Online Courses Promotion on Facebook and VK

Increasing the audience of your intensives with streams on social networks

Skillbox online university tested online streams on social networks for their intensive courses, which helped to double webinar audiences.

Goal

The goal was to increase webinar audiences with the help of gathering subscribers and launching live streams on Facebook and VK.

Result

  • We doubled the number of additional views on social networks. 
  • Subscriber cost decreased by 50%.
  • We got viral (free) growth in the number of event responders – for every two paid responders there was one free responder. 
  • Subscriber geography turned out to be wider than we expected: the Russian Federation was followed by the Ukraine and Belarus.

About the project

Skillbox online university holds dozens of free webinars to promote its courses monthly. The format helps to communicate the idea of the course to the potential students, to acquaint them with the teachers and provide useful materials.

Although the webinars are free, their promotion requires paid ads to be launched.

The marketing plan of a webinar

Each webinar has a separate subscription page to collect attendees’ emails and phone numbers. Later the subscribers get notified on the stream they can access on the webinar page or Skillbox YouTube channel. Subscribers come both from existing mailing lists and paid channels – contextual and media ads.

Hypothesis

Nowadays social networks have developed into a self-sufficient media, and the majority of internet marketing mechanisms work perfectly within Facebook and VK: webinar promotion, gaining subscribers in events, subscription for updates, webinar streaming and storing archived stream videos. All this works seamlessly – subscribers do not need to switch between different services, input personal data, get a notification in a special service. Everything works within the platform, where the user spends a lot of time as it is. 

These advantages come together with:

  1. Viral distribution of content – in a couple of clicks one can share an event, post or video to their newsfeed or to a thematic group.
  2. Social networks encourage live streams and send additional notifications to subscribers.
  3. Videos are available after the stream finishes, which brings additional traffic even after the stream. 

We expected not just to get an additional promotion channel for live streams, but to reduce average subscriber cost.

Baseline 

We decided to use the webinar about Developing Games with Unity Engine for test promotion. The budget allocated for promotion on both platforms was $470.

Promotion strategy

Step 1. Platform preparation

We created events on Facebook and VK. The links in the events led to posts about the upcoming live stream. All ads were optimized to gain event subscribers.

Step 2. Testing audiences and creatives for ads

We launched tests through Tendee with 5 audiences on Facebook: 

  1. Subscribers of Skillbox Page on Facebook.
  2. “Game development” interest: 3D modeling, Video games developer, Game programming and Game development tool.
  3. “Game engine” interest: Unreal Engine, Game engine, Unity, Indie game, Indie games or Video games.
  4. Custom Audience. People who visited pages related to programming on Skillbox website.
  5. Lookalike to those who showed interested in programming on Skillbox website.

“Game engine” audience showed the best cost-to-value ratio on Facebook.

We chose the following audiences for tests on VK:

  1. Groups for game developers. Game development | Järvi team, Game development: from start to result, GameDev.ru — Game development, Application development, game dev, game creation, IN UNITY, TESVIK – Russian Game DEV.
  2. Subscribers of Skillbox VK page.
  3. People interested in Skillbox webinars on programming.
  4. Communities of Unity game developers. Unity3D | Unity 3D, Unity Web Player 3D, Unity User Group, Unity 3D, Unity 3D Developer Course, 3ds max tutorials, Maya, Zbrush, Unity 3d, etc., Unity 3D. Game development, “Unity 3D Developer” course, Tutorial on game development with Unity 3D, Demo lesson “Unity 3D Programming”, Unity 3D, Gamedevs | 3ds MAX | Unity 3D | 5, Unity3D & CG / Unity 3D, unity digest, Creating Asteroids game with Unity. Workshop.

Communities of Unity game developers audience showed the best cost-to-value ratio on VK.

Tip. In case you are launching Facebook ads for the first time, do not forget to exclude the audience that has already responded to the event. This will help you save the budget – you won’t need to pay for those who already clicked the ad and fulfilled its objective.

