By Angie Dunnigan
Small business owners have many tools in their arsenals to boost sales and awareness, but none is more underutilized than the podcast. At the same time, according to a report by Edison Research, podcast listenership is steadily increasing – by 75 percent since 2013. The monthly podcast audience now encompasses 57 million Americans – about the same as the number of active users on Twitter.
It’s obvious that podcasting is here to stay, along with the many benefits it brings. Mashable writes, “If done right, a podcast can reach the right people in your industry, establish your company as a thought leader, connect you with your customers and reach people on their own schedules.”
What is a podcast, anyway? A podcast is defined as a digital audio file made available for downloading to a computer or portable media player. Podcasts are typically available as a series, and people can subscribe to get notified of new installments. Popular podcasts, like This American Life on WBEZ, get up to 2.5 million people downloading them each week!
Here’s what you need to know to make podcasting work for your small business:
Be authentic. Don’t make your podcast a commercial for your company; make it more of a conversation. Think about who your customers are and what they’re interested in. Highlight your expertise on niche topics and products. Keep your content interesting and lively. For instance, you might interview an expert in your industry. This is both valuable to your customers and gives you an advantage over competitors.
Don't make your podcast a commercial for your company; make it more of a conversation.
Stay on a schedule. Set expectations on your podcast frequency, and stick to those expectations. If you tell your listeners you’ll have a new podcast every Friday, follow through. Also watch the length of your podcasts; they should last somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Make them too short, and you’re not providing much value. Make them too long, and you risk losing your audience’s interest.
Include your audience. Podcasts are a great way to get intimate with your audience. Talk to them directly. Read e-mails or answer questions from customers, or maybe even ask some of them to offer their experiences or opinions on the air.
Promote, promote, promote. Make sure to get the word out! If people don’t know about your podcast, they certainly can’t listen to it. Promote it on your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Tell people when to tune in and why to tune in (i.e., what will they get out of it?), and give them the opportunity to subscribe.
Gather your tools. Recording a podcast is actually easier than you might think. All you really need is a decent microphone and a computer. While not essential, basic audio editing software can also be useful to polish or “clean up” your recordings.
Most people broadcast their podcasts on their own websites or blogs. In fact, WordPress has a free plug-in, Seriously Simple Podcasting, for just this purpose. You can use it to host your podcast episodes and implement an RSS feed that enables listeners to subscribe and download episodes via iTunes.
If you’re planning to do on-air interviews, you will also need a call-in service (like Skype) as well as a call recorder.
Be patient. Realize that it may take a while to build a following for your podcast. It’s not going to happen overnight, and you likely won’t ever have the audience of, say, This American Life. Mashable advises, “Don’t get caught up in numbers. If you’re trying to be a thought leader, maybe 1,000 of the right people are better than 10,000 random people.”