2020 brought the need to rewire society

By forcing millions of people to stay at home and, for many, to work from home, 2020 saw a significant rise in the use of social media. The same year however highlighted the imminent problems social media is facing: lack of transparency, deficiencies of public control and dominance of information monopolies. From the very beginning, Vialog and ARTICONF are committed to the creation of a social media ecosystem that respects individual and social control, guarantees data privacy, interoperability and promotes a more just future of social media. 

Globally, a considerable part of the challenges of 2020 relate to the need of ‘rewiring’ society, and rethink ways how we traditionally communicate and interact. Widely used methods of organising and running business, social and cultural events, meetings, teaching and learning, and shared decision making turned impossible, thus giving way to innovative and flexible solutions. Through new solutions, it became apparent that social interaction does not necessarily require participants share the same physical space. However, responses to this ‘restricted world’ also highlighted the importance of focusing on preserving human interaction, visual communication and data privacy.

The value proposition of Vialog has been to create video opinion discussions that can develop and engage communities by helping website owners convert their visitors to content contributors. Changing everyone’s ‘viewing’ status to ‘edit’ offers the chance to dramatically re-imagine engagement, induce co-creation of content and generate inclusion, encourage and respect transparency. Through the use of Vialog video opinion discussions, passive audiences become active co-creators of business, social and cultural events, participate in decision making and involve all stakeholders in developing a broader and more open format for virtual Q&As. 

More often than not, the COVID-19 pandemic speeded up transformation processes that were already boiling in the pipeline anyway. Marketing people for a long time have been vying for channels that overcome the shortcomings of negative and often rapidly waning engagement through paid involvement in social media. 

Keeping in touch with communities proved a challenge

For Vialog, the primary focus for 2020 was on the event industry, a sector that became hit among the hardest due to impossibility of travelling and physical networking as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event sector is traditionally considered as ‘hard to educate’, ie. sell and teach new products since it usually only has a single yearly sales cycle. The conference space is among the least digitised spaces. Organisers often lack fundamental digital skills and that makes them all uncertain about adapting such an innovative solution.

Conference organisers became especially exposed to digital scrutiny; the visibility of their non-response to inquisitive participants and dissatisfied audiences is especially embarrassing. This is in sharp contrast with the experience of organisers using Vialog, where attendees of conferences and festivals from Estonia to Ukraine saw a 90%+ response rate to video questions, submitted by audiences and attendees. 

The pandemic created highly promising opportunities for Vialog. While some companies and organisations considered Vialog as nice-to-have but were concerned that it would not address their imminent needs, others however realised its potential. Many of these expressed their amazement about the human-focused, personal and lively interactions Vialog was able to create with their audiences. Vialog, as a consequence, has doubled up its engagement year-over-year for top niche events such as PÖFF (The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, alongside other 14 festivals in the world, is a A-category film festival. It is the biggest film festival in Northern Europe with 102K physical and virtual attendances in 2020.) Positive responses from around Europe and beyond highlighted Vialog’s ability to build, engage, connect and manage audiences.

Vialog has its eye on the expansion of higher education

The year ahead brings new challenges to Vialog. 2020 has turned successful for proof of concept and significant use case wins, 2021 will become inherent in consolidating existing wins and expanding to further industries and uses. 

Vialog believes respect of its values has played a key role in its initial success and intends to continue keeping these in the focus. Vialog is committed to promoting the values of decentralisation, trust and transparency and the building of a green social technology. Decentralisation is achieved through co-creating temporal, ad-hoc, micro-communities supported by the underlying ARTICONF technology. Vialog’s embeddable video opinion discussions are able to scale fast and are hyper-thematic, have a direct and dedicated reach without going through centralised platforms and high-threshold ad-walls. Trust and transparency is secured through face-to-face video opinion discussions that forecast the end of the written commenting era and marks new horizons for communities. Finally, Vialog’s green and social commitment is underlined through making Community Managers, and even all video opinion creators aware about the environmental footprint of their video discussion’s and creating an option to do something about it. Vialog believes its technology and business model should be just as transparent and trustable as its video discussions. 

In 2021 a key industry focus for Vialog will be on Higher Education. As a result of COVID-19, universities in Britain are predicted to lose £2.6 billion in revenue, putting thirty thousand jobs at risk and creating disruptions in the education of 2.38 million students (THE Times Higher Education, 2020). In 2020, transforming physical classes into virtual deliveries has been difficult and every stakeholder had to embark on a learning curve. All course content, including lectures and seminars have been moved online and it has proved challenging to ensure that all students have an equal chance of accessing the material. Over the past six months, there has been a reduction in the number of students who agree they can access online learning sufficiently to complete their studies (11%), and who consider an online provision to be of good quality (10%) (NUS, 2020). Lecturers needed help to deliver courses in an engaging and effective way. Two-thirds of students, when commenting about their learning experience, found it difficult to get enough contact with their lecturers online. The need for efficient asynchronous, human focused teaching and learning, as well as engagement of higher education students through co-creation of course content is imminent, and this presents a unique opportunity for Vialog.

Successful first steps in the sector might prove that unlike Blackboard Collaborate, Vialog can offer the opportunity for asynchronous interactions that provide enhanced access to learning materials. This will reduce inequality between students who may have different access to resources and variable time commitments. Pilot projects will show whether Vialog is able to deliver a collaborative asynchronous video discussion tool that assists universities in delivering courses online in a mode that closely resembles face-to-face learning. Vialog’s goal is to significantly improve the learning experience for students as well as contribute to the teaching experience for lecturers, by allowing students to ask questions and contribute to the class by uploading video comments and letting lecturers respond to the whole class.

In the first quarter of 2021 Vialog intends to expand its collaboration with selected UK Higher Education institutions to roll out its industry specific video opinion discussion tool.

This blog post was written by the Vialog team in December 2020. To know more about Vialog, visit https://vialog.io.

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