The good news about the Web is also the worst thing imaginable. Your company and your products are just one click away from being viewed by more than a billion people. The problem? So is everyone else’s company and products… If your job revolves around getting people online to pay attention to what you have to say, you are in a constant battle for eyeballs. You are fighting a war about audience engagement. So, what do you do?

Engagement is Critical

This may not be a huge revelation to you, but what you may not consider is how continuously Web engagement changes. What worked last year may not be so hot this year. We’ve passed from the era of “Content is King.” The notion that fresh written content would attract a steady stream of new, sticky visitors seems almost quaint today. Fresh content is helpful -- essential even -- just to stay in the game. If your site is static, you’re finished. What you really need, though, is a truly engaging experience for your Web audience, and what today’s audience needs to remain interested is video. Not just any kind of video, but engaging, rich media presentations that enable audience interactivity.

Using Rich Media to Engage Your Audience

Streaming video as an audience engagement strategy is moderately effective but it is basically last year’s approach and it’s starting to wear out its welcome. However, now that the YouTube generation (which includes people over 25 for sure) demands video in order to be interested in a site, the stakes have been raised much more in the battle for attention.

What seems to work, at least based on our experience with some very large enterprises, is to combine video with other dynamic presentation elements. These include synchronized PowerPoint slides, multiple presenters with varying points of view, audience surveys and polls with real-time results feedback, and live question and answer. We call this a live webcast or “video webinar” and it can be a powerful driver of audience engagement. When the video webinar is presented in a custom-branded player, it’s all the more effective.

Things to Consider for Rich Media Webcasting

So, go do it! Not so fast… Putting on rich media webcasts and video webinars can be tricky. You need to use a webcasting tool that will enable you to reach as many people in your audience as possible with a reliable presentation. Even after all this time, getting a consistent, high quality video stream and accompanying presentation elements out to an online audience is not as easy as it sounds. A number of factors come into play:

  • Selecting a format -- 98 percent of the Web uses Adobe® Flash®. Internal corporate users are beginning to switch over to Flash. Flash as a video format is beneficial for several reasons. First, it’s cross-platform and cross-browser, so it gives you the greatest potential reach when it comes to people on various devices and non-PC computers. Its popularity in the public sphere also enables you to create your presentation in one format and avoid doubling your production complexity by producing streams in multiple formats.
  • Choosing a webcasting platform -- The tool you select for video webinars should give you the ability to have multiple remote presenters, dynamic polls and surveys, Q&A, and a customizable front-end interface.
  • Scaling your audience -- You need to be able to think big. Partnering with the right solution provider and connecting to a content distribution network (CDN) gives you the power to reach tens of thousands of people in a live presentation.
  • Archiving -- For people who can’t watch a presentation live, it’s very powerful to give them an on-demand option. The webcasting software you select should enable effortless archiving.

Rich media webcasting is a great tool to consider when you try to figure out your next Web audience engagement strategy. With the right tools, you can use it to your advantage and build a sticky, loyal Web following.

Editor's Note: Follow all of our experts views on Web Engagement, including: