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3/2/2009
02:53 PM
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DEMO Videos Undermined By Social Media

The message of startups could easily be missed amid the chatter that accompanied the live video feed of the presentations.

In presentations at the DEMO Conference on Monday morning, several companies pitched their ideas for services that aim to help consumers and businesses save money and make money more efficiently.

Perhaps the most interesting of the four companies in the "Stimulating the Economy" group was 7 Billion People's WebLegend software, which leverages data gleaned from e-commerce sites to redesign checkout pages on the fly, in order to increase conversion rates and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

But the promise of startups like this could easily be missed amid the chatter that accompanied the live video feed of the presentations.

Adjacent on the Web page to the live video feed of the DEMO presentations was a scrolling Facebook comment window, in which other video viewers could share their comments. Presumably the idea was "to serve the community," or some such sentiment. But really, it was a venue for criticism and distraction that undermined the presenters without adding an appreciable value.

That's not to say the presentations would have been scintillating without running commentary -- the "Stimulating the Economy" group was not that stimulating. Even so, DEMO's organizers haven't done the presenting companies any favors by imposing a social component on the presentation videos.

Liquid Media's Loyal2Me service, for example, is what the company describes as a consumer-controlled marketing system that allows consumers to designate businesses that can send pitches to their mobile phones. While not something that would appeal to everyone, it's nonetheless an interesting attempt to involve consumers more directly in marketing and business-loyalty programs.

Facebook user AbdulKarriem Ali Khan's reaction to the service: "OH great VOICE AUTOMATED SPAM!!!"

Another company, Zipadi, presented its software-as-a-service system for allowing merchants to create digital interactive catalogs. It promises to combine engaging graphics and presentation with back-end analytics. For merchants determined to go that route, rather than focusing on a Web site with analytics, it might be worth looking into.

But Facebook user Marcy Hoffman expressed skepticism, noting that catalogs work "because people look for them around the house." They just show up, unsolicited, she observed. "Why would I look at an online catalog when I can go to the site?"

Why indeed? Of course startups at DEMO have had to endure criticism before, and it's fair to say that they need to be tough enough to weather some doubts. But when companies can't even get a few minutes to make their pitches in peace, without withering comments arriving in real time, the marketing value of appearing at such events at all looks doubtful.


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