Compared to other forms of social media, podcasting has been around for quite a long time. This posting will be the first in a two part mini-series that will give an overview of podcasting, and how you can use it to develop your online business community. Podcasting first became popular in the mid-2000's, with the introduction of Apple's iPod, and other personal audio listening devices. The name combines both the "pod" from iPOD and "cast" from broadcast. However, it is not only consumed via iPOD's, and it is in no way a broadcast in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, podcasting combines the use of MP3 audio files, with the syndication and distribution capabilities of RSS feeds. This combination of technologies allows podcasters to create audio files that are automatically pushed to subscribers. Listeners subscribe to your feed by clicking on the RSS icon, which pulls up a feedpage where you can subscribe. They are downloaded either manually, or by using special "podcatcher" software, such as iTunes, Zune or even a generic RSS reader. When you sync your audio device with that software, it will automatically transfer the files to your device to listen to (depending on your settings of course).
Podcasting is a great way to connect with your target market in a familiar delivery medium, due to its similarity to radio talk shows. However, podcasts are “on demand” and can be consumed on their schedule using any device that plays an MP3, including iPOD's, Zunes, Tablets, and PC's. It can also be a powerful marketing tool if executed on a consistent basis, especially if your podcast provides valuable information to listeners. Publishing a podcast on a periodic basis will allow you to create a connection with potential customers, and they will feel they are getting to know you and your philosophy on business and industry. Building this trust with your target market is crucial for building your online community! People will be more likely to want to work with you, or recommend you to others, if you sound like you know what you are talking about. So how do you get started podcasting to grow your online community?
As with any marketing endeavor, it is important for you to plan out your podcasting efforts to ensure you make a positive impact with your customers. Your first step should be to connect your podcasting strategy, with your overall digital marketing strategy. This will allow you to determine what you want to communicate and who you want to communicate with. Do you want to share your expertise, discuss industry news, or have interviews with knowledgeable people on topics related to your business?
Once you determine your target audience and theme, you will want to consider what format you will use for your podcast. Some podcasts are short, with online the principle person speaking about topics of interest to their target market. Other formats may include interviews with industry leaders, tutorials, advice or even an online talk show format. By determining the format of your podcast, you will also be able to determine how long you want to have each episode be, as well as how often you will publish. Some of my favorite podcasts are short, 15 minute monologues with only one person speaking about a focused topic, while others I listen to are more like radio talk shows, where there are 1 or 2 hosts, who interview people for 30 to 45 minutes.
Obviously, it may be easier to publish a 5-10 minute monologue, as opposed to an interview based podcast, so you must keep this in mind when developing your plan. Of course, if you are producing an hour long interview show every week, this will be more difficult to complete than a shorter one on a daily basis. Before you decide, you may want to listen to other podcasts, and see how they approach their content and format. To get an idea of what other podcasters are doing, you can check out Blogtalkradio, which is a Podcast and social networking site that offers the ability to broadcast your own online radio show. Other similar podcast sites you can check out to see what others are doing includes PodBean.com, PodOmatic, and Libsyn.com.
After you have made some initial decisions on target audience, content, style and format, you should start considering the types of equipment you will need to start your new podcasting initiative. Often, you can obtain the software for little money, if not for free. This includes audio capturing software (which you most likely have on your computer), and some form of recording device, such as a microphone. If you have an iPhone or Android based phone, there are applications you can download to capture audio, and send to your PC for editing. Finally, if you are doing a long distance interview, you may want to use a tool like Skype to record your conversation, so you can both communicate and record digitally at the same time. The main point is to ensure that you can create files that are easily transferred to your computer to edit, if not already recorded to your hard drive. Once you get your audio files onto your computer, you can use a program like Audacity, which is a free and open source software program for editing audio on both MAC and Windows/PC based computers. There are many tutorials on how to use Audacity, so I suggest you check those out as well.
Of course if you want to take your podcasting to a higher level, you will need to obtain some higher end equipment and podcasting gear. A great option for the beginner podcaster is the Behringer PodcasStudio USB, which is a low cost "out of the box" solution, that comes with podcasting software, mics and a mixer, along with guides and tutorials. Another similar product is the Technical Pro PM-22 Podcast System (Silver), which also comes with software and hardware components. For information on this, you should check out the Podcast Answer Man website. For more information on podcast tools, you can check out the Podcasting Toolbox from Mashable, which has a list of 70+ tools for podcasting. You can see a more in-depth video on Podcasting on Common Craft, a website that has many great video tutorials. You may also want to read Podcasting for Dummies, Podcasting Bible , or Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Audio and Video Podcasting for step-by-step guides on creating your podcast. Or you can contact Aday Interactive for assistance on developing your podcasting strategy.