Webinar 101: Using Webinars to Share, Educate, and Build Your Brand

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webinar 101 SEJ Thinktank

Did you know that 60% of marketers are using webinars as part of their content marketing strategies? If you want to stay competitive in your field, webinars can be a highly effective way to build your brand and increase leads.

But, where do you start? Aren’t webinars a lot of work? Besides, it probably won’t work for your brand anyway.

If those are the thoughts going through your head, you are in the right place! As Senior Editor here at SEJ, I have spent the last year planning and implementing SEJ Marketing ThinkTank, our bi-monthly series of educational webinars. We have covered a wide range of marketing topics, including local SEO, social media for big brands, PPC, and marketing on Reddit.

If you are considering planning webinars, but don’t know where to start or already have a few under your belt but aren’t sure they are getting any results, keep reading.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is a Webinar, Anyway?

A webinar is short-hand for web-based seminar. Webinars can be a presentation, discussion, or product demo that is transmitted online using web conferencing software in real-time. Unlike webcasts, where the information is shared one-way, webinars allow for interaction with the audience. Often, webinar software also allows sharing of additional assets, including screen sharing, video, and file transfers.

Benefits of Webinars

One of the main benefits of webinars is they are location flexible. The host can be living in one part of the world while the guest and audience members partake in the webinar from anywhere elsewhere in the world. This gives your audience a better chance of attending a webinar, as opposed to physically attending a seminar, where they have to book  a flight and reserve a hotel room.

Webinars are also flexible in regards to format. The content in a webinar can be recorded and shared or repurposed in a variety of formats. SEJ does this with all of our webinars – after a webinar goes live, we’ll upload the video to YouTube and the slides will be converted to a SlideShare presentation. This gives our audience the chance to view the webinar anytime they want, or catch it for the first time if they missed it live.

On top of the flexibility webinars offer, they also have the power to grab the attention of your audience.

Why? Because today, people are paying attention to video more than ever before. According to 64% of customers, they are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video. Another study found that 59% of senior executives would rather watch a video than read. These statistics show webinars are a highly effective communication method, whether  you are trying to sell or persuade.

Engaging Format webinar 10

Webinars are also more interactive and engaging than other forms of content. During the SEJ Think Tank series, we engage our audience members by asking poll questions and featuring a Q&A session so they can be a part of the action — instead of just sitting back and being passive.

Another way you can make your webinar more interactive is by including clickable links (we sent them out in the chat feature) so attendees can actively follow the presentation.

For example, say you are giving a demonstration on how to use an online tool. Clickable links give audience members to play along, as opposed to just watching you click buttons.

Better Communication

Webinars are also ideal for allowing two-way communication between you and the audience. If they have a question about the presentation or the product you’re showcasing, they can ask you in real-time which may help eliminate barriers to conversion.

Webinars also give audience members direct access to the speaker. Since the speaker is generally an authority figure or thought leader, this gives attendees unprecedented access, which is is both an enticing reason to attend and a way to build trust.

Better Information Absorption

Finally, webinars also lead to better absorption of information for your audience members. Since you’re sharing valuable information you want your audience to take home and share, any method you can use to get them to retain that knowledge can be a major advantage for you and your brand.

If you’re sold on hosting your own your webinar, here’s what you need to get things rolling.

Pick a Platform

The first requirement for a webinar is having the right software to host your event. While there are plenty of software options out there, here are four platforms, two free and two premium, for your consideration.

  • Google+ Hangouts: This is a free video and chat feature of Google+. You can record and stream the webinar directly onto YouTube.
  • Skype: This is another free platform where you can share files and invite up to 25 people for a video conference.
  • Webex: This product from Cisco starts at $24 per month. It comes with polls, register tracking, and chat.
  • GoToWebinar: We use this for SEJ and have experienced a few bug issues. However, the customer service is fantastic, so I still recommend them. Features include polls, HD recording, and attendee registration. Plans start at $89 per month.

When selecting a platform, you have to consider the pros and cons each present. Does it fit your budget? Does it include the features that you need, such as the ability to offer surveys? How many attendees does it allow? Can you record?

For example, if you already sold a product and want to offer free training to 10 people, Webex’s price tag might not make sense for you. On the other hand, if you are offering paid photography classes.  you may find Webex fits your needs perfectly.

How to Choose a Webinar Topic

To have a powerful webinar, you need to narrow it down to a specific topic that will be informative to your target audience. Here are a couple of ways you can find a webinar topic your audience will actually be interested in:

  • FAQs: Mine your frequently asked questions page for topics your customers frequently search.
  • Search Google Analytics for Top Traffic Pages: You can pick a topic by seeing what content is the being discussed and shared the most on your site.
  • Ask Sales/Social Team: Ask your team members what topics they discuss with customers on a daily basis. These may be areas where more information may be needed.
  • Poll Your Audience: You can also ask your audience directly for topics they would find useful.

When settling on a topic, pay attention to the resources you already have on hand. We have a talented crew here at SEJ, and we often ask our team to share their expertise.

Pick a Format

You have the right platform and topic, now it’s time to pick a format for your webinar. The most common formats are:

  • Single Expert Presenter: One expert shares their expertise.
  • Dual Presenters: Instead of just one presenter, you have two presenters, which helps engage the audience and may allow you to share more information.
  • Panel: Just like a live panel, you could host a group of experts discussing a specific topic. You will likely want a moderator as well. 
  • Moderated Session: Take your panel help a notch by having a moderator help move the webinar along – this also works well with single presenters.
  • Q&A: The expert or panel answers questions from the audience. The live aspect makes this format particularly engaging for the audience. 
  • A Mix of Formats: Remember, you don’t have to stick to just one format. SEJ’s webinars are a mix of single presenter and Q&A.

