14 Online eCommunity Options For Your Next Annual Meeting

Online conference eCommunities were the rage in 2009

Did you offer one for your annual meeting attendees? I did.

So what are they? Online eCommunities are virtual communities of people that primarily interact via the Internet for social, professional, educational or other purposes.

Online Conference eCommunities have become a supplemental form of communication between people who are attending the same conference. The registrants of the face-to-face event use special online social software to connect with each other.

Online Conference eCommunity users can:

  • Create profiles
  • Connect with others attending the conference before, during and after the conference online
  • IM
  • Participate in text-based chat rooms and forums
  • Schedule itineraries
  • Setup times to meet with exhibitors or vendors
  • View live or archived presentations
  • Share photos from the face-to-face event
  • View venue and tradeshow floor plans
  • Setup appointments with exhibitors and vendors
  • And a host of other features

Many online conference eCommunities integrate with social networking platforms like blogs, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

From free to low-cost eCommunities like MeetUp and Ning, to customized features of Social Collective and Zerista, there are ample opportunities for you to provide conference attendee engagement experiences through an online conference eCommunity. If you are thinking about adding one to your 2010 Annual Meeting or Conference attendee offerings, here are 14 online conference eCommunity providers for you to consider.

BizBash SCHED

Offers Facebook and Twitter integration, attendee communication interface, conference scheduler, detailed session and speaker information, mobile interface, video and audio integration and more. Not as robust as other eCommunities but includes some unique conference organizer features. Clients include BizBash Expo & Awards, BlogWorld 2009 and Exploit Labour Conference.

CrowdVine

Offers Facebook and Twitter integration, blog aggregation, customizable conference eCommunity website, attendee itinerary planner, attendee profiles, IM, speaker and session rating system, attendee communication interface, mobile interface, third-party registration support of EventBrite, RegOnline and Laser Registration, and more. Clients include PCMA 2010, Web 2.0 and IA Summit.

eventVue

Offers conference attendee registration package through partnership with Acteva, Eventbrite and RegOnline, social media integration with blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube, customizable conference micro-website (full conference website), attendee profiles, IM, embedded video and audio, mobile interface, and more. Clients include Defrag, Mashable’s US Summer Tour 2008, and Mass Technology Leadership Conference.

iCohere

An often over-looked platform that is well known in eLearning circles but lesser known in the events industry. Provides opportunity for a full, exclusive, online virtual conference complete with attendee registration, eCommerce, attendee profiles, IM, live audio, video and Webinar integration, virtual vendor showrooms, blog feature and more. Limited customization for look and feel as compared to other eCommunities. [We currently use iCohere at my work for our exclusive walled industry eCommunity for our nonprofit members.] Clients include ASAE, National Defense University, US Forest Service and WorldVision.

MeetUp

Offers a turnkey event attendee registration package, eCommerce, social media network integration, customizable border for micro-website, attendee profiles, IM, message board, and more. Mostly used by local self-organized groups.

NFi MemberFuse

Used more for member eCommunities than conference communities but can be customized for conferences. Integrates with Association Management Systems like Avectra, offers RSS integration, customizable eCommunity website, user profiles, IM, attendee communication interface, resource library, and more. Clients include MPI CLC, NMC09 and OmniPress Conference 2.0.

Ning

Offers full integration with social media networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, customizable eCommunity website, user profiles, IM, surveys and pools, user communication interface, mobile accessibility, and third-party event and registration support through widgets.

Omnipress’ Conference 2.0

Built on the Pathable platform, Offers Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter integration, customizable conference eCommunity website, attendee itinerary planner, session handouts and slides, attendee profiles, IM, surveys and polls, attendee communication interface, mobile interface, third-party registration support of EventBrite, RegOnline, eTouches, Certain or Cvent, and more. Clients include American Public Health Association, DAC and IEEE.

Pathable

Offers Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter integration, customizable conference eCommunity website, session handouts and slides, attendee profiles, IM, surveys and polls, attendee communication interface, mobile interface, third-party registration support of EventBrite, RegOnline, eTouches, Certain or Cvent, and more. Clients include MPI WEC09, NMC09 and OmniPress Conference 2.0.

Social Collective

Offers a turnkey conference attendee registration package, eCommerce, Facebook and Twitter integration, customizable conference micro-website (full conference website), attendee itinerary planner, attendee profiles, IM, exhibitor and sponsor fan pages, crowdsourcing application, speaker rating system, detailed session and speaker information, embedded video and audio, mobile interface, eMarketing capabilities and more. (Yes, this is the conference platform that I used in 2009 and plan to use again in 2010.) Clients include IAEE, SxSW 2009 and SxSW 2010.

