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Game Changer For Small Events: Zerista’s Mobile Community Platform

Did you hear that Zerista launched a new mobile community for events last week? It could be a game changer for small events – giving them access to event technology that was previously too expensive.

This new mobile platform is a mashup of Ning, Eventbrite, Twitter and Foursquare for small groups. Plus, it has a self-service setup AND they are making it free for groups with less than 250 people.

Said another way: Zerista can do schedules, messaging, backchannel, take payments, support checkin, send invites, maps and browse member lists and probably other stuff, too.

Watch the video from the DEMO Conference last week to get an overview:

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.931373&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Here is What I Like About Zerista:

When I think about what Zerista brings to small events, I see much more than a mobile social network. I see a mobile communication system for small groups. To me, most event social network’s seem to be fancy delegate lists. (Someone take me to task on that statement, please.) Zerista has created a mobile communication platform that gives attendees several different types of communication tools. Here are a couple of things that I think are worth your attention:

> No-Web-Enabled Phone Left Behind: Unlike iphone applications that only work on one mobile phone – the Zerista system will work on any web-enabled phone. While that limits some functionality in the short run (like uploading mobile pictures), it does ensure that everyone can participate and use the solution.

> Backchannel Capability: I like that the backchannel can be private or sent out on Twitter. In some cases, you will want to share things with everyone. But, you might only want to post GOOOOOAAAALLL! to the other parents. The only other company that I have seen with a similar backchannel capability is EventVue.

> Checkin Capability: When I went to Event Camp in February, most attendees tweeted that they had arrived at the hotel. If we would have had the Zerista platform, we could have “checked-in” and told other community members that we had arrived. Hitting a checkin button is easy. I think we are going to see more applications for “checkin” capability at events, because it could be used to tell people that you have arrived on-site, arrived at the plenary session, arrived at lunch or at a satellite event.

> Payment Processing: This might be the killer feature. How great would it be for a small event to collect payments for “add-on” items that are purchased onsite during the event? Or what if attendees asked the organizer to throw together a last minute dinner for 40 people. You could sell tickets to that dinner and collect payments online. It would be so easy to collect money and distribute tickets online.

> Freemium Pricing: The pricing model is free for small groups, but you can purchase add-on services to make your event community a little bit better than the basic format. I like this model because it allows event organizers to try out the basic version, see what works and then upgrade or customize as required.

A Word of Caution

> This product has not launched, yet: Until I get to play with the system, I am making assumptions about how it will work based on my previous experiences with similar tech tools. (Like I did with the iPad)

> Clash of the Non-Joiners: I can see the baby-boomers cringing at the thought of joining a bunch of micro-communities. My response to them is that these “disposable communities” are temporary communication platforms that should make it easier for them to be a part of an event. Also, I imagine that Zerista will use Facebook Connect or Twitter Login to reduce the number of logins/passwords.

Bottom Line

When it comes down to it – the Zerista mobile community is more of a communication platform than a private social network. It allows you to form “disposable communities” and help them communicate, collaborate and share – while they are on the go.

What do you think? Will this Zerista mobile platform be a game changer for small events?  What additional strengths or shortcomings do you see with this idea?

Note: I don’t accept any money, gifts or commissions for writing product reviews.

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.