Also, test to see what works for you! In the beginning, we tried a web audit series where four of our team members audited several websites live. We thought it would do really well, (free audits, right?). In reality, it earned us some of our lowest attendance numbers ever. So, we had to ditch them. Listen to your audience!

How to Market Your Webinar

Like any other piece of content you produce, you need to market your webinar so you can attract attendees. Here are a few tips:

  • Write Blog Post: Write a blog post to promote the webinar in advance. Even if you don’t have a huge blog following, you can share this on social and through email.
  • Use Platform Tools: Several platforms have features like registration tracking, so you follow-up with those attending. See what your tool offers and make use of those tools!
  • Push on Social: Announce the webinar on your social media channels – and don’t forget to push it until the very end. I generally see an 8-15% registration jump in the last day or two before the live event.
  • Email Lists: Send reminders to your email subscribers a day in advance and then an hour before the webinar goes live. Also, consider announcing it to your email list. (Just be careful not to annoy.)
  • PPC: If you have the budget, you can use a PPC campaign to promote you webinar.

At SEJ, we send a lot of energy promoting our webinars. We start by writing an announcement post, then we send out an email blast to our newsletter subscribers, initiate our webinar social sharing program, and send out reminder emails to attendees.

Internally, one of the most effective tricks I have learned is sending out pre-written“Click to Tweets” to our team (clicktotweet.com). These make  easy for everyone to help promote our webinar.

Remember, you don’t have to have a large audience to market your webinar. Reaching just one person could be the edge you need.

Preparing For Webinars

You have to be prepared for your webinar. It seems a lot of brands underestimate how much preparation are required to ensure everything goes smoothly. Don’t just assume since a presenter has spoken at several conferences it will go fine. There is often a new platform  to learn, plus the challenge of not being able to see your audience or your moderator.

Here are a few things I have learned in the last year.

  • Practice: Even if you’ve done the same presentation twenty times, do a dry run to make sure everyone is on the same page, all your gear is working, the presenter knows how to share their screen, etc.
  • Verify Wifi: Without wi-fi, your webinar won’t be able to go live. Double check to make sure it’s working properly.
  • Never use new equipment: Use equipment you’re familiar with so if there is a problem you can troubleshoot.
  • Show up 15 minutes early: This gives you the chance to double-check your equipment, answer any last-minute questions, and make sure everyone is ready to go.
  • Have a support team: If you’re presenting, you should have someone else behind the scenes handling the Q&A or resolving any technical difficulties. (For every SEJ ThinkTank, we use a team of 4-5 members)

After the Webinar

A webinar isn’t over once the live feed ends. You need to follow-up with the attendees, otherwise you are wasting your time.

Start by offering a CTA so the audience knows what next step you want them to take. For example, if you want them to download a whitepaper or sign up for a free trial, let them know and provide links in the webinar and in the follow-up email.

At SEJ, our goal is education so we want to make sure the audience gets the most out of the information we provide. This means we push attendees to our recap post that includes a YouTube video and SlideShare presentation. For our sponsored webinars, the follow-up might include a CTA to contact the company for a free consult or to join a mailing list.

Make the Most of Your Content

For each webinar we host at SEJ, we actually create five pieces of additional content: the announcement post, the recap post, the YouTube video, SlideShare slides, and a long form article (like this one!).

Do not under-estimate the power of repurposing your content.

Your audience likes to consume content in many different formats, so repurposing content isn’t about being lazy or just rehashing the same old thing. It is about creating strong, stand-alone pieces of content that your audience will find useful.

Conclusion

Webinars are a highly effective way to communicate in-depth information in an engaging format. The first step is deciding what your goals are and then choosing a platform and format that meets those needs.

For an effective webinar you should always:

  • Listen to Your Audience
  • Play to Your Current Strengths
  • Practice for a Polished Presentation
  • Follow Up
  • Repurpose Your Content

Want to learn more? View the full recording of my SEJ ThinkTank webinar below.

Have you faced any challenges while hosting webinars? Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!

 

Featured Image: ShutterStock | Vector Goddess

In Post Image: Shutterstock | Vector Goddess 

Danielle Antosz

Danielle Antosz

Features Editor at Search Engine Journal
Danielle is the Features Editor for Search Engine Journal and the producer of SEJ Marketing Nerds podcast. She lives in Chicago, where she spends her days writing, editing, planning her next trip, and proselytizing the importance of the Oxford comma.
Danielle Antosz
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  • Maya

    Thanks for writing all those tips! There’s so much to learn and do before doing a webinar. What do you think about ClickMeeting for webinars?

  • http://www.ebizroi.com Rick Noel

    Excellent post Danielle! Webinars can also be used to generate revenue directly if you sell very specialized training that people want/are willing to pay for. Goto Webinar offers a free 30 day trial . In addition, Goto Webinar supports integration with Eventbrite through Zapier so that the registration information in Eventbrite gets automatically populated in GoTo Webinar automatically registering the user in Goto Webinar to streamline operations. Webinar recordings make great marketing offers for lead generation. Just like your post, webinars ROCK!

  • http://nathalielussier.com Nathalie Lussier

    This is a great look at webinars! I also wanted to recommend WebinarAlly as a potential webinar platform, it’s super affordable (no ongoing costs) and it’s hosted on WordPress, so you can brand it easily. I love how more people are joining the webinar game!