With 106 million registered users, if MySpace were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world between Japan and Mexico.
MySpace exemplifies the revolution sweeping the web enabling people to connect, rendezvous and collaborate via web-based tools. Social software will have many applications for meeting professionals:
When events are reduced to their most essential element, they are about bringing people together. Online social software to develop communities is a natural adjunct to face-to-face meetings.
Meeting professionals often work in collaborative work teams and often in disparate locations. The collaboration tools common to social software products can perform some tasks more efficiently than older ways of working together.
The events industry is a highly social one. Many meeting professionals, especially those entering this industry, will be open and possibly run with these applications.
Although some elements of social software have been around for years (instant messaging and electronic bulletin boards are examples), this new set of applications provide a richer, easier and very different experience.
MySpace (www.myspace.com) is a great place to start. Although teenagers sharing personal profiles, blogs, music and photos comprise much of the action, this site generates more than 4% of all web traffic! This has been noticed and used to some benefit by some in the meetings industry. Searches such as “meeting planning” or “meetings technology” will generate lots of hits, especially for sponsored links. Those targeting potential employees new to the industry will likely find responses here. Suppliers to the meetings industry have also found cheap visibility here as well.
YouTube (www.youtube.com), the popular video-sharing site named Time magazine’s 2006 Invention of the Year, allows registered users to upload videos and unregistered users to watch nearly all of them. Event marketers, speakers and venues can use this to easily and more broadly distribute video demo clips.
Second Life (SL), an internet-based multi-user 3-D virtual world, takes online chat rooms literally to a completely new dimension. Each user takes the form of an avatar (a 3-D completely configurable entity) to explore this virtual world and interact with others in this space. This is completely different from standard online web conferences where people essentially just see a list of participants. With more than five million registered SL users (residents), major corporations such as IBM, Toyota and Starwood Hotels have recognized the potential and are setting up shop here.
Meeting industry applications include the MeCo Mansion (download the free software at www.secondlife.com and then use the search box to find it). This is an ambitious project from Dan Parks who has built an elaborate 3-D mansion with several meeting rooms set aside for meeting industry experts, videos, informational links, and tutorials for those new to SL.
Please note, however, although the MeCo Mansion is completely G-rated, there are worlds to be found in SL that are far from this.
3-D virtual worlds are also being developed as event content browsers. Digitell (www.digitellinc.com) a conference recording firm is using ActiveWorlds (www.activeworlds.com) to build virtual convention centers with meeting rooms and exhibit space. Although currently in the prototype stage, the plans are to use recorded content from events to enable virtual convention attendees to walk through a meeting space to browse the meeting content, view presentation videos/slides with audio, connect with exhibit companies and interact with others.
MPI Wikis. A wiki is a website which allows visitors to add, edit and remove content. Wikis will be coming soon to MPI members at www.mpiweb.org with many subject areas planned. Stop by and share your thoughts. While you are there, check out the full site upgrade and update your member profile with a bio and photo as well.
Business networking sites such as IntroNetworks (www.intronetworks.com), BDMetrics (www.bdmetrics.com), and Leverage Software (www.leveragesoftware.com) are also players in the social software arena, with the goal of bringing people of common interests together at meetings and exhibitions. TripHub (www.triphub.com) allows business or leisure groups to plan a trip (create a trip home page, send invitations, discuss and share plans), another social software site with impact for meetings.
These are just a few examples of the social networking transformation that is sweeping the web. Time magazine’s most recent “Person of the Year” is YOU! Increasingly so, you and/or your meeting professional colleagues will take advantage of social software sites to network, to collaborate and to more efficiently do business.
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