Webinars. It seems like everyone these days is ready to flip on their webcam, go live, and espouse their knowledge to the awaiting world, who can soak in this wisdom from the comfort of their own home, office, or wherever they happen to be with their smartphone. It’s convenient. It’s cheap. It’s easy. In fact, it’s too easy.
The concept of the webinar (and indeed, even the term itself) grew out of the idea of the seminar. Like a lecture, conference, or training session (all different sides of the same coin), a traditional seminar would entail knowledge-seekers and professionals gathering together in a rented space, like a hotel conference room, in order to soak in the lessons being offered by the seminar’s host. They would learn, interact with each other, change the way they saw the world – all for a nominal fee.
The webinar takes this model, refines it for the internet age, and in effect blows it apart, stripping away the effort required on the parts of both host and attendees, eliminating the need for a physical space to gather in, and doing away with the all-important fee. Regardless of how you might feel about the traditional seminar model, where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the legitimate host from the con artist or proprietor of a pyramid scheme, there was at least a baked-in understanding that if the person or company putting on the seminar had gone through the effort and expense of booking a space, making a presentation, marketing and charging for it, it probably had real value.
Now, with webinars, anyone can say anything at any time and call it wisdom.
Of course, just because an avalanche of terrible webinars have proliferated the internet, doesn’t mean that all webinars are bad. Quite the opposite. A great webinar is just as valuable as ever, offering real, special insight to an audience who can provide live feedback, ask questions and spark interesting discussions about specific topics. We participate in webinars on a regular basis. They are a great educational resource for those looking to learn and grow their business or some aspect of their personal lives. And for the businesses putting on the webinars, they can be a great way to show off expertise on a subject and position themselves as an industry leader, to elevate engagement with their audience, and to generate and develop leads who might be interested in the company’s services.
The problem is that too many companies are too eager to put themselves on camera for a webinar without anything truly valuable to say for their audience, and trying too overtly to sell or self-promote instead of inform and discuss.
This could be said to be a problem that isn’t exclusive to webinars, but to content marketing in general. And if you think that, you’re not wrong. But with webinars, it’s more pronounced.
Content marketing is a great strategy that has been widely adopted for good reason. And the more content that is produced, the more pressure content producers feel to make that content better and better, more and more valuable. It’s a great deal for consumers of content, and continues to be effective for companies engaging in content marketing strategies. In part, this is because of the quickly assessable nature of most content consumption. Here’s a blog post, ebook, how-to video, tweet, etc. Like it or don’t. Share it or don’t. Come back for more, or don’t.
Webinars require much more from the audience. They take up 30, 45 minutes – even a full hour of someone’s day. They are appointment viewing. While yes, it is still free content, it requires a special effort to consume. Therefore the content should be special too. It should be content worthy of an hour of your audience’s time. It should be worthy of being found only once, at a special time and place.
Putting on a good webinar might require a reframing in your thinking vs. other forms of content marketing. It’s okay to want to get results from putting on a webinar. You should have goals. You should have objectives. After all, since you’re doing it for free, you have to have some reason for actually putting it on. But at the same time, you have to have an understanding and respect for your audience. You have to choose a topic that they will find interesting and engaging, then offer them insights that they can’t get anywhere else. All content marketing is an opportunity to show expertise. Webinars are your chance to really prove it in action.
So by all means, do a webinar. Show off your knowledge. Give your audience a reason to believe you are a thought leader in your industry and that you have real wisdom and insight. But if you just flip on the camera and go live without much thought or care, don’t be surprised when your audience doesn’t care in return.
Want some help figuring out what content makes sense for your business and what you are willing to invest in help creating or are able to take on? Contact 10twelve today for a free 30 minute strategy session!