In the quiet time between holidays, we wanted to share an article first published in CCO magazine and then, again, on the Content Marketing Institute blog. It’s packed with valuable information, so have a read if you’re thinking about adding podcasting to your marketing mix in 2016. – Ed.
In a content-cluttered world, could podcasting be next big play for content marketers? Maybe ‘big play’ is a stretch—a survey from Edison Research and Triton Digital shows awareness about podcasting is flat. Yet the same research also shows podcasting holds broad appeal. Men and women listen with equal frequency, and there is no age barrier among listeners—all age groups are equally represented.
Podcasting is particularly appealing for marketers because regular listeners tend to be better educated and have higher household income than the general population. What’s more, podcasts have particular appeal among commuters. Consider that high wage earners in London commute for over an hour on average, and in major US cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, commute times are 30 minutes on average … the perfect amount of time to make podcasting a daily habit.
And perhaps the most attractive quality of all: As a channel, podcasting isn’t super-saturated … yet. Only three percent of marketers say they use podcasts as a content marketing tactic.
Craig Price, host of the Reality Check podcast and a producer of three additional shows, says podcasting is becoming a medium trusted by consumers. “The President was just on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast and that gave podcasting a lot more credibility,” says Price. “Obama actually sought out a podcast to go on.”
How can you get in front of the coming trend?
Prepare to commit
Podcasting pioneer Todd Cochrane has recorded over 1,000 episodes of his Geek News Central podcast. He’s also the CEO of RawVoice, a media company providing services and podcast media statistics to 30,000 audio and video content creators. Cochrane advises aspiring podcasters to question whether they’re prepared to make a yearlong commitment to creating a successful podcast.
“About 50 percent of podcasters who start will quit when they hit episode seven,” says Cochrane. “Then 50 percent of those remaining will quit by the time they hit episode 23. If they make it beyond the 25 episode show mark, they have a pretty good chance of lasting two years.”
He cautions that podcasting is work. You have to be passionate about the content, enough to speak about it for hours on end. If you don’t have enough content to carry you past episode seven, podcasting is probably not the medium for you.
Passion won’t help if you don’t follow a rigid publishing schedule. Listening might be on demand, but your audience builds your show into their life. They want you to drop an episode at a prescribed time.
“People begin to expect that. If you don’t deliver, they’ll go somewhere else,” says Price. “They’ll give up on it if they can’t find it. With the tools available, there’s no excuse for you not to deliver at the same time. You can schedule podcasts weeks in advance.”
Focus on the audience
Catering to your audience is essential for long-term success. They demand consistency and expect to be the center of your universe.
“If there’s one thing the BBC drilled into me, it was how to address your audience,” says James Lush, a former radio broadcaster who co-hosts the Brand Newsroom podcast and produces many more. “No matter how many people tune in to your show, you can’t address a crowd in your podcast. Speak as if you were talking to one person. That’s the secret to making every listener feel like you’re speaking directly to them.”
Avoid the perfection trap
The goal for your podcast should be authenticity, not perfection. Recording a 20-minute podcast is much faster than writing a long blog post, but newcomers to the medium often make extra work for themselves by trying to edit out every “um” and “ah.” Focus on the content and be confident your audience prefers to listen to a real person, not a highly edited humanbot.
If you want to improve your performance, Cochrane has a novel approach to making you a better podcaster. He advises, “Run a video camera while you’re doing your show; it makes you think you’re actually live, which in turn makes you prepare better. You can’t fix video.”
Don’t get wrapped up in numbers
Podcasting is not a quick medium. Too often podcasters expect huge listening numbers without taking time to build an audience. According to Cochran, the average podcast in the US has between 3,000 and 5,000 listeners, and that audience usually takes months or years to build.
It’s an open secret podcasters lie about their show traffic but it’s not easy to pin down listener numbers. Each podcast hosting company reports statistics differently. iTunes, the channel with the most listeners, gives very little information about traffic. Subscribers download individual episodes they never listen to. A single listener can download the same episode on different devices and still not listen to any of them.
Cochrane provides insight to help new podcasters understand whether they’re building an audience. “Download numbers are part of a bigger picture,” he says. “The secret sauce is in the trend line.”
An active audience will show itself in the trend line of downloads and plays over a 90-day period. Determine how your podcast is doing by keeping an eye on a long-term trend. Don’t spend too much time delving into short-term analytics. Your time is better spent on preparing a great topic for your next episode.
Do you have what it takes to go the distance?
As consumers hook into popular radio programs converted to podcasts, like Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing, or discover original programming like Serial, they begin to look for other opportunities to ‘program’ the time they spend listening to audio. If your target audience spends a significant time commuting, either driving or on public transport, podcasting is worth investigating. This is especially true if the people you’re trying to reach have higher levels of education or income.
Before you jump in to this burgeoning medium, consider whether you have enough content to get past the 7th episode and beyond the 25th. Are you able to spend all day talking about your topic? Do you have a habit of reading and writing about the subjects you would discuss on your intended podcast? If so, now is a good time to get in front of the podcasting trend before the field is crowded and cut-through becomes difficult. What are you waiting for?
Support your podcast with multiple content types
One of the drawbacks to audio content is there’s nothing for Google to grab to help your search engine rankings. Newcomers to the medium need a strategy to earn search results. The most successful podcasters use a variety of techniques to establish an online presence for their show.
- Quality show notes help new listeners find you when searching topics related to your show or a specific episode. You can post these as part of an existing blog or create a dedicated website for your podcast.
- Transcribing your podcast and posting it online is another great way to attract organic search results. Use transcription software like Speechpad or Dragon to alleviate the burden of doing it yourself.
- Create a complementary blog post on the same topic and include an audio player of the episode in the body of your post.
- Set up a Facebook page for your podcast and post each new episode along with a keyword-packed synopsis.
- Use your LinkedIn company page (or create a page specifically for your podcast) to promote new episodes.
- Make sure to post your episodes on Google+ using major keywords as hashtags in the description.
- Set up a Twitter feed for your show. Include a photo for each episode in your tweets to improve engagement. Don’t be shy about retweeting your episodes as your podcast grows.
- Offer relevant podcast episodes to conference organizers and networking meeting planners to help them promote their events. Everyone loves free content.
- Ask your guests to promote their appearance on your show in their networks.
Another strategy for SEO is also good for audience discovery. List your podcast in as many directories as possible. In addition to iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn and SoundCloud, there’s no end to smaller directories where you can list your show. Google “podcast directories” and get started.
Image Credit: Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute