Podcasting 101: What Every Business Owner Should Know

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Podcasting 101

Podcasting is a popular way to reach a niche audience and to establish yourself as a thought leader. But what, exactly, is podcasting? How do you do it? What topics should you cover? What are the pros and cons? Read on.

What is a podcast?
Simply put, a podcast is a digital audio file that people subscribe to through an RSS feed and listen to on an electronic device like desktops, tablets, phones, iPods, and other MP3 players. The word itself is a portmanteau: it combines the words “iPod” and “broadcast” to form “podcast” (just like “web log” is better known as “blog”). And, yes, there’s such a thing as video podcasts, also known as “vodcasts.”

Who listens to podcasts?
According to The Podcast Consumer 2012, nearly three in 10 Americans have ever listened to an audio podcast, and one in six Americans have consumed a podcast in the last month. Podcasts skew slightly more male (54%), and half of podcast consumers are aged 12-34. The study goes on to say that “Podcasts continue to be effective ways to reach affluent consumers who exhibit ad avoidance behaviors.”

How does a person set up a podcast? Is there any special equipment required?
Basically, you need a microphone (either a standalone or one that’s built into your recording device, like your PC) and you need to record into something, typically a computer (although you could do the same with tablets or smart phones). From there, you need a way to edit content. It’s important to note that listeners don’t necessarily expect podcasts to be slick segments with lots of bells and whistles. So don’t stress too much over this task. There’s lots of editing software to choose from. For free software, you can use Audacity, which works on both PCs and Macs.

Once you have your final MP3 file, you need to tag it (so RSS feeds can easily identify it) and publish it. You can publish to your own website server or a separate, more robust server, which is recommended since a podcast can eat up a lot of bandwidth (especially if it becomes popular and a lot of people are downloading at once). Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is one option.

Note: What we’ve provided is a brief overview of the podcasting process. For a more in depth guide, check out How to Start a Podcast: Pat’s Complete Step-by-Step Podcasting Tutorial.

Why should a small business owner consider podcasting?
There are numerous reasons. Podcasts…

  • Highlight your expertise in a compelling, yet thoroughly approachable way
  • Make excellent marketing vehicles, and ones that you can use/promote in a variety of ways (e.g. blog posts, social media, newsletters, websites)
  • Are fairly straightforward to create (and once you’ve created a couple, they become easy)
  • Last forever—once they’re out there, they’re out there forever, so they will continue to work for you long after you put the work into them
  • Encourage “repeat” listening, since people can subscribe (through RSS feeds) to the podcasts that interest them and, as a result, immediately receive the latest podcast once you’ve published it
  • Exhibit your speaking style, which can lead to speaking engagements and/or interview requests with the media
  • Can be fun to put together if you love talking about a specific subject
  • Can be monetized – if you have a popular podcast, you could sell ad space, or you can become part of a podcasting community that does
  • Are a great way to cross-promote your products/services. Releasing a new book? Announce it on your podcast. Offering a special on Awesome Product ABC? Announce it on your podcast.

Who should and shouldn’t podcast?
If you’re passionate about a topic and love talking about it or talking with others about it, then a podcast could be a good platform for you. That’s the most important criterion: you need to love to talk about the topic. Beyond that, a willingness to learn how to put one together, a commitment to creating podcasts on a regular basis, and the desire to deliver interesting, exciting content are also important.

OK, provide some practical examples of podcast topics that might work for small business owners.
Let’s say you work in the health sphere—maybe you’re a personal trainer. You could do a series of podcasts about health-related topics, such as nutrition, tips for managing stress, how to get more sleep, ways to fit in exercise, what to look for in a stand-up desk, how to boost your immune system—you get the idea. If you belong to a networking group like Business Networking International (BNI), you could even use the folks in your particular marketing sphere as interview subjects. So if you’re the personal trainer who’s putting together podcasts, you could interview the folks in the health “sphere” in your BNI group, like the acupuncturist, the chiropractor, the massage therapist, and so forth.

Here’s another example: maybe you’re a business coach. You could do a series of podcasts on relevant business topics, such as building leadership skills, what to look for in a mentor, how to ask for a raise, etc. If you’re a financial consultant, you could create a series of podcasts around investment and money topics. The sky’s the limit.

Do you podcast? If yes, do you have any tips you’d like to add here? Do you have any favorite podcasts you subscribe to? Share in the comments!

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