To connect with customers in the digital age, brands are willing to use all kinds of avenues. Social media tops the list right now, but what ever happened to podcasts?
According to an Edison Research report on podcast consumers, the percentage of people listening to podcasts grew 163 percent from 2006 to 2012.
While some big brands are using podcasts to offer customers “on demand” information and entertainment, others have moved away from the space. Charles Schwab posts updates every weekday to keep up with financial news.
But it’s not always the big brands that get listeners. Of the top iTunes podcasts, the only major companies that stand out are content providers like ESPN and Comedy Central. On the other hand, a relatively obscure history podcast, Hardcore History, gets one million downloads per episode, some of which are three hours long. Traditional broadcasters like NPR and the BBC also rank in the top 200, but again, these are content-focused businesses. So why are podcasts still appealing for brands? Marketer Linda Arroz says there are several reasons.
Inexpensive to launch
Some marketing efforts are full of risks and big upfront investments, but that’s not the case with a podcast. Anyone with a computer and a little Internet intelligence can record and upload a podcast.
All a brand needs to start a podcast is a computer and a USB microphone. Free audio editing software like GarageBand for Macs and Audacity for PCs also helps keep costs low. Adobe Audition is software that helps improve sound quality and runs $20 per month. If a brand has additional needs for hosting and storing content, BuzzSprout is a good free choice.
Depending on the brand, advertising within the podcast is also an option. Stumping for other noncompetitive companies and products can bring in additional dollars, which in turn can defray the cost of podcast production.
The biggest cost, however, is likely to be the talent. Large brands may choose to seek out well-known hosts and high-powered guests, but that’s not an option for every business. On the other hand, companies that focus on highly specific fields, like trade unions, have a leg up in this regard; specialists in narrow verticals may be more accessible for interviews.
Convenient for customers
Living in an “on demand” world, consumers seek out media that fits their interests and access it whenever they please. Podcasts fit this model very well. Whether a person is driving to work or riding the train, podcasts are easily accessible and passively consumed.
In addition to convenience, there’s also strong evidence of demand for certain podcasts. The design-focused show 99% Invisible even raised over $370,000 in a Kickstarter campaign for its fourth season, money it will use to build up its staff and offices.
Accessible and easily distributed
Once they’ve created the content, how do brands get people to listen? iTunes is the best starting place, where customers have subscribed to more than a billion podcasts since 2005, when podcasts first became available.
Of course, just because people flock to iTunes doesn’t mean a podcast will be an instant hit. Having the bandwith to sustain cross-promotion on a website and social media channels is a key ingredient, as is the metadata section on iTunes, which improves search results. iTunes features quality, intriguing podcasts, on its New and Noteworthy Podcasts list, which will draw also draw attention to the content.
Find the right audience
With a podcast, slow and steady growth is likely. But that’s okay, Arroz says, because it’s important to attract the right kind of audience. Anyone can “Like” a Facebook page or follow a brand on Twitter, but if someone takes the time to listen to a podcast, it’s a clear sign that there’s an interested customer at the other end.
Overall, podcasts aren’t for every company. According to research by Dubai-based Sekari, a content marketing agency, marketers spend the least time producing podcasts, as compared to other content like articles, videos, press releases, and infographics. However, if certain criteria are met, podcasts can be a powerful marketing tool. Niche markets are prime territory for podcast conquest, as are fields that have rapidly-changing landscapes and require frequent updates, such as financial services. Paired with low start costs and an easy distribution system, podcasts are an affordable marketing tool brands can test out.
Does your business have a podcast? If so, what benefits do you see? Share your answers in the comment section below.