I went to a webinar on Friday.

I hate webinars. I hate the word “webinar.”

But I gave it a chance. The topic had potential: it was about the use of social media by arts organizations. Which I thought sounded great, since part of my job is handling the social media for an arts organization.

And I realized about a third of the way through that I was just sitting there snarking on it. (Good thing I get along well with the two colleagues who were there watching it with me. And that they agreed with most of what I was saying.)

I was snarking not because I dislike the medium. I’m not a shoot-the-messenger kind of girl. The problem was the content: it was close to useless. Why?

They used statistics with no source and no clarification, so that it wasn’t quite clear what the actual numbers said.

For example, they claimed: “Americans who participate in the arts through technology (the Internet, computers, handheld devices) are three times more likely to attend live arts events and attend a greater variety of genres of live arts events.”

Well, more likely than whom? Than other Americans with equal access to such devices? Than Americans who don’t participate in the arts at all?

Doesn’t it make sense that {people who are interested in the arts} would be interested in both {accessing the arts via technology} and {attending live arts events}?

And they calculated the “average annual value of a Facebook fan” at $136.38. How did they get that figure? I have no idea.

Each fan, it seems, spends $71.84 more per year than non-FB fans. But: people who are your fans are already more likely to spend money on your organization. They’re self-selected. They’re not spending more because they’ve become fans. They became fans because they already like you and have probably either already spent money on you or are interested in doing so.

Even if that number has some value, what about the remaining $64.54? Is that the value of reaching these fans through Facebook, saving what otherwise would be spent on more traditional marketing and advertising campaigns? They didn’t even make that correlation outright. Or is it the value of knowing who these people are and being able to brandish their love of your organization? Again, they didn’t say.

They drew [potentially] false correlations, claiming causation where none was clear.

For example, in discussing the growing convergence of mobile + social + web, they claimed that one advantage to greater mobility is that it encourages last-minute ticket purchases. They envisioned a couple having dinner together, deciding what to do later that evening, and buying event tickets on a mobile phone.

Wait a second. Yes, people have ever-greater mobile access to the web. Yes, more and more ticket purchases are made at the last minute. But do they have any evidence that the first is causing the second? I see both trends as symptomatic of the same trend toward spontaneity and instantaneous access to information. I don’t see that people’s access to the web via smart phones is the cause of last-minute ticket purchases.

Some of their examples were too far afield from the performing arts to be useful.

Yes, some of the examples they gave were cool, like Center Theatre Group’s “You Review Booth,” giving the mythical average theatergoer the chance to post a spontaneous video review in the lobby; and interactive Twitter displays, like one used to spectacular an outdoor event that the San Francisco Symphony held. But others were just irrelevant, with no potential application in sight: Conan O’Brien’s Twitter triumphs after being dumped by NBC, the Seattle Sounders soccer team, mobile Pizza Hut sales.

The most helpful part of the afternoon was the moments that we paused the webinar and talked: about why the statistics didn’t make any sense, why the examples might or might not apply to us, and what our own experiences on Twitter and Facebook have taught us. All social media spaces are social spaces, with their own cultures and sub-cultures. If you’re not sensitive to those issues, then something’s going to be off.

And if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t hold a webinar about it.


Filed under random

4 responses to “WEBI(s)NAR(k)

  1. Jessica

    haha, I think I saw 90% of that presentation at the conference. agreed on the wacky stats, and self-selecting fans/followers.

    blog on, blogger!

  2. Don’t hold webinars. Period. They are the worst educational tool since film strips. At least film strips had good narrators.

    • Jessica

      Well on behalf of the internets, I am going to disagree with you, Christian. I think Webinars are a fine way to distribute the knowledge of an expert who could not as easily/quickly appear in-house in all the places where people want to learn from them. And in a more dynamic format than just reading an article! When great narration is combined with practical demos, there is a lot of value for some types of learners. Not all learners, but many.

  3. Yeah, I don’t think we can blame the medium for all the pathetic content people dump in it. People can be idiots in print, but that doesn’t mean books are a terrible educational tool.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s