I was asked recently what a podcast is. This was an excellent reminder that not everything in my little world of technology is as mainstream as I sometimes tend to think that it is. While I’ve been listening to (and watching) podcasts for a couple of years now, apparently it’s still a niche segment. I went looking through some of my archived writings and found this article that I wrote last year. I don’t remember whether I even posted this anywhere, or if it was simply an exercise, but I thought that it was worth dusting off, and posting here.
The internet is filled with a seemingly endless barrage of buzz words. One of the more recent to cross over from techno-geek-speak to mainstream-user-gab is “podcasting”. If you’re not familiar with the term, the name alone probably conjures up images from some B-movie horror flick of yesteryear. But there’s nothing corny or scary about podcasting, or podcasts, as they are known. In fact, podcasts can be casual, educational, even downright entertaining. And, if you’re a small business owner, a podcast is the perfect tool to help build an online community around your company’s brand.
So what exactly IS a podcast? Without being overly technical, a podcast is simply an audio or video episode broadcast over the internet. Listeners or viewers typically subscribe to a broadcast feed using one of many podcatcher download programs, and consume the content in whatever manner best suits them – on their computer or mobile media player. Don’t let the “pod” component of the name “podcast” confuse you. Although the name appears to tie in closely with Apple’s iPod media player, they are mutually exclusive. You can listen to, or view, podcasts on virtually any MP3 player (although it must have video capability if you are going to download video podcasts). Don’t own an MP3 player? You can still subscribe to audio or video podcasts and play them on your computer. Don’t worry. We’ll look at how to subscribe to, and play, podcasts in future posts.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a podcast is, the big question is how might it benefit your business? It must be clearly stated that podcasting is only one component of your overall internet marketing strategy. It is not a silver bullet. A business must still create awareness and demand for its products and services. Even the best podcast will fail if people are unaware of its existence. That being said, as part of an existing internet marketing strategy, a well-crafted podcast can be enough to propel that business to the next level. Consider this: In subscribing to your podcast, the audience has made a conscious decision to willingly interact with your business. By this point, you have already achieved the most difficult aspect of your marketing. You have turned a casual observer into an engaged listener or viewer. The relationship between business and consumer has been forged, and your podcast has the potential to strengthen that relationship, depending on how successful you are at conveying your message.
Businesses can use podcasts in many ways. Some will deliver periodic updates, containing company news or special promotions. Others will take a more systematic approach, and schedule regular episodes dealing with industry news, or offering additional value to their existing service offerings in an attempt to keep the customer engaged, and draw them back repeatedly. However you decide to structure your podcast, you must ensure that it remains consistent with your business message.
At the end of the day, podcasting is merely another medium for creating a one on one relationship with your customer. If implemented correctly, it just might be the tool you’ve been waiting for to differentiate yourself, and rise above your competitors.
In our next installment, we’ll look at where to get started, and how to become comfortable with the podcasting tools available to your business.