A small study outlining the ingredients in our Get Smart About Email Marketing interactive web series, and how we produced it using Google Hangouts On Air, email marketing, and landing pages to grow a highly targeted audience.

Video marketing can fill a good number of gaps in a company’s online marketing strategy. In a nutshell, adding video content to your marketing mix:

  • Builds up your visibility on YouTube
  • Creates a more human connection between you and your audience
  • Generates useful, semantically-relevant content for your blog, especially when transcribed

For my company, Shovi Websites, I recently decided to put a twist on traditional corporate video marketing, which usually consists of “explainer” videos, screencasts, webinars, and other pre-recorded pieces.

Since I’m proficient in producing live broadcasts using Google Hangouts On Air, we created a four episode live mini-series surrounding a business service we provide, and called it Get Smart About Email Marketing.

The intent was to do all the things mentioned above, but in a way that brought in the social aspect of live engagement and audience building on social channels. And behind the entire series were business goals that drove topic decisions, scheduling, and content repurposing to ultimately generate leads for our business.

We wrapped our final episode just a few weeks ago, and have already generated some new business from the series! But, it’s premature to get into a full-blown case study or talk ROI, so the balance of this article is going to outline the ingredients to creating an interactive web series like the one we produced, and also show you the preliminary conversion stats for each ingredient.

Side note: I presented this study on Thursday, April 9th, 2015, at Capturing & Converting Using Social Media, a free Google Hangout On Air panel discussion in celebration of International Conversion Rate Optimization Day. You can watch the replay here, which also includes insights and examples from social pros at Buffer, Sprout Social, CloudPeeps and Mack Web Solutions.

Ingredient: Landing Pages

Our goal for the landing pages was to build an email list of people who were interested in email marketing, then communicate with them about not only the live events in our series, but also build relationships with valuable resources we publish or come across around the Web.

Much of the inspiration for our series came from watching the way Unbounce and ConversionXL produce their Page Fights web series (and in addition to just watching, I interviewed them last year on my Google+ Business Spotlight show, where we discussed the method behind the series). Page Fights uses Google Hangouts On Air as the broadcast technology, however, the event is “hosted” on a landing page, even though Google Hangouts On Air events come with a built-in event page on Google+.

Our series landing page

Why do this? Simple: to manage the experience for their audience. I’ve written about the benefits of hosting your Hangout On Air on a landing page (it’s actually the very first post on this blog), and in that article all six reasons cited have to do with managing the experience for your audience in a way that benefits your business and your content.

The Page Fights site has a main landing page and landing pages for each event. It made perfect sense to keep that approach for our series, too.

The series landing page was something we could promote everywhere, be it by link or the short intro video we created.

We updated the series landing page over the course of the four months with information about upcoming episodes (directly before and after each episode), and then reverted back to more general information in between.

Landing Page Conversions and Stats


Unique
Visitors
Landing
Page Views
Email
Signups
Conversion
Rate
Series Homepage 666 735 134 20.12%
Event Pages 641 743 32 4.98%

Above you’ll find our traffic and conversion stats for the series landing page and the event pages (aggregated). We use Unbounce for our landing pages, and tied signups into our email marketing system, powered by ActiveCampaign through a Zapier hook (brilliant idea, by the way, to use tools like Zapier and IFTTT instead of building and supporting custom integrations for hundreds of services).

It’s logical that the series landing page would convert better than the event pages, since the only way to get to an event page was by signing up; we communicated primarily through email, and tried to be diligent about only sharing the series landing page on social networks.

However, the fact that we did get conversions on our event pages speaks to the fact our audience, and guests too, typically shared the event pages to their networks.

Of note, on a Google+ event page you don’t have the ability to capture new faces to your show in such a targeted fashion, nor can you track the number of visitors.

Ingredient: Email Marketing

Successfully nurturing a list that you are growing through one-off events like webinars or even this web series is a space where I see many brands fall short. The fact that this series was about email marketing put added pressure on us to deliver the goods, and ensure that once the series was over, we could continue to have a reason for our subscribers to invite us into their inboxes.

In a nutshell, our schedule of emails was similar to that of any webinar: announcement, a couple of reminders, and a replay. Since there was a month between shows, our plan was to incorporate other value-added messaging about email marketing in the off periods, but time got the better of us and we fell short on that front. There was a silver lining, though…more on that below in our Lessons Learned section.

As you can see, our event emails were simple, and had a clear call to action to either watch live or add the upcoming event to the contact’s calendar. The replay emails were the same: clear call to action to watch or read a recap on our blog.

Below is a table of aggregated results from each of the types of emails sent during our series.

Email Type Click Destination Open Rate Click Rate Click to Open Rate
Welcome Email Send a tweet 63% 3.4% 5.4%
Save the Date Add to calendar 50% 15.9% 32.1%
Tomorrow Add to calendar 51% 8.6% 16.7%
One Hour Event page 50% 18.2% 36.5%
Replay Blog post 46% 10.1% 22.0%

Ingredient: Live Engagement

The real power of the live series is how the audience can invite their network to watch and participate before, during, or after the show. The gated nature of a webinar makes this difficult, whereas with the live event (be it on Google+ or a landing page) you can simply share a link, the person clicks, and they can watch right there, making a decision for themselves whether or not to engage and sign up for future episodes.

