase the product whose brand it carried. But in Facebook, and indeed in other social networks, it is not so easy to market and product-place in this way.
As we've written about before, it can be very difficult to advertise in social networks. Primarily because social networks are social environments with social rules. People are there for their own, personal reasons - to upload their photos, network with their friends, plan their events and talk about issues that are of interest to them. It's a 'me' space and when brands enter this they need to be fully aware of the social rules they must abide by. It's not that easy to just place your product in front of people or pump your marketing message to them.
This is why the Skype Video Card application works for me. Rather than trying to integrate their actual product and develop an application that people will use and forward to their friends. Instead they opted for the solution of creating an application that creates real value for the users (especially those who have forgotten to send holiday greetings already) and allows the Skype brand to be associated with this.
Facebook and other social networks can be scary places for brands, and difficult places for them to succeed in. My advice: think first how you can add value to the users experience and then put your brand on it. You have a great chance of being successful, and of getting that brand forwarded round the internet faster than you could hope for.