HubSpot has been offering educational webinars for years. One of their most popular series is “The Science of…” which takes an in-depth look at one particular aspect of marketing or interaction in each session. As a matter of fact, the webinar series has become so popular that the folks at HubSpot wondered whether they were breaking records in their registration and attendance numbers. Of course there is only one place to go for information on records… Guinness World Records (remember back when we would automatically include “The Book Of” in that title?).
It turns out that Guinness has no record established for this critically important category. So on Tuesday, August 23, HubSpot will host an official Guinness judge at their headquarters to monitor and authenticate the attendance at their webinar on “The Science of Social Media.”
I spoke with the two people most directly involved with the HubSpot webinars. Dan Zarrella is HubSpot’s Social Media Scientist, and the presenter on the upcoming webinar. He told me that they have had past registrations in the ten thousands, and in March of this year they passed 20,000 registrants for a single session. So HubSpot is pulling the stops out and is aiming for registration numbers in the 30,000 range for next week. With attendance rates right at the overall cross-industry average of about 35%, that should get them more than 10,000 attendees.
Dan concedes that this may not equal attendance rates of public webcasts such as Victoria’s Secret online fashion shows, but he thinks it is likely to beat other marketing webinars involving direct audience participation and interaction.
HubSpot relies very strongly on social media to publicize their webinars. Dan is a heavy Twitter user, and both he and HubSpot have many followers who can help retweet relevant information out to much larger connection pools. Blogging is an important part of their strategy as well, both on internal HubSpot blogs and with guest posts on other blogs. And HubSpot’s own list of members and communication opt-ins lets them reach a large direct audience through email invitations and newsletters.
Dan let slip that they intend to include some big surprises for the audience early in the webinar. Part of this is a way of rewarding and thanking participants for being a part of the historical event, but it also helps to stimulate real-time Twittering that can boost attendance even more while the event is going on. In the past they have seen as many as 1000 registrants sign up AFTER the start of the event, pulled in by enthusiastic tweets from people already in the audience.
Maggie Georgieva is an Inbound Marketing Manager for HubSpot and handles production of their webinar series. She told me that they will be using Infinite Conferencing as their technology platform. They have run very large webinars with Infinite and feel confident that it will be able to handle the load. Just to be on the safe side, they do not use live video or polling features in their largest webinars. It is better to scale down the bells and whistles in favor of a reliable content delivery that everyone can see and hear. Maggie said that they offer attendees the choice of listening to an audio stream via computer or by telephone dial-in. The vast majority prefer computer audio, with telephone used as a backup.
HubSpot encourages heavy use of Twitter in conjunction with their webinars. They promote a hashtag associated with the event and have multiple staff members assigned to monitor and contribute to the Twitter feed. Dan presents from a dedicated “webinar room” that features large screen monitors on which he can see the presentation slides and the Twitter stream. They also encourage attendees to stay online after the webinar for a “Twitter After Party” in which the staff attempts to respond to questions and comments that weren’t addressed during the live event. Maggie said that this time there will be special promotions and prizes awarded to people who participate in the Twitter fun.
The marketing webinars have been extremely effective for HubSpot in growing their customer list and revenues. They are able to directly attribute large amounts of recurring monthly revenue to their webinars. While the webinars are recorded and are maintained on the site as a reusable asset, the highest interest is seen in the live event.
I am looking forward to seeing the final numbers from the HubSpot record-setting event and getting the word “webinar” into the Guinness pantheon of recognized categories. If you want to be a part of the action, you can register at http://www.hubspot.com/science-of-social-media/
UPDATE: The results are in. HubSpot got 30,247 registrants and 10,899 attendees. How's that for a prediction in the third paragraph above? :)