The top takeaways from 12 months of virtual marketing events
Join ContentCal as we look back at our biggest webinars and virtual events from 2021, and how you can use their key takeaways to improve your marketing.
15th December 2021
Love them or hate them webinars (virtual events, digital discussions, online sessions - call them what you will) have been a marketing staple over the last 18 months. Without the option of live events for many, extra focus, budget and creativity has gone into the online alternative, and it has been great to see.
So what’s the secret to getting them right? Webinar success comes from an ever evolving mix of elements, such as a wide variety of amazing speakers, timely, trending topics, an incredible audience (thank you all) and full campaigns built around each session to repurpose and reshare the content. This coupled with consistency and momentum has brought some amazing results for ContentCal this year.
Our 2021 webinar program in numbers:
- 35 sessions
- 20,894 registrations (the 02 arena in London only seats 20,000)
- 6,447 unique attendees
- 12,508 on-demand views
- 6,885 live in-session messages and questions
And we had an amazing variety of speakers:
From L-R, top to bottom: Matt Navarra, Carrie Rose, John Thornton, Steven Bartlett, Lynsey Sweales, Christine Gritmon, Ruth Saunders, Luan Wise, Richard Cook, Katy Leeson, Ann Handely, Caitlin Tucker, Patricia Seabright, Grace Andrews, Michael Corcoran, Catherine Maskell, Ali Fazal, Jacob Reid
But the really fascinating thing is, that from all of those speakers and all of those topics we had some very clear recurring themes, proving that clear marketing trends impact the entire industry:
- Planning & Repurposing Content
- Building an authentic brand personality
- Finding the right audience (and community) on the right channels
- Embracing creativity and experimentation
- Measuring metrics that matter!
We’ve had two sessions specifically focused on this - one with Matt Navarra and one with Catherine Maskell - but nearly all of our discussions touched on this topic in someway, and a lot of questions have been asked around how time should be divided between planning proactive and reactive content, how much should be evergreen, and how far in advance should you plan.
Q: Should you have a full marketing plan and content calendar that maps out all of your content, objectives, strategy and executional tasks - or should you allow more room for being reactive, timely and topical?
Even the most ad-hoc of creators and reactive of brands (here’s looking at you John Thonton from Innocent) have a plan in some form. It is the easiest way to get stakeholder buy in and build trust across your organization
2022 is going to be focused on multi purpose, multi channel short form content that is authentic, humble and engaging - but you still have a product to sell and a company to promate. It’s about balance. If you have a plan, people know what’s coming up and are more likely to give you the freedom to execute it on your own terms.
A plan also helps you check that your content strategy is aligned to the wider objectives and goals of your business and that you are balancing your content across different formats and topics.
John Thornton famously said in his webinar a lot of his content is thought of and created 10 minutes before it is published - or even lived tweeted in the moment - but he also assured us that bigger projects and product launches always have an accompanying plan. The only reason Innocent are able to be so reactive now, is because trust has been built over time - which happens with a plan!
And when it comes to repurposing content, Catherine Maskell shared with us:
- A single piece of content can take 6 hours to produce
- Each piece of content should be used 14 times
- You can’t repurpose without a plan
- There are over 25 ways to ‘rinse and repeat’ content
- Build 3 - 5 key content pillars, which are broad themes or values that represent your brand well
- Ensure all your content ties back to one of your pillars - using multiple formats and changing it up for each channel
- Pick a time frame (a month, 3 months, 12 months) and create a skeleton plan of what you propose to put out - if things change that's ok!
- Content Calendar template
- Catherine’s short course
- Matt Navarra Planning to experiment
- Key dates calendar
- Strategy session for January
It wasn’t until later in the year that we ran specific sessions on how to make your brand authentic and personality-led, but I can’t think of one of our speakers who didn’t regard authenticity and personality as being essential to marketing success.
This ties into the creator economy and the need to produce content that people actually want to engage with, rather than content that businesses expect people to read. This approach is increasing on every channel, but the growth of TikTok and Reels, and the trend of humanizing your brand through values and people, is really what’s giving authenticity its well deserved moment of glory. And rightly so, people buy from brands they like.
Your main job as a marketer is to make people like your brand - and people like authenticity, because we trust it.
- 86% of consumers say authenticity is a key when deciding to trust a brand
- Personal branding and brand ‘faces’ build your overall brand
- Having a human-to-human connection is what builds trust and likability
- Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than original brand content
Steven Bartlett told us that 70% of the early business at Social Chain came from speaker sessions and personal engagements that he took part in and Caitlin Tucker from Quantum Metric talked us through how they use customer stories to gain trust and buy in from stakeholders and prospects.
