ON24 Brings Social Media Capabilities To Webcasting Platform

The development environment uses widgets to add collaboration, training, and social network feed tools to online meetings.

Alison Diana, Contributing Writer

March 22, 2011

4 Min Read

ON24, a developer of software as a service (SaaS) applications, on Tuesday released a platform that allows businesses to personalize Webcasts and build custom Webcasting applications, enabling viewers to interact with presenters, communicate with other Webcast participants, and more easily consume Webcast content.

With Webcasting Platform 10, ON24 integrated social media capabilities into its Webcasting platform, Mark Szelenyi, senior director of Webcasting, told InformationWeek. Customers can provision the system themselves or turn to ON24 to provide turnkey service, and can use as few or as many widgets available to customize their Webcasts, he said.

The cloud-based widget development environment uses open APIs so third-party developers easily can create Flash applications for any Webcasts. Today, there are more than 50 widgets available for Platform 10, according to ON24. These widgets include a Platform 10 social media bundle, which features Web 2.0 and social networking tools such as Twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds; a collaboration bundle featuring tools for group chat and brainstorming that solicits ideas from Webcast attendees and allows all participants to rank and prioritize ideas for later review; and a corporate training bundle, with testing, certification, curriculum management, and Learning Management System (LMS) integration.

"Social networking and interaction between attendees is richer," Szelenyi said. "We have a speaker bio widget, which is a custom element that you can open up in the Webcast and you can put it away if you don't want to see it. You can do the same with a Twitter feed, for example, and let people tweet about the Webcast. We've done similar things by allowing you to bring RSS feeds, like the speaker's blog or job feeds, into a Webcast. You can use our transcript widget to bring a Spanish or German transcript on-demand."

Access to social networking tools was the most popular feature for almost 40% of respondents in a user poll conducted by ON24. In addition, 80% said they preferred the ability to customize their Webcasts and the greater control the Platform 10 gave them, the study said.

"Where ON24 is really still at the forefront, especially with the new [Platform] 10 offering, it's allowing the user to create their own experience when they come into the Webinar," Tim Stark, director of online events at Penton Media, told InformationWeek. In the six years it has used ON24 to host and create its Webcasts, the business-to-business publishing company has seen its volume increase from 14 to 400 live events annually, he said.

"We're managing at any given time 50 to 55 live events, somewhere in promotion to production," said Stark." On Wednesday, the group is doing seven live at the same time in seven different markets. Are we nervous? Of course, it's live theater. But I'm not nervous about the technology." Platform 10 supports multilingual Webcasts through compliance with Universal Transformation Format (UTF) 8, which is a multi-byte character encoding that can represent every character in the Unicode character set and is backward-compatible with ASCII. The platform's page-building and customization tools support completely localized user interfaces, system checks, and email communications, according to ON24.

"With the [Platform] 10 offering, when you come into Webinar, you can make every element its own floating window. You can tweet about what you listen to. You can chat, not only with the speaker, but also with other attendees. That's just awesome. That's just going to make people stay even longer," said Stark. "Now it's like Burger King: They're getting it their way."

Multiple presenters now may share their screens with attendees, further bringing the Webinar to life, Szelenyi said.

"The screen-sharing capability was something we definitely get a lot of customer demand for," he said. "I can be talking to the audience, and sharing parts of my desktop. That's also multi-presenter."

Since users do not only view Webcasts at their desks, ON24 also made its platform accessible via mobile devices including Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows 7 devices.

Advertisers and marketing departments invest in Webinars, in part, because of the volume of information they collect about participants who typically register for these events. With Platform 10, ON24 now delivers graphical-reporting dashboards and real-time analytics to help sponsors measure events' success and qualify leads. These tools help companies measure their return on investment, the effectiveness of the content, and audience members' level of engagement, Szelenyi said.

Businesses also use Webcasts to educate and inform their staff -- training departments, delivering news, or holding multi-departmental meetings without the need for costly spending on time-consuming travel. With ON24, department managers can monitor which employees participated in meetings, asking questions and joining the conversation, and which individuals may not have been fully engaged in the discussion, he said.

About the Author(s)

Alison Diana

Contributing Writer

Alison Diana is an experienced technology, business and broadband editor and reporter. She has covered topics from artificial intelligence and smart homes to satellites and fiber optic cable, diversity and bullying in the workplace to measuring ROI and customer experience. An avid reader, swimmer and Yankees fan, Alison lives on Florida's Space Coast with her husband, daughter and two spoiled cats. Follow her on Twitter @Alisoncdiana or connect on LinkedIn.

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