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CofC alums find new media niche

Visualive screens popping up around town

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Tech savvy business owners are already tweeting special deals to their followers, but what about the guy who's never heard of WOK?

Visualive — a real-time social networking and advertising tool — is expected to get the word out all over town.

The Visualive screens are starting to pop up in participating businesses, scrolling promotion and event news. A business owner can share ads on screens at other participating locations, as long as it's not a competitor.

"I'm a business and I'm about to have happy hour. I get online and within five minutes, 10 locations in Charleston know that I'm throwing happy hour," says William Willis, giving an example of how it works.

Willis and his co-founders, Josef Kirk Myers and Alex Summer, have been working hard on their startup since they 2007, when they were students at the College of Charleston.

"We thought, wouldn't it be cool if I could be at home, get onto a website, and get content onto a screen in any location within five minutes, where the software at the location would do all the work?" says Willis.

Charleston Fashion Week attendees got a hint of what Visualive can do. The company ran screens on stage with live Twitter feeds, along with up-to-the-minute photos and video.

Aside from daily specials, the screens are expected to include entertainment content, like juicy Tweets, as well as breaking local news and event information — all moderated by Visualive.

"We wanted to include eye-catching entertainment, because that's what keeps people coming back to the screen and interested," explains Willis. "This way the consumer doesn't just see it as another billboard."

Businesses purchase daily credits with Visualive that can be spent based on the frequency of the updates and how many locations it runs in. The pricing is targeted at small- to medium-sized businesses who might not have the resources for a roadside billboard, but still want to get their message out.

Fuel and WOK are two early adopters, along with the recent addition of Mellow Mushroom. But, for now, Visualive is intentionally keeping the client pool low.

"We are very selective in who we even consider, based on image, foot traffic, clientele, and location," Willis says. "It doesn't fit everyone. People need to be within our brand and open to new technologies."

For now, Visualive is for beta testers only. Myers says there haven't been any technical issues.

"It's been really useful for the businesses for uploading and sharing their content," he says. "And people have been enjoying the screens."

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