This guest post is an excerpt of chapter one from the forthcoming book Podcasting for Small Business by Ray Sidney-Smith and Steve Orr.
To podcast, or not to podcast? With apologies to Shakespeare, many small businesses are asking themselves that question in today’s digital world. Some wonder if it’s worth the time, effort and money to produce a podcast when no one knows for sure how many people would listen.
But people are listening as the popularity of podcasts continues to grow. The Edison Research Infinite Dial 2023 shows nearly two-thirds of Americans over the age of 12 have ever listened to a podcast. That’s an estimated 183 million of us.
The report also finds roughly one-third—an estimated 90 million Americans—say they’ve listened to a podcast in the last week. That’s an all-time high. And they’re listening to a record average of nine podcasts weekly.
No doubt many of them are business podcasts. Edison Research says business was the sixth most popular genre from 2022’s fourth quarter to 2023’s first quarter.
As you think about making the podcast plunge for your Small Business, consider the following benefits:
Business owners in the Digital Age need to appeal to two audiences: humans and Google (and other search engines). Before we consider the human element, you must first understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is simply a technique to make your website better and improve your search engine rankings. Among other things, the goal is to help increase your visibility, website traffic and generate customer leads.
The content you create also gives you credibility when someone finds you via Google. It’s an opportunity to “meet” and “get to know” you before they actually meet you.
This is precisely what makes podcasting so versatile and effective. The podcast’s audio content is almost purely for human consumption, while the text elements published for Google and podcast directories help your audience find you, even if they don’t listen to podcasts.
That can mean a global audience. But don’t discount the power of podcasting for local Web traffic, even if you believe your Small Business only needs to be known in your local community. Remember, too, that optimizing your website for local search growth is more powerful when you have multimedia associated with it. Google favors audio and video in this way.
So, if you add a podcast to your website and to the various places Google searches for local business content, you can compete in a way your competition likely is not.
A podcast is an extension of your business’s branding efforts. After all, you have a website, don’t you? And no doubt you use a variety of social media channels to tell your organization’s story and build your fan base, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. A podcast gives you an opportunity to reach people through even more platforms, such as the listening apps Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, and even YouTube.
A podcast also allows greater depth, whether you’re talking about key issues or launching new products. A bonus: You can turn the interviews you conduct during your podcast into social media content or blog posts for your website, or any other site that can boost your organization’s visibility.
Podcasts give you control over positioning your business and its executives as thought leaders in their field. You can design the podcast to show off you or your staff’s expertise and become a trusted source among an interested audience. But remember to put your audience and their needs first. You’ll attract and keep listeners when you focus on content that will educate, engage and entertain them.
At the same time, having a podcast might make it easier when you pitch the media. Reporters are always looking for experts who can explain issues in a clear and concise manner. Don’t hesitate to point to your podcast as proof you’re the right business and have the right expert(s) to interview. Reporters would rather talk to a “known quantity” than take a risk on someone with the right credentials but who’s a horrible speaker.
One of podcasting’s greatest appeals is its intimacy. Remember most people listen on their mobile devices with their earbuds, meaning it’s a true one-on-one event. Distractions are less likely, giving your Small Business a better chance to connect with your audience. Your listeners want that connection, too. Three-quarters of those surveyed in the Infinite Dial 2019 said they enjoyed listening to podcasts for particular hosts.
Also, think of a podcast as “radio on demand.” Unlike radio, listeners who download a podcast episode can hear the program anytime, anywhere and as often as they want from start to finish. That can be an advantage for both your Small Business and for potential advertisers.
Another advantage is the relationship you can develop with your show guests. That can be on a business or personal level. Or you can be a guest on their podcast if they have one, giving you and your business even more exposure.
Finally, have some fun with it as you build a community around your podcast. You could tape podcast episodes live in front of an audience. Or ask your podcast listeners to suggest topics and guests for future episodes. Make the experience as interactive as you can by integrating social media, contests and swag. This can build loyalty and goodwill. What business doesn’t want that!