Twubs Conference Suite

TWUBSizeafest

Integrated with Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, operates as a conference aggregator for several social network streams, attendee profiles. customizable site, live event audio and presentation streaming, and ability to use moderate Twitter hashtag tweet for chats, questions and image magnification. Clients include International Foodservice Distributors Association, Microsoft Tech-Ed LA, and TEDTalks.

Yuku

Free community platform that includes user profiles, chat, photo galleries, polls, community calendars, in-line video embedding, blogs, RSS feeds, customizable skins, and more. Similar to message boards.

Wild Apricot

Offers a turnkey conference attendee registration package, eCommerce, Facebook and Twitter integration, customizable conference micro-website (full conference website), Digg-like rating feature, online fundraising, membership management, attendee profiles, IM, detailed session and speaker information, and more. Clients include GMIC, SITE Chicago and Healthy Start, Healthy Future’s Life With A Baby.

Zerista

Offers customizable conference micro-website (full conference website), detailed session and speaker information, attendee itinerary planner, attendee profiles, IM, exhibitor and attendee scheduler, exhibitor virtual booth, embedded video and audio for virtual attendance, integrated webcasts, virtual tradeshow, interactive venue maps, interactive tradeshow floor, integrated Google maps, and more. Clients include Democratic National Convention 2008, SxSW 2009 and SxSW 2010.

I am sure there are other eCommunity platforms as well. Which have you used?

Comments

  1. says

    Wow Jeff, lots to digest here! I wasn’t a big fan of these applications 6 or so months ago, but am quickly getting converted. I love the feature that allows me to compare my connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter against the attendee registration list. Doing this allows me to start connecting with my existing network before the show and improves my productivity while at the event.

    I think the two keys to success for all of these companies will be 1) the revenue model and 2) attendee adoption. Some companies think that they can have exhibitors pay for it…some are trying to compete where they aren’t strong. In an effective attendee to attendee white label social network, it is so critical to have a sales free zone for adoption. Higher tech attendees jump on the solution quick, but the casual attendee isn’t playing as much as associations would like. I’m seeing that with IAEE and PCMA as a User now.

    My prediction is that 50% or more these solutions will not make it. Associations need to be careful to do significant due diligence on the financial stability of their vendor in this space. There is going to be lots of tempting deals offered by these vendors, but the smart association will choose the solution that can they can grow with for three of more years. Switching costs will usually out weigh solution costs.

    I wrote an article a while back that may be helpful for vendor selection in this space. http://tinyurl.com/ycg6dnr This will be an interesting space to see who evolves as the leader.

    Dave Lutz – @velchain

  2. says

    Thanks for putting together this list. It was fun reviewing the sites I haven’t heard about. One obstacle I think organizers continue to experience is getting attendees to embrace yet another social networking community. It takes time to create a profile, get familiar with the platform, and even to get comfortable asking questions and contributing answers. I haven’t seen this, but perhaps someone knows if these lesser known sites can import profile information from LinkedIn or Facebook? And even more, wouldn’t it be nice if the user could import discussions from LinkedIn and receive a whole new set of responses from a new community. This would make frequent contributors more likely to embrace a new platform more quickly. Don’t you think?

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Paul
      Absolutely, I agree with you. I’ve found that I want to join the conference site as it is typically temporal and if done correctly, populated with content from speakers about the upcoming meeting. I also want to flag people that are attending and make sure we see each other face-to-face. If the conference organizers are using the conference eCommunity as a marketing tool (including content marketing), people will want to join.

  3. says

    Jeff, would love to have been included in your list. We have been producing private social networks for events for seven years now – in fact were the first do it is (for the TED Conference in 2003). Your readers can learn more about us at http://intronetworks.com or watch a short clip that we produced in conjuntion with GLM and the ExpoTech show today http://intronetworks.com/files/RetailerForumOverview.swf

    Thanks
    Mark Sylvester, CEO, introNetwork

    • Jeff Hurt says

      Mark:
      Thank you so much for adding a comment and including your company in the list. I’m sorry I didn’t include you in my original list. I knew I was overlooking some. I’ll do an update to the post in the near future and make sure your included.

      Thanks again.

      Jeff

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