It seems like it was just yesterday that entrepreneurs were advised to start blogging for the purpose of marketing their businesses. Now, there’s a whole new technology out there that’s a growing, but viable, option for cultivating your brand online: podcasting.
What is “podcasting?”
Podcasting takes its name from Apple’s iPod product, and it initially signified any audio content that could be played on iTunes, the application that can be attached to the iPod to play its files. However, as the technology has developed during the past couple of years, podcasting has come to mean any multimedia content on the web following the structure of a regularly-recorded show.
In other words, podcasting—from a technical perspective—can be nothing more than an MP3 or a video file with audio. However, podcasts are really just another name for web shows just like TV shows are, well, TV shows. Podcasts typically last anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes. While one person can host a podcast, it’s considered better form for two co-hosts to be featured or for one host to interview various people each week—anything to get multiple voices heard on the podcast for the sake of variety. Video podcasts are often referred to as Vcasts, and are often nothing more than audio podcasts with the picture turned on. Many television shows are distributed for the web as Vcasts.
No need to spend a bundle on equipment, either, particularly if you’re just in the mood to give podcasting a try. A high-quality computer microphone and your onboard sound recorder could be enough to create an audio podcast. However, there is quite the market for podcasting software, which can help you record a podcast and prepare it for distribution. Overall cost for podcasting tools can be anywhere from $10 to hundreds of dollars. There are free, opensource software options like Audacity you can use to edit your audio files and export them as MP3s. Audacity works with Macs and PCs.
For ideas, it’s advisable for you to become a podcast listener yourself. A Google search should point you in the right direction, or you can visit the podcasts section of the iTunes music store for hundreds of free podcasts, probably some in your area of expertise.
Avoid the sales pitch
In terms of content, avoid sales pitches or discussions that directly relate to your business. The audience for most podcasts, although the technology is still in its hip and cool phase, is relatively small. If you were to cultivate an audience of 100 listeners, your podcast would be considered a success in tech circles. However, if your sales pitch is obvious within the podcast, nobody will listen. On the other hand, if your business is landscaping, for example, consider hosting a podcast where you talk to the world’s preeminent landscapers each week. At the end of the show, mention your web site and phone number, and be done with it.
Think of it this way: Why do you think Martha Stewart hosts a daily television show? She does it to cultivate and reinforce her brand, and yet she sells nothing directly on her shows. Consider this an opportunity to become a celebrity in your industry. The technology itself hasn’t moved past its infancy in terms of effectiveness for small businesses; however, the return on investment can be significant when you consider podcasting’s minimal costs both in terms of money and time.