When Facebook introduced Facebook Chat three years ago, I was psyched. I’d been an active Instant Messenger user since dial-up, and I’d been on Facebook since its domain started with “the.” So it only made sense to bring the two together. It was the perfect union. But when I read about Bonfire today, a new plugin that adds chat functionality to Twitter, I was stumped. Why would I want to chat with my ‘tweeps’ if I could tweet with them? Wasn’t Twitter real-time enough?
But then I remembered how many times my newsfeed had filled up with tweets between two people discussing (and spoiling) a movie I hadn’t seen yet or planning a trip for the following summer. I wanted to tweet them and say, “Hey, it’s called a phone. Use it.” But texting costs money and Twitter is free. So instead I’d type, “Have you ever heard of a direct message?” and then quickly erase it, because no one wants to be ‘that guy’ on Twitter.
That’s when I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d checked my direct messages on Twitter. My inbox was filled with auto replies and the obvious scams: “Bad blog going around about you. Have you read it yet?” I avoided my inbox like the plague. So if someone did want to have a one-on-one conversation with me on Twitter through direct messages, the chances of me noticing are slim to none.
A chat function like Bonfire would solve that. You can sign up now to be one of the first to try Bonfire on the website. The site says “Mega-busy servers at the moment, normal service to resume shortly!” Until I can get in, I’ll have to create a few hypotheticals.
Imagine what that could mean for businesses. A lot of companies use Twitter for customer service, and many times the customer is forced to sit and wait and refresh their inbox time and time again. With Bonfire, customers would know if the company is even logged into Twitter, as indicated by a green dot next to the Twitter handle in the chat list. Once both the company and the customer follow each other, they could move their conversation into chat box, which would feel more instant and timely.
Another trend on Twitter, especially within the hospitality industry, is to use Twitter as a concierge service. Image this: You work at the concierge desk at a hotel and you have a Hootsuite Stream set up to catch tweets about people checking in to your hotel on Foursquare or Gowalla. Once someone checks in, you follow them and send a tweet: “Hope you enjoy your stay! Let me know if you need anything. I’m here to chat.” The guest can then follow back and have a real-time twitter conversation with the concierge about specials at the hotel restaurant that night or about a late checkout without filling up each other’s timelines.
Now that I’m comfortable with Facebook chat, it’s time I let a Twitter chat into my life. I’m just waiting for the day Linkedin offers a chat function. I can just see it now:
“So, about that job application I sent you…”