When I say the phrase “social media” to you, what is the first thing you think? Probably Twitter or Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn. What if I added “webinars” to the list?
Think about it a minute. During a webinar we do all the things that are achieved in social media. We impart information (often for free). We build relationships. We obtain valuable feedback from customers and prospects. In fact, to the extent that our webinars don’t do this, we have somewhat failed, haven’t we?
Why don’t we typically think of webinars as social media? Corporations have been using web conferencing software for ages now to facilitate internal communications. When the software began to be used externally, it was likely viewed as simple advertising. It was perceived as one-way one-to-many communication which really violates the tenets of social media. Since that is the history of webinars, I think people have been slow to change their view of them.
Now, as web conferencing software has grown in sophistication, implementing chat rooms, polling features, breakout rooms, and interactive white boards, the one-to-many paradigm has been broken. Even webinars with large audiences have become two-way communication events. Webinars have become a way for you to get to know your audience and for them to get to know you. The webinar has become a relationship builder, the essential element of any social medium.
Webinars should be viewed as the cherry on top of your social media dessert. It doesn’t replace the standard venues but it can complement them nicely. In fact some webinar and webcast services are incorporating social media technology (examples include, Adobe Connect, omNovia and Podium 2). My recommendation would be to try adding four quarterly webinars per year to your social media strategy and see how it expands your reach!