WebRTC Could Improve Empathy in Social Media

Posted on 30. Jan, 2012 by in Thoughts

A look at how developments in WebRTC could improve empathy in social media, and specifically customer relations.

WebRTC Icon I recently learned that Google is building WebRTC into Chrome, and trying to get Mozilla and Opera on-board too.

WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs. The WebRTC components have been optimized to best serve this purpose. Source, WebRTC

Im fairly new to WebRTC, but from what I can gather, it lets developers build voice and video into web browsers i.e. Chrome, Mozilla, etc.

WebRTC and Empathy

What excites me about WebRTC is what it could open up for social media, specifically customer relations.

In general, I think empathy via social media is hard to achieve. For example, if I post on a brands Wall about an issue with a product, I’ll likely get a message back trying to depict empathy. That’s the customer relations side of social. My issue is that it’s more than likely text-based empathy.

  • “We’re sorry you feel that way…”
  • “I understand your concern…”

When conveying empathy via text, one looses the core attributes of what empathy is:

  • Tone of Voice
  • Voice Pace, Volume, Emphasis, etc
  • Facial Expression
  • Body Language
  • Seeing and Feeling the Other Persons Position

If someone walks into a store you can convey the above. If you pick-up a telephone you can convey most of the above. Digitally, it can be difficult. That’s not to say it’s improbable, but via social networks where the medium is text – it’s tough.

You also have to consider the dreaded “re-reading” syndrome humans hold. People tend to re-read text, and depending on their mood, transform a reply or message into whatever they like. That’s not to mention bold, italics, etc. Google+ will regret that.


WebRTC could speed-up the conversion of empathy from being text based to face-to-face. Rather than posting a message on a brands Wall, use the social networks native WebRTC feature to start a face-to-face conversation over the web – like Skype or Google Hangouts.

This way the user can see and hear the customer services advisor – their body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, pace at which they talk, etc – where they will (hopefully) receive all the empathetic attributes highlighted.

Empathy face-to-face compared to via text is what I would look for as strong customer relations. There will be instancies where voice, email or letter as mediums to provide feedback are preferred, but Im a time-strapped chap, with a need for immediate answers; WebRTC could make that happen.

Crystal Ball: Television

When I hear of developments as said, my imagination naturally runs wild. For some reason, I forsee people sitting watching (internet-enabled) television in their living room with Twitter and Facebook apps open streaming updates from connections. User breaks their hoover, finds the brand online (still via TV) and starts a face-to-face conversation with a customer relations advisor as to how to fix, whom to speak to and what to do next if they cannot resolve the issue. That level of detail excites me. It also shows how big social media is. Goodbye digital being a ‘cheap’ channel.

Work in social media or customer relations? Could you imagine having a face-to-face with a customer via Twitter in opposed to replying to a Tweet etc. Let us know your thoughts.

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