In 2009, Twitter has taken the world by storm – in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Time magazine named Twitter their Person of the Year. In my opinion, Twitter’s success hinges on its simplicity, celebrity (use by celebrities, that is) and portability (users stay connected to the service from nearly anywhere).
While virtual events have been around for a few years – they too took the world by storm in 2009 – mostly, the business-to-business world. As we look forward into 2010, here’s what virtual events can learn from Twitter:
- 140 characters or less – I often find it a challenge to condense my thought into 140 characters – the usual trick is to lean on acronyms (or abridged versions of words) to get under the limit. The better approach is to be more efficient, using less words to make the same point. While I still get frustrated at times (having to distill my thought down to 140 characters) – other times, I find that my message comes across clearer and more elegant in the shorter form. In virutal events, a lot of chatter (e.g. group chat in the Lounge) is long-winded. It would be interesting to participate in a group chat in which each chat message was limited to 140 characters. I get the feeling that the chat would be much more enjoyable and productive.
- Application Programming Interface (API) – Twitter was recently valued at $1B – it couldn’t have possibly reached that valuation without it’s excellent API and the rich ecosystem that’s been created by developers and start-ups. The API has made possible desktop clients such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop, along with numerous third party services, such as Tweetbeep, Twimailer and many more. Virtual event platform providers should look to “open up” their platform via API’s – allowing show hosts and exhibitors to tap into underlying registration data; customize the look and feel of their events; and develop functional mini-apps that ride on top of the platform. As Twitter discovered, opening up the platform creates a “wealth” of opportunity.
- Mobile support – Twitter’s API allow for applications like TwitterBerry (for BlackBerry) and Tweetie (for iPhone). Users are increasingly on the go these days – whereby less and less interaction with the web occurs from their desk and keyboard. Virtual event platforms that can extend their reach to smartphones will stand to benefit greatly – adoption will increase, as will average session time and overall session counts. Twitter also integrates with the Short Messaging Service (SMS) – making access nearly universal (e.g. from non-smartphone cell phones). Perhaps there are capabilities in a virtual event that can also be triggered via “commands” transmitted via SMS.
- Connecting with others – Twitter’s growth in 2009 has resulted from (a) needing to connect with your friends, family and colleagues who are already on the service and (b) a desire to “follow” celebrities or sports figures. In business-to-business virtual events, you won’t have this same sort of dynamic (wanting to follow others) – however, the platforms can do a better job of finding and recommending folks you should be following or connected to. For instance, a CIO at a small-and-medium sized business (SMB) may want to know that a CIO from another SMB company is also in attendance.
- Self service / self starter – Many companies are now active on Twitter, to provide customer outreach, customer service, outbound marketing and even e-commerce sales. Other than learning the basics of social media and Twitter etiquette, the process to get started with Twitter is very straightforward. Virtual event platform providers ought to provide a means for curious/inquisitive users to set themselves up with a test event – some day, configuring your virtual event (a basic one, at least) should be analogous to creating a new blog in WordPress.
And there you have it – adopt these five principles and your virtual event platform may some day be worth $1B as well!