What’s Happened to Webinars during Lockdown?

With “Zoom fatigue” making a strong play for Word of the Year, you could be forgiven for thinking that the humble webinar would be in trouble in 2020 and beyond. We decided to look at the data and find out the truth. We looked at all the webinars we’ve run over the last 365 days, giving us a total of 79 webinars, 23 before lockdown and 56 during/after.

Zoom Fatigue (NOUN); the way that Zoom calls are psychologically stressful. Caused by the difficulty of assessing non-verbal communication over a video call, and enhanced awareness of being observed.

Webinars in the BC (before corona) era.

Webinars have been part of a balanced marketing strategy for a long time. With a near-zero cost for both setting up and attending a webinar, their appeal to both sellers and buyers is clear.

At Spotler, we use webinars to effectively explore the level of interest in different topics. Across the data we looked at, SEO, PPC and Social Media are consistently popular (as measured by total registrations), whereas a session on landing pages had far fewer sign-ups. This shows us the areas where our target market is looking for extra help, and where they are already confident. We can then invest our time and effort in producing extra content for the areas that are going to deliver the most value.

Our well-established strategy has been to host one webinar a month for leads and prospects, and one a week for customers. Taking into account the fact that December and January are quiet months, this left us with an average of 3.6 webinars per month over the 6 months prior to lock down.


Webinars during lockdown

The most obvious change was in the number of webinars we hosted, which jumped to an average of 8.5 per month. This was the result of both the loss of planned seminars as a part of the mix, and to a new, intensive series that we launched (discussed in more detail below).

Strikingly, the rise in intensity did not seem to make our target audience weary. In April alone we hosted 19 webinars, and both interest and attendance at the last two were roughly level with the first two. In later months we scaled back down towards pre-lockdown numbers of sessions.

To best illustrate some of our findings, let’s take a closer look at two subsets within the overall data; one series which started long before lockdown and has continued mostly unchanged, and a series we created in response to the change in working conditions.


Long-running series

Top Tips is our weekly customer webinar series, short sessions focused on practical ways to get the most out of our product. With consistent timing and a consistent target audience, this was the perfect sample of webinars to test how lockdown changed webinar engagement.

Levels of both registration and attendance rose dramatically. Registrations nearly tripled, from an average of 19 to 56 (294.7%). Attendance rose 3.25x, from an average of 7 to 24. Attendees were also more engaged, asking 5 times more questions in the lockdown sessions than before it.

We believe this is because the majority of our customers have multiple users of the product, with varying levels of experience. Deprived of the ability to walk across the office and get assistance from a colleague, less confident users embraced the opportunity to improve their understanding of the product.


New series

As soon as lockdown was announced, the Spotler marketing team decided that we would go all in on webinars. Given that the most obvious issue for our client base was keeping their lead generation efforts running, we launched “Leads From Your Living Room“. This 12-week series covered every section of the lead generation process, from building accurate personas to creating effective landing pages and reporting on campaign results.

Much like our pre-COVID experience, the sessions on SEO and PPC were the most popular by several orders of magnitude. Outside of these, attendance was at a consistent level, and feedback gathered during each session found that having a common thread running through the webinars, including references back to previous tips, was useful.


What makes a good webinar?

Across all the sub-types of webinars, there were a few factors that added extra impact. The most notable of these was the presence of an external guest. Our guest presenters included the Data & Marketing Association, PPC and SEO agency Session Media, and data experts Marketscan.

Webinars with guest presenters generated 2.45x as many registrations, and 2.24x as many attendees than webinars presented by Spotler alone. The audience for these webinars was also much more engaged, asking an average of 2 extra questions per webinar to guest hosts.

The importance of making space for audience questions has only grown across all webinars. In the pre-lockdown set, 70% of webinars had at least 1 question asked by the audience. During and after lockdown, this figure grew to 79%. Working alone at home, many of our attendees now use webinars as a touchpoint for social interaction.


The long tail

The trump card that webinars hold over in-person events is that you can upload the recording to your website and use it in your future efforts. The number of page views on our live video pages nearly doubled over lockdown (960 views during lockdown vs 540 for the 6 months before).

While the majority of downloads during lockdown were of webinars that had taken place within the past few months, it is important to note that older webinars still get attention. Content from as far back as June 2018 is being downloaded 2 years later, so the long tail is long indeed!


The overall picture

Taking the data as a whole, it is clear that webinars have been largely successful in adapting to the demands of the COVID era. By every measure, webinars are performing better than ever, bringing in new leads and providing their target audience with valuable insights, and a forum to ask questions and grow their knowledge.

With Registrations (294%), Attendance (245%) and Engagement (130%) all growing by measurable percentages, there is plainly an audience hungry for content and insight, that you can serve very effectively with your own series of webinars.


What comes next?

If a global pandemic and mass shift from the office to working from home couldn’t derail the webinar as a tool for engagement and lead generation, it’s hard to imagine anything that can. As long as the subject matter is of interest to your audience, it is well worth putting in the time and effort to produce webinars. Whether it’s dealing with a critical issue of the moment, or delivering advice which will hold true long-term, your pipeline will benefit from both the immediate attendees, and the later downloads of the content that constantly trickle in.

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