Podcasting: The New Stealth Marketing Tool
Let technology work for you. Setting up your podcast is easier than you might think.
If you have been thinking of adding a podcast to your website for promotional purposes but have been put off by the learning curve involved, fear not. These days, posting Web audio in the form of an easily downloadable podcast is as effortless as making a phone call.
A company offering this new service is Gabcast™ (www.gabcast.com), which makes adding a podcast to the Web as simple as calling an 800 number, speaking into your phone and pushing the pound (#) button. Within seconds, Gabcast grabs your audio and posts your resulting podcast to its site. The posting even comes complete with a website address that you can cut and paste onto your own site—or into any e-mail.
If you have a teenager in your life, you probably know that podcasts—or short audio programs that are downloaded from the Web and played on iPods, other digital audio players and plain old desktop computers—are all the rage with the under-34 demographic.
While these early adopters love the technology for many reasons, one of the most compelling is that iPods, digital audio players and computers (desktop models and others) can be programmed to download podcasts automatically for later listening.
Essentially, podcasts are live TiVo for audio programming. As a result, increasing numbers of consumers and businesspeople of all ages are catching the podcasting bug. “It gives them the freedom to choose when, where and how they listen to [programs],” says David A. Fish, CEO of IMakeNews™ (www.imninc.com), an e-communications service provider that has seen a rapid rise in the number of firms seeking to reach out to clients and customers with podcasts. “They can play a podcast in the background while they do other work on their computers,” Fish says. “Or they can download the podcast to a portable MP3 player and listen to it at their convenience—on the commuter train, at the gym or at home.”
Podcasts are also cropping up as add-ons to company e-newsletters, marketing e-mails and the like. The reason, say e-marketers, is that adding a podcast to such e-communications involves little more than pasting in a hotlink to the podcast.
So far, one of the more popular formats in such podcasts is the simple Q&A interview, Fish says. In this type of communication, a company public relations person or similar staff member plays the role of a reporter, and a top official at the company—or someone with exciting, inside information about a forthcoming product—plays the role of the interviewee. Essentially, it’s a public relations representative’s dream: newslike programming in which every aspect of the content is created and massaged by the company being promoted in the piece.
“Podcasting lets you convey information in a friendly, relaxed and inviting way,” Fish says. “It gives you the opportunity to let the presenter’s personality shine through, draw in the audience and lay the groundwork for future interactions.” Podcasts work well in conjunction with blogs, too, he adds. “You can podcast-direct customers and prospects to blogs to encourage ongoing dialogue with your company.”
There are also some fairly hefty ancillary benefits. For example, every time you post a podcast on your company website, search engines like Google make note of the fact that your company website has been updated—which tends to propel your website’s ranking a bit higher. (As most e-marketers know, search engines love sites that add new, useful content to the Web on a regular basis.)
The same holds true for blog-tracking sites like Technorati (www.technorati .com), which currently tracks more than 75 million blogs. Every time you post a new podcast link on your Technorati-tracked blog, the blog search engine makes a note of it, and the visibility of your personal training blog increases.
If you’re thinking of experimenting with podcasting, here’s a blueprint for getting started, courtesy of Fish and other podcast marketing gurus:
Initially, Find an Easy Way to Experiment With the Medium. Gabcast is a good place to start. There, you’ll get a feel for how easy it is to get a podcast up on the Web with just a phone call. You’ll probably want to practice your spiel a few times before putting it out there for the world to hear. In any case, there’s little to worry about—right now, Gabcast’s podcast creation service is free.
Find Podcast-Creation Software That’s Right for You. Once you’ve gotten the feel of how podcasts work, you may want to bring some podcast software in-house. Popular podcast-creation packages and online services include Podblaze.com (www.podblaze.com) and IpodderX (thunderstonemedia.com/ name_change). For an exhaustive list of podcast-creation software, check out the excellent directory available from Podcasting News (www.podcastingnews .com/topics/Podcasting_Software.html).
Keep It Short and Sweet. Company podcasts of 15–30 minutes will most likely get the most play, Fish says. He also believes your podcast should have an unscripted feel. Remember, one of the advantages of the audio format is that it gives you an opportunity to let your hair down.
Promote Your Podcast Until You Drop. Besides posting your podcast on your website and including a link in your company’s e-newsletter and marketing e-mails, you’ll want to check out the various podcast directories on the Web that will be interested in listing your podcast. They include Podcast Alley (www.pod castalley.com), FreshPodcasts.com (www .freshpodcasts.com), Podcast.net (www .podcast.net), Apple Podcasts (www. apple.com/podcasting), iPodder.org (www.ipodder.org), Odeo (www.odeo .com) and Digital Podcast (www.digital podcast.com).
Track the Popularity of Your Podcast. “If your e-newsletter service provider has the right tools in place, podcasting is trackable just like all subscriber activity,” Fish says. “You can monitor which subscribers listened to your podcast, and even identify which ones passed it along to others. By tracking podcast listenership, you gain valuable insight into subscribers’ interest. This enables you to customize future marketing activities to each segment of your customer base.
Stay Current on the Podcast Industry and Its Technology. One of the best sources of information for all things podcast is Podcasting News (www.pod castingnews.com). Unrelentingly zealous in collecting any type of press release related to podcasting, this site also features a podcast directory; a podcast forum; and links to podcasting gear and manufacturers. Essentially, this is your first stop when looking for the latest on the industry.
A final note—you’ll probably want to do a “soft launch” of your first few podcasts before proclaiming to the world that you’ll be featuring the technology regularly on your website. Of course, once you’ve worked out any bugs, shout from every mountaintop that you’re officially on the Web.
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Don’t worry if you’re not a technology expert. Here are some basic terms to help you speak “tech talk.”
Podcast: a Web audio recording that can be downloaded from the Web in real time, or downloaded in the background when the recording is first posted on a website
TiVo: a digital recording service featuring home hard-disk units that record television programming for consumers
iPod: a digital audio device from Apple that can download music and podcasts from the Web
MP3: a popular music digital recording format
Blogs: generally speaking, websites with bare-bones designs featuring journal-style entries by an author, and programming that enables visitors to post comments on those entries
Here are some other helpful resources to get you started:
- podcasting marketing blog, blog.rss applied.com/public/blog/90739
- Cochrane, T. 2005. Podcasting: Do It Yourself Guide. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley.
- Morris, T., & Terra, E. 2005. Podcasting for Dummies®. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.
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