The State of Webinars, 2018

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Mark Bornstein, ON24
Mark Bornstein, ON24

Video, on-demand availability, and even ABM. Those are some key factors in the growing importance of webinars as part of brand content marketing strategies, according to the recently released ON24 "2018 Webinar Benchmarks Report." ON24's VP of Marketing, Mark Bornstein, took me deeper into the findings.

"Video is growing slowly," he said. "One problem is that people don't want to be on camera." It's not necessary to use video throughout a webinar, of course; it could be just one feature, or even just a clip in a presentation deck. Nevertheless, the global benchmarks survey shows 22% of all webinars featuring video, a growth of 4% over 2017. More strikingly, the EMEA data shows video use at 31% — a statistic, Bornstein agreed, which suggests that if webinar creators can use video, they will.

Brands which are creating webinars are also creating more of them. "It used to be the once a month, or once a week thing," said Bornstein. Now brands are finding that webinars are not just top-of-funnel tools. "I've got 500 people registered, 250 show up, job done." Those days are over, Bornstein said. Brands are finding that tailored webinars such as product demonstrations — "You can't ask a video questions" — are helping drive prospective customers further along the journey.

This even fits an ABM strategy for B2B brands. Webinars don't have to be designed to appeal to general audiences. Large brands, said Bornstein, will create webinars for specific target accounts. If a brand is marketing to Fidelity, for example, they can create Fidelity-relevant content and invite a Fidelity audience.

Also slowly growing, but now highly significant, is on-demand availability. Bornstein showed me examples of brand webinar portals, strongly resembling — and not by coincidence — Netflix. No less than 35% of webinar attendees consume the content after the live webinar has taken place. That's an increase of only 2% over 2017 — perhaps the on-demand audience has reached a stable level — but it's a big number.

I asked Bornstein whether there wasn't a trade-off here, with live engagement taking a back seat in return for the extended value of the webinar asset. He disagreed. "You can still ask questions. They can be routed to the right person and you can have the answer almost immediately," he said. "You can still run polls." Little, he suggested, was lost in the transition from live to on-demand. On-demand meshes well with B2B at the top of the funnel too, he argued. "You don't want the first touch at a landing page to be, oh here's a white paper." Prominent use of webinars on brand landing pages can create instant interactive engagement.

The persistent theme, whether webinars are consumed live or on-demand, is that "There are all these tiny data points you can gather," said Bornstein. "How long did they attend, did they ask questions, what questions did they ask." When Bornstein presents webinars himself, he always starts with housekeeping instructions — how to ask questions, where to click to interact with other assets — collecting data about attendees "even before I show the first slide."

One practical tip emerging from the report is that midweek and midday are the best times to drive audiences, with 79% of all webinar attendees showing up on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

In 2017 alone, ON24 reached more than 13 million viewers, and those individuals spent more than a billion minutes engaging with 12 million polls,1.3 million surveys, 1.5 million questions, and 17 million resource downloads.

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