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Should webinars be a part of your social media strategy? — a Q-and-A with Ann Handley

6 min read

Brands & Campaigns

This Q-and-A is with MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley, author of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. Check back on Wednesday for part two of this interview, which focuses on how to plan and execute a successful webinar.

Compared with some other forms of social-media marketing, webinars can seem a little more work. What makes them worth the extra effort?

Hmm. Do they seem like more work? I’m not sure they are; I’d argue that they require no more effort than, say, a well-produced e-book or even an active, consistently updated blog.

That said, webinars are a wonderfully robust and lively marketing tool, and an effective way to reach your prospects or buyers. Or, rather, they can be; a 2009 study by found that a whopping 67% of business leaders who rely on social media for business information seek out relevant podcasts or webinars. That stat screams opportunity, doesn’t it?

Attendees and the businesses that host them love webinars for six key reasons:

  1. They act and feel more tangibly alive than, say, a white paper or case study. Attendees can hear the speaker, watch the slides (or video), and, in short, interact with the content you produce in a more robust environment.
  2. They are interactive and social. Done right, webinars feel like real-world classrooms or conference rooms. Participants get a chance to ask questions, and they can chat with the speaker, the moderator, and each other. Outside of the webinar itself, participants can interact on social back channels like Twitter (which only amplifies its visibility, of course).
  3. They are less intimidating. Maybe your prospects aren’t quite ready to field a call from your sales team, but they are happy to hear what you are all about in a no-pressure webinar in which they are one of many.
  4. They are broad-reaching and affordable, which means you can accommodate far more people, too. Instead of inviting a few prospects to an in-person event, you can invite hundreds to a virtual one. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether the people you are trying to reach are in Dubuque or Dubai.
  5. They’re a team player in the content mix. Webinars can be “reimagined” (to use a term from “Content Rules”) as many things, including podcasts, articles, blog posts, or on-demand events.
  6. And finally, they work. Remember that earlier stat from Further research backs it up: Event or conference presentations rate second to referrals and personal awareness as the top method for how professional services companies initially identify the firms they work with.

Sounds great, right? But of course, all that is accurate and sustainable only when the content of the webinar itself really grooves.

How do you find return on investment from a webinar? Should webinars include a sales pitch?

It depends on the intent of the webinar. Many companies create broadly appealing webinars to generate broad awareness and leads, and then host smaller affairs to a more qualified base of prospects. (The webinar for this second group might include a product demo, for example. The first would likely not.)

But in either case, webinars — any kind of content — should create momentum. Your goal should be to educate or inspire your customers, to be a resource and educator, but also to make it clear that you are there for them when they’re ready to buy. What do you want your audience to take away? What do you want them to do?

To that end, you want to carefully craft your final slide.

Usually the final slide in a presentation is among the lamest or ugliest. But think of your final slide as the last word in a book or final point in a blog post: Create a slide that either converts browsers into buyers or inches them closer to buying. Your final slide is a kind of visual takeaway for attendees, so be sure the slide visually inspires whatever next steps you want attendees to take.

For a simpler sale, you might give your audience a link with a compelling limited-time-discount offer. For a more complex sale, offer related content that furthers engagement — perhaps a downloadable checklist or worksheet or a companion guide.

Another tip to upping your ROI: Create your webinar-registration form wisely. If you’re focused on lead generation, select form fields that capture relevant information and start to flag the hottest leads without making the form so long and cumbersome that the visitor will abandon registration. And think about your long-term goals. Do you, for example, anticipate making this webinar a series? If so, consider adding a check box for opting in to future offerings and webinar invites.

What steps can marketers take to integrate webinars with other social media channels?

We spend a lot of time in “Content Rules” talking about “reimagined content,” or imagining, at your content’s inception, how it can be used on various platforms and in which types of formats. Your webinar is a perfect candidate for reimagining across other social channels.

How? Before the presentation, publish an article or blog post that gives prospects an idea of what to expect and helps drive them to register for the event. Also: do a pre-webinar podcast, in which you interview the speaker about the topic of his webinar. Record your event and offer access to it, on demand, on your website. Consider having your webinar transcribed, and offer the text as a download from the site or as a special offer to those who attend. You can also use the transcript to create smaller pieces of content: one or more (or a series!) of blog posts, for example. You can inexpensively outsource transcription to a virtual assistant, or try a transcription service such as, which charges $0.75 to $2.50 per minute.

Other ideas: Produce a post-webinar podcast. You excerpt the Q&A from the webinar as a separate podcast, or interview the speaker to get responses to unanswered questions from the Q&A. You can also publish the PowerPoint slides to SlideShare.

Finally, Twitter is a natural fit for any kind of event or seminar. Make it easy for those active on Twitter to talk about it there before, during and after the presentation. Creating a short, searchable companion hashtag allows people to find and share nuggets of information about your webinar.