How We Made Webinars Impactful After Everyone Hung Up
Here at Spredfast, we use webinars often. In a marketing landscape that yields shiny new digital tools almost constantly, webinars still produce leads and live video views. Whether they’re paid partnerships with publishers, co-marketing partnerships with large brands, influencer programs with individuals, or customer-focused updates, live webinars just work for us, plain and simple.
But while the program continues to be effective in its current state, it’s almost impossible to scale without hiring more people to run them. Usually, when a marketing program is working well, you’d do more of that program, but that’s a struggle with webinars. We were putting in months of work for each live webinar and only seeing positive results within a short window of time. Though the input of effort to outcome was always enough to merit continuing the work on webinars, that ratio was imbalanced enough to give us pause: were we really getting the most out of Spredfast webinars that we could?
We started by reframing our thinking. We previously defined webinars as their own marketing channel: Email was a channel, social was a channel, and webinars were a channel. We quickly found that classifying webinars as a marketing channel limited the ways we could use them. A channel comes with its own set of rules and best practices. There’s certainly room to experiment within the framework, but the channel itself largely stays the same. We were having trouble optimizing our webinars outside of the topics we covered, partners we worked with, or dates/times we ran them. It was only when we started thinking of webinars as pieces of content that we were able to consider truly innovative options. Content, after all, fits within every channel and can be interacted with at any time. Since our channels are always hungry for more content, we began thinking of webinars as long-form video.
It was only when we started thinking of webinars as pieces of content that we were able to consider truly innovative options.
In most cases, you invite people to attend your webinar, they either do, or they don’t, and then the experience is over. When the program ends, and your audience hangs up, you’ve suddenly lost the opportunity for all that hard work to produce any further engagement. However, if webinars are defined as long-form video content, why can’t they be distributed on marketing channels after the live experience is over? We realized we were limiting ourselves by not taking full advantage of the content we’d created after our live attendees hung up. More than anything, we realized the obvious: busy marketers need to watch video on their own time. Yes, live webinars still produce large numbers of leads and live video views for us, but we’re able to produce hundreds more by not limiting ourselves to the live experience.
These are some of the questions we asked ourselves as we tested our Social Measurement in 2018 webinar as long-form video content after it ran. You can check out the full webinar here.
What does success look like?
Defining success can and should help you make decisions around the entire experiment. In our case, a lack of clear thinking around the true definition of success caused us to essentially implement two different strategies. We ran a content campaign that was optimized to both produce video views and new leads, which led to neither happening at a high rate. If we had set our sole success metric as video views, our hosting and distribution strategy would have changed. If we had set our sole success as producing net-new leads, we wouldn’t have hosted the video on an ungated landing page and would have spent more on paid social to attract an audience that wasn’t already in our database. Instead of picking one version of success and optimizing for it, we found ourselves attempting to do both.
Gated or ungated?
The first question we asked after resetting success for the content was where to host the videos. Should this content produce new leads for us with a gated form or should we give it away for free? We decided to try both. On channels that people we already had in our database interact with, we sent traffic to an ungated page with the video resource. It wouldn’t make sense to force them to fill out a form when we already had their contact information. On channels that could reach net-new leads, we sent traffic to a gated page with a form that had to be completed to view the content.
Gated content requires personal information from the user before accessing the content, whereas ungated means it's already open to the public. Gating our content gives us an opportunity to identify our audience.
The gated piece of content received 175% more traffic than the ungated version in our test. The channels sending traffic to the gated page clearly performed better, and people were willing to provide information for a valuable piece of content— the average time spent on the page was significantly higher for the ungated video. While fewer people were interested in viewing it, those that were had a higher chance of watching the entire video. If we had defined success better, we could have decided to focus on one strategy that would have resulted in a stronger performance.
Which channels make sense?
After spending some time building our point-of-view on a hosting strategy, we had to figure out which channels would drive the most traffic to the pages. We also wanted to keep in mind that we were asking for users to watch a video that was almost an hour long, not some 10-second auto-playing video in a newsfeed. Not only were we asking for a click off-platform, but we were asking for a 60-minute commitment—and in some cases, a form fill to get there. In the end, it’s a huge ask. With that, we decided the best channels to experiment with would be email, organic social, paid social, a footer ad on the Spredfast website, and a pop-up ad within the Spredfast product.
Three of those channels are still running ads for the content more than six weeks after the live webinar ran. That means that channel owners at Spredfast see enough value from the content on their channel to continue supporting the content.
How long should it run?
This variable is still up in the air. Webinar topics are often sourced to be immediately relevant based on the calendar. The specific program we’re referring to here was relevant in large part due to the time of year. Would a timely topic still perform well a month afterwards? While we’re still answering this question, I can tell you that six weeks after Social Measurement in 2018 ran, it’s still being served in an email nurture stream and through paid social. We’re tracking it closely, but it appears to be performing well.
Common sense should drive your brand's thinking on timelines for post-webinar content campaigns.
Common sense should still drive our thinking on timelines for post-webinar campaigns. If your live program is focused on best practices in the month of April, running paid social with the content in December won’t produce the best experience for viewers. Our topic is proven to perform better at the end of a calendar year, but we’re seeing views trickle in six weeks later. However, the pace has slowed from what we saw in the first two weeks of promoting the long-form content, which could push us to shorter campaigns in the future.
Using webinars as long-form video content will be a strategy we continue to experiment with. As difficult as it can be to scale content creation, we’d be missing out if we didn’t use these programs more intentionally. Live webinars still work, but adding content marketing methods can extend their life even further. We’ve found that rethinking what a webinar actually is, defining different successes for the content after the live version runs, and building a content campaign around it can provide a positive brand experience for more than just those who were free at 11 am one Tuesday.