Webinars: Still a Viable Option for Building Audience?

 

Webinars are still widely promoted online, but does the format still resonate with end users and, if so, which ones? Can webinars reach, and influence, a B2C audience or are they primarily used for B2B outreach? What emerging technologies are moving into the webinar space? These are questions marketers need to be asking themselves.

Webinars Still Resonate

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has been conducting research on content marketing in the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) environments since 2013 and 2010, respectively. B2C usage of webinars, perhaps not surprisingly, has been lower than B2B usage and has also declined slightly since the first survey, while B2B use has increased. (In 2013, 32% of B2C marketers were using webinars, compared to 31% in 2017. In 2010, 42% of B2B marketers were using webinars, compared to 58% in 2017.)

In both the B2C and B2B space, the tactics most used, according to CMI research, are social media (85/83%), blogs (75/80%) and email newsletters (75/77%).

Especially when combined with video, webinars offer the ability for organizations to “get personal” with their audiences. Live formats allow for interactions through polls and online comments/Q&A. And there are a wide range of tools across multiple price points allowing marketers to easily and cost effectively bring webinars to their audiences—from WebEx and GoToWebinar, at the high end, to Zoom and Join.me, which offer more budget-conscious options.

While there is a tendency to think of webinars for making traditional presentations, businesses are using this interactive tool in other ways as well.

Beyond the Norm

Webinars work not only for presenting “canned” presentations to audiences. They can also be used for customer service, says Walt Bayliss, a software developer and internet marketer. Webinars work well for online follow-up and lead management, says Bayliss. “All the customer needs to do is provide the time and date he is available, some initial information on whatever trouble he is experiencing with the product and then wait to be provided a webinar link. Both parties can communicate and work on a resolution. In my experience, it’s a great customer engagement and retention tool.”

Anna Daugherty, a digital marketing manager with PITSS, agrees. “We use webinars to discuss our tools and solutions. These types of CRM webinars help us connect with our customers about the latest ways that customers can use our tool for their business.”

The functionality offered to marketers through various forms of webinar technologies is continually changing and emerging to incorporate new delivery options but, while the tool itself seems fairly entrenched, particularly with B2B marketers, there are some new delivery options emerging.

New Formats That are Competing with Webinars

Content strategist RaShea Drake, with Frontier Business, has taken part in several webinars and says that “most seem to experience technical difficulties in the beginning and the interfaces are clunky.” Clearly Drake is not a fan of webinars. Instead, says Drake: “Facebook Live, in my opinion, is the best format around at the moment.” Facebook Live offers a range of benefits for participants and presenters says Drake:

  • Participants can access the video from a mobile device or desktop
  • The present can present from a phone or desktop
  • Audiences can interact in real time, adding “likes” or comments to spark conversation
  • Those who missed the live presentation can watch the taped version at their leisure—and still continue to add comments and engage in the discussion

Instagram also offers an Instagram Live option. A number of brands—both B2B and B2C—are using these tools to connect and engage their audiences including Starbucks, AirBNB, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Bloomberg has been an early adopter of Facebook Live in the B2B space but, unlike with webinars, B2C marketers seem to have more heartily embraced live video.

Whether using traditional webinars, or new live video options, the big benefit of these options is the ability to connect with audiences in engaging ways without having to travel, or leave the comfort of home or office. For delivering messages to large audiences, or engaging one-on-one with customers or prospects, webinars are likely to show up on both B2B and B2C marketers’ lists of tactics for the foreseeable future.