bizTips
What Blogs and Podcasts Can Do for You

    Just when you think you have all your marketing figured out, along come new technologies that revolutionize your company’s ability to promote itself. And while most people have heard of blogs and podcasts by now, few are taking full advantage of them.

    Remarkably, as little as two years ago, blogs and podcasts were viewed as nothing more than places for opinionated people to rant and rave or assert their viewpoint. But the tide has changed, and they’ve become some of the most explosive marketing vehicles available. Consider the facts: BusinessWeek reports that more than 40,000 new blogs are popping up every day. And in 2006, the number of podcast feeds exceeded the number of radio stations worldwide, according to the CIA World Factbook.

    What does all this mean for your business? Simply, that you have a wealth of marketing opportunities with little to no out-of-pocket expense required. Use the following suggestions to make the most of your blogging and podcasting efforts.

Blogs

    “Blog” is short for “web log.” They’re easy to use and are a great format for promoting businesses. Think of a blog as a mini-website that you post comments to on a regular basis. When done correctly, the information comes across as informational and less biased. Consider the following key points:

    • You get consumer feedback in an unfiltered environment. Sure, that can create some challenges. But if you get negative feedback, you can address it right away. In a sense, it’s often like an instant focus group. Being receptive to customer feedback positions your company as being accessible and interested in customer concerns. That’s a great selling point.

    • Since blogs are updated regularly, search engines like them—and display them at the top of the results. Construct your blog properly by using keywords. That way, when someone enters a particular term about your business into a search engine, your blog will come up naturally in the results. This not only helps promote your business but also helps position your company as a leader.

    • Blogs are almost like an online community. They’re a great way to talk about your company, its culture and any industry trends. They’re an easy forum for delivering information about new products or offers, and for building customer relationships. Likewise, if there were some sort of crisis occurring in the company, you can use a blog to get the facts out and address the situation quickly.

    • To make your blog more relevant and unbiased, reach out to people who’ll contribute to it. In other words, have employees, outside experts and even customers post entries. Be careful, though, as blogs make it easy for a disgruntled employee to post information that shouldn’t be public knowledge, such as proprietary information or trade secrets. If you let employees post entries, establish some control over the content.

    • Whatever you do, don’t create fake blog entries (where you pose as a customer or outsider and say wonderful things about the company). That approach usually backfires because people see through it.

    • You can find several inexpensive blogging services that can help you set up and maintain your blog.

Podcasts

    A podcast is essentially your own radio show on the Web. It’s similar to a blog, but you make your entry even more personal because you’re actually speaking, not just typing. Before you dismiss podcasts as something only kids listen to, take note: According to a comScore study, people between the ages of 35 and 54 make up about half the podcast listeners, and they’re more likely than average to download podcasts. This makes podcasts a great choice for small businesses, because they can help boost credibility and sales without much investment. Consider the following key points:

    • Think of a unique concept or angle for your show. Since this is essentially a radio show dedicated to your business, you’ll want to give information that relates to your industry or company that your listeners would find informative and entertaining. So if you’re a financial planner, for example, you could do a podcast about wealth or investment strategies. If you own a catering business, you could do segments about easy entertaining secrets. Address the challenges your customers have, and they’ll tune in.

    • Podcasts also let you appeal to niche audiences, because you can cover topics in depth. You can make your podcast any length (30 minutes to an hour is common), and you can address specific or even obscure topics that you know your customers will find interesting.

    • To create the podcast, all you need is recording/mixing software and a microphone. Both are installed on your computer, so there’s no need to go to a recording studio. With the software, you can edit your podcast, include music, insert commercials for your own products or even sell air space to others.

    • The beauty of podcasts is that people can listen over and over, whenever they want. All listeners need to tune in is an mp3 player. And according to recent surveys more than 65 million people worldwide have one.

    • By creating informative podcasts, you can quickly become a leader in your industry. Prospects and existing customers who listen to your podcast will likely think of you when they’re in need of what you offer.

    • Make it easy for people to find your podcast. You can do that by submitting it to different feed directories, such as FeedBurner or PodcastValley.

Blog and podcast your way to profits

    When it comes to blogs and podcasts, the key to success is to be informational. You need to give people lots of relevant information to keep them interested. Yes, maintaining a blog or doing a regular podcast takes time and discipline. But when you consider the amount of credibility and exposure you gain, no company can afford to do without these tools as a vital part of its online marketing mix.