The dos and don'ts of authenticity:
- Talk to people in their own language, avoiding jargon & buzz words
- Be clear on your tone of voice and brand personality
- Have emotions and opinions! You don't need to weigh-in on politics, but if it's national potato day, you could definitely rank every type of potato from best to worst
- Figure out the one key message you want to drill into people's brains, and then have fun with it
- You don't have to directly talk about your product to become memorable to people - they want to know there is a human behind a brand
- Don’t forget to be your own case study If clients see what amazing branding you do for yourself, they'll definitely be intrigued by what you can do for them
- Don't only hire people who are great at what they do, hire people who will be a great face for the brand too
Even if you're the most corporate of brands, speak to your audience like human beings. It helps build relationships and creates a connection, and it puts you front-of-mind when it comes to making purchasing decisions! Michael Corcoran from Ryanair described their tone of voice as very simply: 'self-deprecating'. “We're used to seeing corporate brands speak in a language that's so far-removed from their audience that it feels intimidating. We want to be part of our audience's world and connect with them on a deeper level”
- Be clear on your key messages, brand faces and tone of voice - with documentation to support this
- Utilize creators, influencers and UGC in an authentic way
- Embrace your mistakes and your human side - an apology is the most humanizing campaign you’ll ever produce
TikTok has not only dominated the social media news agenda, it has dominated a lot of conversations that we’ve had in our virtual sessions - the big question being ‘is TikTok right for me and my brand?
But this is actually a much bigger question about knowing which channels in general are right for your brand - let’s take a look.
"Social media is not just a dumping ground, it's a place to really connect with future audiences in a way that traditional marketing will never do"
Doncaster Council talked us through their approach to social success, which is about understanding each platform’s audience and knowing what information people want on Facebook versus what they want on Twitter, then using the right tone of voice for each channel - avoiding the one size fits all approach.
- Find the channel your audience is already on.
- Understand who your audience are!
- 60% of TikTok's 1 billion monthly active users are aged between 16 and 24 - these are your next generation of customers in some shape or form
- Story can be more important than channel if people aren't engaging with that...it's not going to perform well anyway
- Micro-influencers on Instagram boast an average engagement rate of 3.86%. Mega-influencers have 1.21%. Bigger doesn't always = better!
Think about who you want to work with now and who you want to work with next, then use your content to head in the right direction. You don’t have to do it all yourself, influencers and creators already own these channels - use them.
Creativity and content confidence is a talking point that comes up during many ContentCal webinars and a study by the World Economic Forum tells us that creativity is related to 9 of the top 10 skills essential for future success - making it a topic every business should be focusing on.
When it comes to creating creative content that stands out there is a golden rule to remember: people don’t scroll through Instagram and Facebook to be sold to - they are there to see cute puppies and hilarious memes.
As much as I love to think of creativity as a free and revolutionary artform - creative freedom starts with data! If you understand what your audience wants to hear and use data to prove the value and reach of what you want to say, it’s much easier to take the wider business on that journey with you.
“If they trust that we understand the platforms, we have more freedom with our content”
Creativity isn’t just about what you produce, it’s how you use it and promote it too. Grace Andrews champions that trial and error should be part of every single strategy. That doesn't mean controversial opinions (that never ends well) but trailing different content formats and having an opinion that lets you add something new to the conversation.
Quick creative wins:
- Your customers are more creative than you!
- Monzo says their best content comes from the people that use them Don't be afraid to experiment!
- It’s OK if not every piece of content is a massive success - failure is part of the process
- Find a niche! If something sounds obscure or you've never seen a brand do it before... get there first
- Innocent's golden rule for content: If you're 70% sure it'll work, go for it!
Everything that we’ve gone through so far will bring your marketing to life, make it engaging and help build an audience that you can then convert to customers - but none of it really matters if you don’t have a way of measuring it and proving success. Firstly, so that you know what works and where you should apply your resources and secondly because you will always have a need for more budget, more resources and more understanding from the wider business - data is your way to get it. It build trust and it proves value.
Big numbers look great on paper, but if they don't mean anything, what's the point? For this reason, when it comes to deciding what you should focus your measurement on, try to avoid vanity metrics and focus on genuinely attractive numbers.
Examples of vanity metrics:
- Follower growth
Examples of attractive metrics:
- Subscriber growth
There are no real rules on what you should measure - it’s about finding what matters to you.
Carrie Rose spoke to us about building backlinks and getting creative with SEO, success for her and her clients isn’t about followers, it’s about link clicks and traffic - and that works ridiculously well for them. Public sector organizations aren’t trying to sell, so leads and conversions become meaningless there, but engagement is everything! Decide what matters to your business and focus on that.
And our absolute top webinar take aways to focus on for an incredible content-led 2022:
- Strat with a diagnosis
- Align content strategy with business strategy
- Focus on your audience (not yourself)
- Repurposing is key
- Measure what matters
- Take inspiration from others (even outside your industry)
- Don’t wait until it’s perfect - momentum matters
- Stay on top of your game