This Thursday, March 25 at 9:30 a.m. CDT, I will be moderating a panel at the MTO Summit in Chicago on mobile apps for events. I was initially thinking that the discussion might center primarily around applications that bring the traditional attendee “needs” to life on a Smartphone but recent product releases pairing social networking and other capabilities with mobile phone access might bust this discussion wide open.
The first wave of mobile apps for events focused on bringing the event directory, agenda and floor plan onto the mobile screen and answering the primary questions of the attendee such as: Where am I going? Which exhibitors should I visit? What time is lunch?
In the current round of mobile innovation, social networking platform providers have introduced mobile iterations of their community-building tools. These extensions allow mobile phone users to access private networking platforms and perform other tasks such as agenda-setting, wireless information exchange, schedule sharing, etc.
Today, Zerista rolled out what they call the “World’s First Mobile Community Platform” at the Demo 2010 Conference in Palm Springs. Zerista’s new platform is mobile Ning on steroids as event organizers and other groups can create their own instant communities (like Ning) and incorporate features like Twitter, Foursquare and Eventbrite into one tool. It allows you to:
- Build your own communities optimized for mobile use with any desktop computer or Smartphone
- Utilize social networking features and communications through a private community channel, as well as external channels like Twitter
- Allow users to “check in” from wherever they are, providing instant access to community-specific locations
- Manage event invitations and issue tickets
Although Zerista is still in beta testing with this product, I can see the advantages for small or informal groups as well as large organizations hoping to appeal to the needs of their various customer segments (with customized communities for each group). Plus, since no one wants to carry his/her laptop around to use the platform, mobile phone access is a huge positive for keeping everyone on the same page especially during an event.
The Takeaway: Mobile accessibility and functionality is the newest and perhaps most exciting extension of social media platforms for events. As event organizers map their event objectives to the apps that are available, they need to look beyond satisfying the attendee’s basic needs and put community management on the list of goals. With the latest round of innovation, event organizers have a wide range of options to consider. How are these new mobile apps meeting your event objectives?