Is social media a threat to virtual platforms?

While most of the attention within our industry has been on the 2D and 3D platforms for virtual events, I envisioned that a simpler, website-like interface may begin emerging for digital events. My post last December postulated that this website interface would be widgetized, allowing users to add or remove elements while viewing a live streaming event. I further stated that an existing social player, such as Facebook, may enter this space in 2011.

Several developments over the past few weeks reinforce my belief that prominent social media platforms are seeing the potential of digital meetings and events:

  • Slideshare Announces Zipcast: In my Virtual Edge Institute post, I highlighted Slideshare’s entry into the online meetings space made sense. Providing a “fast, simple and social” service, Zipcast is a low-cost alternative for adding an online component to a meeting or event.
  • YouTube Live Streaming: Earlier this month, YouTube announced a live streaming service for select partners. Per the press release, the service will be available to “certain YouTube partners with accounts in good standing to stream live content on YouTube.”
  • Facebook Live Streams: Though members have the ability to live stream via Facebook though the Live Stream or other plug in, this capability is underutilized. I anticipate that high-profile Facebook live streaming events, such as Obama’s recent visit to Facebook and Q&A with Mark Zuckerburg, will underscore the broadcast capabilities of the Facebook platform.

Are Social Platforms a Threat to Virtual Platforms?

In a single word – Yes, in the following ways:

  • Inexpensive live streaming: All the services are currently free requiring your time to evaluate and implement for your event. Compare this against the $5,000-$10,000 entry-level cost of most platforms
  • Good enough for learning: While this may not be broadcast quality, as Jeff Hurt pointed in his post, Live Streaming: Hollywood Production Value or Good Enough for Learning, the importance of the quality of a live stream may be negligible as long as your audience learns.
  • Ease-of-use: Most of these are simple and easy to use for both the organizer and viewer
  • Social elements: The ability to chat, tweet, and connect with others are wrapped around the service
YouTube Live

Conclusion: What does this mean?

In addition to Slideshare, YouTube and Facebook, services such as Livestream and UStream also provide a cost-effective solution for online meetings. But let’s be clear, these services will appeal mainly to meeting and events professionals with the technical proficiency to implement a self-service solution to live stream sessions.

For those seeking more hands-on strategy, design and implementation, then virtual event providers are a viable option.'
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