Podcasting can be an effective way to engage shoppers and encourage brand or site loyalty, resulting in more sales. What’s more, podcasting is relatively easy and inexpensive for businesses small and large. Nearly any marketer can start podcasting almost immediately.
If one needs more evidence that podcasting can help an online business, consider that according to marketing strategist Andrew Brown writing on the Canadian Marketing Association’s blog, “90 [percent] of loyal podcast listeners take some sort of action based on the sponsors and product content found in podcasts. What’s even more astonishing is that for 40 [percent] of loyal podcast listeners that action translates into actual purchase behavior.”
This article aims to provide an overview of the major steps required in producing and publishing a podcast, including thoughts about content, recording, and distribution.
What Is Podcasting?
Podcasts are audio or video recordings that mimic a radio or television show format and are distributed — often for free — via the Internet. Podcasts vary greatly in terms of content and production quality. For many online retailers, the podcast can be produced and distributed with very basic equipment and little investment.
The key to a successful podcast is the content. An online merchant getting started with podcasting, should consider focusing on some niche related to the merchant’s industry segment and, within the context of that niche, addressing aspects of the topic that are relevant to potential shoppers.
As an example, consider the Maker SHED’s video podcasts. The company sells do-it-yourself kits ranging from toy robots to crafts. The store also publishes how-to videos that feature host John Park demonstrating kit assembly.
Similarly, the “Ask a Vet” podcast available on iTunes, features a veterinarian, Dr. Brett Bauscher, who answers questions about pet health. The show’s sponsor and producer is a regional farm and ranch retailer that sells, among other things, pet food, pet supplies, and pet health care items.
In both of these examples, the retailer is participating — via its sponsorship — in useful content specifically related to its market segment. With these examples as inspiration, an ecommerce marketer should select a topic and plan three or four specific podcast episodes in advance.
When it comes time to record an episode, consider using just an outline that has a few points. It may also be better to have two or three people on the podcast to encourage more dialog.
For a podcast ideas, consider:
- Interviewing experts, remembering the “Ask a Vet” podcast mentioned above and finding subject matter experts to talk to;
- Show or describe how to do something, whether that is assembling a product, using a product, or similar;
- Provide background information or context. For example, if a merchant sells shoes, it might be worth describing the shoe making process or explaining how some materials work better than others.
Recording the Podcast
Recording quality is important. The goal is to be able to understand what everyone is saying and avoid annoying changes in volume. Thus, one of the first things that a new podcast should invest in is a microphone.
For audio podcasts — particularly if the hosts are sitting around a table in a noise controlled environment — consider the Zoom H4n omni-directional microphone. It produces excellent quality recordings and can be purchased for about $300.00 new.
A less expensive choice is the Shure SM58, which is better suited to an individual speaker and costs about $90.00. Similar to the SM58, is the Electro-Voice N/D767a that sells for about $105.00 at the time of writing.
For video podcasts consider using the Canon Vixia HF M400, which retails for about $600. CNET recently rated the camera “Very Good,” and it produces very clean HD quality images. For a merchant with a little more to invest, the Canon XA10 costs about $2,000.00 and is excellent for podcasts.
When recording video it is a good idea to show the participants at different angles. So, as a best practice, purchase two cameras. The two perspectives will also be a huge help during the editing process. For example, if the podcast producer has just one camera steadily staring at the participant for the entire podcast, the editor will not be able to remove verbal blunders or even sections without making the change completely obvious, since the video is otherwise just one long continuous shot. If, however, two video cameras are used, the editor can simply switch from one view to the other, covering any edits with the transition.
Also it is a good idea to use a separate audio microphone even when recording video, since the audio quality will typically be better.
Podcast Editing Software
Once the recording or recordings are complete, the producer will need to edit the audio or video file.
For audio podcasts, consider trying Audacity — I reviewed it previously — which is free and very easy to use. For much more robust sound editing, Adobe’s Soundbooth is the top-of-the-line choice.
For video podcasts, try Adobe Premiere Pro. If you need more sophisticated motion graphics, try Adobe After Effects.
The editing portion of the process will probably be the most difficult for do-it-yourself marketers, but there are excellent and free Soundbooth, Premiere, and After Effects tutorials on the Adobe site and around the web.
Once the podcast is complete, there are several tools for publishing the content. In terms of quality and cost, Libsyn — my previous review is here — offers a good solution that makes it relatively easy to post the finished product on a site or on iTunes. The service also includes good statistics for tracking a podcast’s success. Audio podcasting services start as low as $5 per month.
Podcasting is a long-term investment in building customer relationships. So a marketer will need to be committed. Also, if every episodes garner only a few listeners, do not be discouraged, podcasts can be a power-marketing tool, but it takes time.