What is Podcasting?
If you’re not familiar with the term ‘Podcasting’, it is the use of audio to broadcast a message. Experts disagree on where the term came from (some say it came from a combination of the Apple iPod and the term ‘broadcast’, while others say it comes from ‘Public on Demand’ + ‘Cast’). Whatever the origins of the word, it is growing as a tool businesses use to communicate with customers and potential customers.
If you listen to BBC Radio at all, particularly Radio 4, then you’ll know they provide podcast versions of most of their programmes. The good news is that you don’t need to be a large corporation to use podcasting to market your business.
Think of it as an audio blog or an audio e-newsletter. Like both of those tools, podcasting is an excellent and cost-effective way to reach your target market in a personal and informative way. Additionally, podcasts can be distributed through RSS format, which is a subscription service that announces and delivers the podcast to your subscribers like a blog or a newsletter.
One of the reasons for the popularity of podcasting is that users are able to easily access the information and listen to it on their computer, mobile device, mp3 player or just about anywhere.
Podcasting increases your marketing reach and online visibility. You will expand your target market because different people prefer different mediums. Some customers like to read company information, others prefer videos or live communication and still others like to download your information and listen to it when they have time. Many podcast users listen to downloaded podcasts on their way to work or while they’re working out.
Podcasting is yet another way to reach your customers, and one-on-one communication provides the kind of personal touch that customers crave. People are more likely to buy from someone that they feel they have communicated with directly, and podcasting enables you to do just that.
It has been proven that regular communication with your customers improves both your overall relationship with them and their buying frequency. A regularly distributed podcast can strengthen your relationship with your buyers and help to build a community with your customers.
Podcasting allows you to distribute industry news and trends, which sets you apart from your competition and establishes you as a respected leader in your niche or industry. One of the best ways to get repeat purchases and loyal customers is to become the “expert” in your industry. Once your business is established as the place to go for quality information, services or products, your profits will grow.
Podcasting on a consistent schedule is important when building a community and a wider audience. In fact, don’t expect your podcast to have a large audience in the beginning. But with proper promotion, quality content and a regular schedule, your podcast audience will grow. Many podcast audiences number in the thousands.
Before you get started, decide how often you will be able to broadcast. Each podcast will take time to script, rehearse and record. You are likely to want to commit at least four hours of planning and production time for each podcast.
To determine how long your podcast should be, you’ll want to consider how frequently you’re going to broadcast, what content you’re delivering, and who your audience is. For example, if you’re doing a daily podcast you would be likely to want to keep it short. Five to ten minutes is a perfectly acceptable length for a daily. It is enough time to offer an inspiration, a tip for the day or an insight. If you’re doing a weekly and you know that your subscribers generally listen to your podcast on their drive to work, then a 20-30 minute podcast would fit perfectly into that time frame.
Great news! Podcasting can actually be free. If your computer came with a microphone or you use a mobile phone type set-up, then you already have your recording equipment. All you need is a podcast host and, like blogging hosts, many are offered for free. Simply use your favourite search engine and you’ll find numerous choices.
Of course, for a few extra dollars you can find podcast hosts that offer sound editing software, more storage and unlimited bandwidth. To choose the right podcast host, it really depends on how many podcasts you want to produce per month, how big they will be and what kind of subscriber base you are expecting for your shows.
Like any online tool, content is king. In your podcast, you absolutely must provide content that offers a benefit to your customers and target market. A podcast that is simply an advertisement for your services may get listened to once but it won’t be revisited, and it won’t be forwarded to friends, family and associates. However, a podcast that entertains and informs will grow and build your sales and your online presence.
Ideally, you need to make sure that the content you offer via your podcast differs from the content that you offer via your blog, newsletter or on your website. However, I see many podcasters now include a transcript of their podcast for those who don’t want to listen.
Marketing your podcast
The best way to increase the number of listeners you have is to tell everyone about your new podcast. If you have an email newsletter, then promote and link to your podcast in your emails. If you have a blog, promote and link to your podcast there. Include a signature “visit my podcast” or “listen here” to every email. And of course, don’t forget to promote your podcast on your website! Place a link to your podcast on your website, with a headshot photo, a call to action like “listen here” and an intriguing headline.
Linking to and from favourite podcasts or other relevant podcasts is also a great way to increase your audience. And don’t worry if the number of listeners you have is small in the beginning. Podcasts are a medium that tends to grow through word of mouth. The key is to provide great content so your listeners are tuning in regularly and talking to their friends and associates about it.
Adding podcasting to your marketing mix and to your website is a valuable and economical marketing tool. One that can help you build a community around your brand, product or service. However, like all social media, it needs to fit into your overall marketing plan. You also need to commit the time to grow your audience. The only reason I’ve hesitated to start myself is the time that I know I’ll need to commit to it.
A shorter version of this article previously appeared in the Bury Free Press.