by Todd Sivers
In many ways, the internet is just like ‘the wild west.’ There’s no law enforcement to speak of. If a scammer is particularly effective, they may get the attention of the FTC and get investigated. But few of those get prosecuted, and most scammers quietly dupe people over and over, disappearing overnight and appearing in a new town tomorrow with a new hat, but the same old horse. And online, anything goes.
P.T. Barnum would have loved the internet era. Today’s sales and landing pages are far more convincing than barkers and thick curtains, tempting passers by to spend a little bit to see what all the commotion is about.
As I write this, the latest big thing in internet marketing is automated live webinars. These are webinars (online seminars) that offer to train people on this skill or that, but usually contain 45 minutes of sales pitch for some upsell, and maybe 5 minutes of useful information.
Prior to 2015, these webinars were planned in advance, promoted, and presented live. That’s what people are used to seeing. But in late 2014, a guy named Geoff Ronning created an online service that completely changed webinars forever.
It starts with a landing page or sales page that invites you to experience a free webinar. We’ve all seen these. They promise to solve all your pressing problems though a live webinar that happens to be offered at three very convenient times. You can sign up to attend the live webinar two days from now, in the evening, when you’re not so busy. Or tomorrow morning, when you’re not so tired. Or in about 15 to 30 minutes.
Lucky you, you happened upon the landing page that promises to solve your most pressing problem just a few minutes before the live webinar is about to begin. And you can still get in if you hurry.
This is 100% bullshit. Geoff’s company, StealthSeminar.com takes a prerecorded webinar and presents it on demand, creating the well-orchestrated illusion that the user is part of a live event.
There’s an ‘attendees’ counter that slowly grows to 1000, then toggles randomly between 850 and 1000 to show you that people are joining and leaving. They’re not.
There’s a comments area, where people are actively asking questions, getting answers, and commenting on what they think of the information and what they’ll do with it. All in real time, clearly linked to the information on the webinar, and entirely fake. You can even put in your own comments and questions, and other ‘attendees’ will respond. But not really.
In reality, you’re the only person experiencing the webinar, all by yourself.
And Geoff built a really impressive tool. It allowed people who happened onto landing pages at any time of the day or night to get immediate gratification – and immediately be up sold to whatever the webinar was hocking.
Marketers loved it so much that competitors popped up fast. Now in addition to Stealth Seminar there are other big players in the fake live webinar game, Workcast.com, on24.com, everwebinar.com, and the biggest player to date, webinarjam.com.
Today, 80% or more of online webinars are not live. But virtually all of them pretend to be live. And big names like Frank Kern and Neil Patel are among their users.
I watch dozens of webinars monthly, just to keep aware of what’s out there. And almost all of them are fake-live. I have yet to experience a single one where the presenter openly discloses that the webinar is prerecorded. Not one.
This is just one glaring example of the deception online everywhere. And the lesson here is simple but enormous.
Your integrity is paramount.
If people don’t trust you, you’ll never make a dime online. So if you’re doing stuff like this online stop right now and apologize. And if you’re not, don’t start.
There’s nothing wrong with creating an on-demand webinar. It’s a great idea. I’ll probably use them at some point myself. But when I do, people will know exactly what they are. I won’t pretend they’re live.
I’m reminded of the controversial Abraham Lincoln quote, “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” If he said it at all, he said it to make this point: Don’t try to fool people. You’ll only get away with it for so long, and then you’ll be the fool.
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