Adobe announced the update Tuesday and said it would be released over the summer. The product is available as a cloud service, which is how about half of the customer base uses it, or as on-premises software. This release particularly aims to improve the process of organizing and publicizing an online event, measuring engagement during and after the event, and, in the case of sales presentations, identifying the best leads from among the attendees. Adobe also has improved mobile device support, allowing users of Apple iOS, Android, and BlackBerry PlayBook devices to host and collaborate in online meetings as equals with desktop computer users.
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Adobe is boosting the measurement capabilities of Connect through integration with its SiteCatalyst Web metrics service. Cloud subscribers to Adobe Connect will get access to an embedded version of SiteCatalyst geared to webcast analytics, and Connect also can be integrated with a full instance of SiteCatalyst. Guillaume Privat, director of the Adobe Connect business unit, said organizers typically promote their events through multiple channels--for example, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and their own websites--but don't necessarily have a good way of measuring which is most effective. The new "closed loop" design of Adobe Connect assists with distributing invitations through those multiple channels and tracking the response from each, he said.
In the example used in the demo, the after-event analytics showed that although a Facebook promotion produced the largest number of registrations, more of the people who registered after clicking through from the LinkedIn channel actually showed up.
"As a marketer, this is gold for me," said Peter Ryce, the senior technical evangelist for Adobe who conducted the demo.
At the same time, Adobe has improved the "engagement dashboard" that presenters can monitor during an event, making it possible to make course corrections during a presentation. Ryce said such metrics can be misleading if they're based on simplistic measures, such as the percentage of people in the audience who have the presentation window in focus. Although the idea is to detect how many people are checking email and only half listening, there can be other reasons for dropping the focus, he said. "The most engaged participants don't have window in focus because they have a note taking application open."
What works better is to measure engagement by how many people participate in asking questions via chat, or responding to poll questions, or interacting with the webcast in some other way, Ryce said. As a best practice, Adobe recommends prompting the audience for some kind of interaction every five minutes anyway, he said.
In addition to the SiteCatalyst integration, Adobe is leveraging the CQ web content management system it picked up in the 2010 acquisition of Day Software, which event organizers can use to configure event landing pages and design invitation emails. In addition to invitations, organizers can design and schedule reminder, follow up, and "sorry you missed it" messages.
The new analytics make it possible to score participants according to criteria of your own choosing; for example, you might classify as a hot sales lead anyone who attended for more than 15 minutes, showed a certain level of engagement, and answered "yes" to a key poll question. Through an application programming interface, Adobe Connect can then feed leads into sales and marketing applications from the likes of Salesforce.com, Eloqua, or Marketo, according to Adobe.
Although the online meeting market is competitive, now including freemium options such as Join.me and the ad-supported Anymeeting, as well as ubiquitous tools such as Citrix's GoToMeeting, Privat says he doesn't see Adobe Connect competing with products oriented to basic screen-sharing presentations.
"We're about supporting very advanced collaborative tasks in a secure environment," Privat said. Although marketing presentations are an important market segment, organizations such as the Department of Defense use Adobe Connect for webcasts that are far more private, he said.
Adobe also promotes Connect as a tool for online education and the improved mobile features are particularly aimed at that segment. Meeting hosts working from mobile devices will now be able to use whiteboard and annotation tools and share documents from tablets, as well as the cloud. Instructors can manage virtual classrooms from devices with the same presenter and sharing options, as well as breakout room controls, according to Adobe.
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