What’s more, Google Hangouts On Air has extensions that allow the producer to pull comments from the audience directly onto the screen, memorializing ideas, thoughts, and people in the show itself. This builds a very strong connection and sense of ownership between the audience and the show producer.

We had every intent of pulling great quotes, comments, and questions out of our live chat and turning them into graphics to share on social media, but again, timing and capacity got the best of us. We did, however, do our best to encourage replies in our emails, and were able to build rapport with a few audience members (who also gave us some great feedback early on that helped with future shows).

On a positive note, the instances when our guests shared the event to their networks, we saw a bump in signups. Leveraging other people’s audiences (OPA) is a fantastic way to grow your email list, especially when using live events like a web series, twitter chat, etc.

Ingredient: Replays and Repurposing

Approximately 15% of our audience engaged on the live event (respectable, not fabulous, but we’ll take it), yet you can see our open rates were much higher on every campaign.

Initially, you’d think there was something amiss about our copy and calls to action. But looking at the video stats for our four YouTube videos, the total views numbers average 6x more than the live viewers, telling us that people did watch the replay.

Yet, the number of live views + number of clicks to the replay blog article was still lower than the total number of views on each of the videos, by far.

So we looked deeper into the YouTube Analytics, specifically, the Playback Locations page. Most of the replays came on the landing pages, not on the blog (logical, why watch a 35 minute video when you can get the gist of it in a 4 minute read?). This was encouraging, as it could mean our audience bookmarked the page, shared it with their networks, or were following us on social and located the landing pages that way. We did very little, if any, promotion of our shows after the live broadcast (on purpose, because we knew we would be writing this up and wanted to try and make our results as organic as possible).

As with any socially-engaged campaign, it is difficult to pinpoint traffic sources or reasons for someone to click, watch, or share; but on the whole I feel comfortable with the analysis of the replays in the overall scope of this writeup: that there is a disconnect between the number of signups compared to the amount that was consumed. More on what to do with this information in the next section.

Lessons Learned

 

Look at the whole of what was created during this series:

  • Four YouTube videos,
  • An email list,
  • New followers on social,
  • Most importantly, a lot of raw content that we can repurpose.

Look at the questions we can explore now that we have baseline data from our first series:

  • Is our raw data good? (open rates, click rates, conversions, etc.)
  • Can we do a better job engaging the audience we’re building before, during, and after the events?
  • Does the content we’ve created match up with the expectations we set for our audience when they signed up? And is it valuable?

The first question about raw data can be tested and referenced against industry benchmarks. On the whole, I’m comfortable with the performance of the landing pages and email campaigns, and comfortable with the expectations we’d set with clients if we were to produce a series for them.

The second question comes by digging deeper into the granular data for each campaign and landing page iteration, which we haven’t presented in this brief study (it’s premature to do so). Knowing the performance on a more granular level means knowing where we need to push harder if we were to do another series, and where to keep an eye open for performance hiccups if we’re producing a series for one of our clients. And as I mentioned above, we fell short on the social engagement, although that could also present itself as an opportunity to re-engage some of our live audience members.

The third question hasn’t been fully answered yet. We knew going into the series that there would be more pieces of content than four videos and blog posts. You can see in the embedded Google+ post above that we’ve chunked the four episodes into over two dozen shorter videos addressing specific topics. That library gives us an opportunity to test what was most valuable to the audience we built, and we can use their engagement on our event emails (as well as when they signed up) to segment and deliver new, and/or more relevant material to them than just batch-and-blast techniques.

The final takeaway: this series served as an entry point for us to build relationships with a highly targeted audience. We knew this, and knew that we’d be growing our audience with people who are at various stages of email marketing competency and need. We also knew that our approach, and the ingredients we used in an integrated fashion, would give us the opportunity to use more data and to learn more about our audience than simply a lead capture, Google Hangouts On Air event, social media, and blog. We knew there would be more effort needed than just the live event info, which is fortunate because we also knew the content library we created would give us a reason to continue the relationship after the series was over.

We knew all of this, and we learned what the initial response was. Now we just need to continue with our plan and see how things play out. Because of the nature of our business as a marketing company, we don’t need thousands, or even hundreds, of new leads, followers, or views…just the right ones…and I think that mindset applies to any company looking to use a web series like this in their content marketing strategy.

What to do next?

1. Get help with your email marketing strategy or web series production: Shovi Websites creates marketing strategies that make businesses more connected to their customers in today’s attention economy. One of the ways they do this is by producing online education series productions (like this one). To learn more, contact Stephan at 781-538-5901.

2. Read/Watch the series:

3. Subscribe to Get Smart About Email Marketing. Even though the series is over, we have plenty of information planned that digs deeper into the topics discussed during our series, and will be very useful for companies who need to do a better job with their email marketing.

Stephan Hovnanian

Stephan Hovnanian runs the show here at Shovi, bringing over 15 years of email and web marketing experience to companies that need more from their digital marketing efforts.

Connect with Stephan here, on Twitter (@stephanhov), LinkedIn, or Google+.

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