by Michael Shapiro | September 6, 2011

I've just demoed a relatively new event-specific networking platform known as Leebug, and it looks like a pretty robust bit of technology. Particularly so if you consider it's offered to event organizers for free, with Leebug taking a chunk of whatever revenue you can bring in through banner advertising and virtual booth sales. Leebug consists of a turnkey social networking and event program website, as well as an integrated mobile app. To date, the mobile app has been a native download for Apple mobile devices, but a new approach is under way: Later this month, Leebug will debut a new web-based app built in HTML5, meaning it will be compatible with most mobile devices that can access the web. (An Internet connection is required for full functionality, but through caching, the program schedule should remain accessible even when Wi-Fi is not.)
The company handled about five or six shows last year, but it's on track to support more than 100 events for 2011. The pricing model must make it attractive for event producers looking to experiment with social networking and mobile functionality, but that only gets the ball rolling. For many of Leebug's recent events, managing partner Stephanie Golden told me, around 40 percent of attendees have been using the platform to engage with one another, and that number has been steadily climbing.
To keep costs down, Leebug clients must upload the program and attendee information themselves, but that process, says Golden, is a straightforward one that primarily involves a lot of cutting and pasting. The company is flexible, however, and will negotiate fees for any clients that want more hands-on assistance.
Leebug can be set up to import LinkedIn profiles, as well as to display relevant feeds from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and/or a conference blog, if applicable. Depending on the preferences of the event organizer, attendees can either opt in or opt out of the system. And, with some nifty customizable search filters, attendees can check out whom they may know at the show, as well as people they may want to meet. Under development are some matchmaking algorithms, so that Leebug soon can begin suggesting connections as well. Plus, the platform includes virtual booths, so that revenue possibility is built right in.
The new mobile app that will come out this month will offer program and schedule info, as well as networking functionality, with more features soon to follow. Polling is slated to make a debut in the app later this fall, and geo-location functionality is a possibility as well.
You can check out a public version of the platform by registering on the home page, and see how it compares to some of the other event-specific networking sites out there -- CrowdVine, Pathable and Zerista come to mind. Speaking of which, Pathable has something up its sleeve too, and will be debuting “Pathable 2.0” soon. Check back here for updates on that in early October.