By Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder / Chief Marketing Officer, Orbit Media Studios, Inc.
Live events are back! And we’re all glad …but the virtual events aren’t going anywhere. The popularity of webinars declined a bit after Covid but has leveled out. Roughly one in four content marketing programs includes webinars. Here is the data from our annual survey of 1000 bloggers.
For a lot of associations, webinars were a quick pivot from live events. Can’t do the annual meeting in person? Hey, let’s do it online!
But associations everywhere quickly discovered, it wasn’t exactly a perfect translation.
Webinars are fundamentally different from live events
Obviously, virtual events are a different experience for the attendees. They offer more flexibility (watch it whenever from wherever) but less interaction (no cocktails with new friends afterwards).
Virtual events are also very different for the association that holds them. Engagement may be lower, but so too is the investment (no name badges, signage or F&B budget) and the format offers more opportunities for repurposing (this video can be used in so many ways).
Combine all of these differences, both for attendees and the organizers, and it soon becomes obvious that success should be defined differently as well. Tracking the total number of live attendees just doesn’t capture the entire picture.
Unlike most live events, virtual events are recorded and shared. Registrants may watch them days or weeks later. In fact, some members may have registered just to get the recording, with no actual plans to attend live anyway. In our experience running webinars and working with other webinar producers, just 30-40% of registrants will attend the live webinar.
Is that a problem? Not at all. It’s an opportunity.
Five marketing metrics for webinars and virtual events
Virtual events are more similar to online classes than live events. And you’d never measure the success of an online class by the number of day one viewers. You’d use a very different set of success metrics.
If we apply that lens to our webinars, we start measuring using more traditional digital marketing metrics.
- Email open and click through rates on the pre-event and post-event emails
- Landing page traffic (use a campaign builder to track traffic specifically from those emails)
- Social engagement on the webinar-related posts
- Attendee feedback (responses to a short survey)
- Number of views on the recorded video in the weeks following the webinar
And if the number of video views is the new definition of success, then the promotion of the webinar can also be adapted. The call to action itself may be different. Consider a CTA that recognizes that some registrants have no intention of attending the live event.
- Live event call to action: “Register before it’s too late. Space is limited.” (urgency, scarcity)
- Webinar call to action: “Busy that day? Sign up and we’ll share the recording!” (flexibility, abundance)
Any view of the webinar, live or recorded, is a successful moment for the audience and the organization. With that in mind, we should think long term about promotion and repurposing.
Five ways to squeeze more value from a virtual event
Finally, now that we’ve fully acknowledged that webinars are fundamentally different from live events, we can move on to the tactics that leverage them as their own unique format, with their own opportunities.
- Capture the questions asked during the Q & A. Produce content that answers these questions.
- If an influencer was involved, continue the conversation with them. Build the relationship.
- Add quotes and clips from the virtual event to articles and newsletters.
- Launch a podcast using the audio track.
- Use the funniest, most practical and most provocative clips as short form social videos.
Because the content lives online indefinitely, the promotion of that content can continue for weeks, months or even years after the event, bringing viewers directly to specific moments (YouTube timecodes) that are relevant to the current moment.
The Economic Club of Chicago has a wealth of videos in their archive. They continuously share relevant clips from previous events, decades later. Promotion of an online video never needs to end if the content is evergreen.
When the format is fundamentally different, the promotion and success metrics are also fundamentally different. The smartest and scrappiest organizations recognize this and adapt.
If you didn’t complete the pivot to virtual events, don’t worry. If you still have the recordings, it’s never too late to do content strategy. Live events are temporary. Content may be forever.