Ad message

Another success factor for promotion on social networks is the creatives and ad messages you use.

Skillbox creative performance results as part of a case study promoting webinars through events.

All banners on Facebook got more or less the same results. It’s impossible to single out one leader. The banner with “Пишем игру на Unity” message (Developing games with Unity) worked slightly better, while the banner “Стань частью игровой индустрии” (Become a part of the game industry) showed slightly lower figures.

We did not test creatives on VK, as long as we needed to allocate the whole budget to the promotion of the post with live stream announcement in the event. Results came quickly: +116 subscribers and 16 reposts to personal pages in 6 days. This built the basis for the viral growth of the event. 

Unfortunately, Facebook does not allow us to promote (boost) posts in events, so we promoted the event with our live stream, and the subscribers needed to go to the event to watch the stream. VK allows the promotion of posts in events, so people eagerly subscribed both to the event and to notifications on the upcoming live stream.

Thus, VK better responded to using the stream itself in our ads:

Ad results

Metric/PlatformFacebook VK
Paid event responders134200
Free event responders11170
Average subscriber cost$1.6$0.65

As a result, we received an underwhelming 8% viral growth on Facebook, unlike expected (50-80%). However, VK showed a different result – 85%, which is overwhelmingly high as opposed to our experience (5-30%). 

The average responder cost turned out to be twice lower than estimated: we got one free (viral) responder for every two paid responders. 

Step 3. Working with content

This is a mandatory stage of event promotion. When posts are published, some subscribers of the event get notifications, which bring additional reach. Moreover, the more interesting your content is, the more likely your subscribers are to share your posts and bring viral growth.

Tendee helped to schedule posts to both platforms through the promotion period.

Posting report for VK event:

Posting report for the Facebook event:

We decided not to use content distracting from the topic of the webinar. So, for the most part, we used posts with reminders about the event. 20% of all subscribers clicked posts on VK, and 10% – on Facebook. Unfortunately, posts did not bring any viral growth. We used only reminder posts and got these results, one can definitely expect a better outcome if a more elaborate content strategy is used.

Step 4. Live stream results

Facebook does not save videos of streams that are broadcast to events; moreover, no statistics or after-broadcast data is available. But in case your broadcast to an event is hosted by a page, the video and its statistics are saved.

Tip. In case the broadcast fails for any technical reason, be prepared to forward the traffic to another streaming platform. Be ahead of the game, never lose precious leads!


FacebookVKSocials TotalYouTube
Views1600 views1310 views2910 views3 411 views
Cost per view:$0.16$0.1$0.13

Conclusions

The experiment proved successful – social networks helped to increase the reach of the webinar. We almost doubled its audience, built a base of event subscribers on social networks and can now reuse it for the promotion of other similar events.

It’s important that videos live even after the webinar is over. This is natural for YouTube, but on VK the video surprisingly appeared in several thematic groups for developers and the content is still bringing new leads for Skillbox online university.

  • Streams on social networks are a viable tool that can gather an audience of their own. People watch and discuss broadcasts, which broadens the audience and is especially useful for regular streaming. 
  • Building a base of subscribers helps to increase the number of people who make it to the webinar. This works due to notifications on live streams. 
  • One should consider creating thematic pages and/or groups for attendees. This strategy worked well for Eastern conferences, where a standard is a page (group) + event.
  • VK requires a larger promotion budget and support with the major marketing channels, such as VK pages, mailshots and landing pages. This can do a great job for content broadcasting.
  • Social networks ensure a significant deferred demand for content. This is due to the availability of content right on the event page.
  • The broadest audience is not necessarily losing one.

What next?

Some believe that events on social networks die as soon as their dates pass. However, you still have the audience you gained and can announce upcoming events to them. This audience can be used as a direct targeting for ads or as a basis for a lookalike. Past events are great to post announcements of the upcoming ones. VK still enables to change event name and date to reuse the audience gained.

⭐️ Want to promote your events? Contact us!