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Buyer's Guide to Webcasting Platforms 2016

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If efficient delivery within the enterprise is a priority, ask how your webinar provider can help, usually by integrating directly with your internal networks, deploying multicast or P2P technology, or via other technologies. The different service providers vary greatly respecting their capabilities here, so if internal distribution is a priority, ask about this early in the selection process.

Support

Most webcasting companies have at least one self-service product offering, and if you’re reasonably technically proficient you should be able to configure and run a webinar without assistance. However, mission-critical or otherwise high-profile webcasts might need a higher level of support throughout the entire workflow. You might want to consult a professional beforehand to help with planning and setup, to have the service provider run the event, or even send experienced production professionals to help produce the event.

Before committing to a service provider, understand the breadth and depth of its service offering and the pricing associated with each level of service. For example, if your webinar is for internal distribution, and you need help understanding how to distribute via multicasting, ask if the service can help with this. If you need onsite production assistance, ask for pricing and for references. Ask if you’ll have a dedicated account manager, and whether there are onboarding services available for your first few webinars.

Marketing-Related Features

If you’re using webinars for lead generation, features such as lead scoring, which ranks the attendee’s interest in your product or service, are a plus. You’ll also want rich analytics that provide detailed data about user engagement, both on a user-by-user basis and as a group. Some systems even offer real-time analytics during the event, so you can learn about issues while you still have time to correct them.

TalkPoint

TalkPoint can help ensure the success of high-profile events with webcast and production services. 

If you have a marketing automation (MA) platform, you’ll probably prefer to rank your leads in those systems, which makes integration between your webcast and MA system a must. The potential interactions enabled by webcast platforms, and the features that come with them, make webinars a very rich environment for measuring viewer engagement. In this regard, note that not all webinar/MA system integrations are created equal; some only measure viewing time and other basic metrics, while others capture every viewer interaction with the system. Obviously, more data is better. You probably will also want to create landing pages and viewer communications with your MA program, if only to match the look and feel of other customer communications, so make sure the integration enables this as well.

There are a host of marketing automation programs beyond the two mentioned, as well as customer relationship management (CRM) programs. Before signing on with a webcast provider, make sure it has the ability to feed critical marketing- and sales-related data into the MA/CRM systems deployed in your shop.

Finally, you’ll almost certainly be trolling for viewers via multiple sources, and it’s great to track the effectiveness of each source. So ask whether your service offers this capability. Finally, while on the topic of marketing, I’ll quickly mention payment processing as a rare but valuable feature for companies that want to monetize their webinars.

Transition to VOD

Most webinar producers will want to quickly transition the webinar from live to on-demand viewing, perhaps with an edit to remove rough edges. So check your options for editing the presentation after the fact. The best systems keep the slides and audio separate, and let you remove, reposition, or even replace slides, providing maximum editing flexibility. Also learn if you can easily extract shorter segments of the webinar to repurpose the content, and if you can download an MP4 file for uploading to YouTube or other services.

The Bigger Picture

Some webcast offerings are standalone products, while others are offered as a component of a larger system, such as an enterprise YouTube system, video content management platform, or online video platform. If your webcasts are primarily externally focused, say for marketing or lead generation, a stand-alone system can work well.

INXPO XPOCAST

Creating a webcast in INXPO’s XPOCAST webcast platform and sending its activity data to a campaign in Marketo.

On the other hand, if your webinars are primarily internally focused, for training, employee onboarding and the like, integration with a larger enterprise system can be beneficial, not only for knowledge management, but to integrate the webcast platform with other video content or security options. If you’re currently using another video-related system in the enterprise, check if it provides a webcast option, as this may be your best option.

This article appears in the 2016 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.

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