In 2013, Apple announced that it had reached 1 billion podcast subscribers on iTunes, and by 2015, there were over 60,000 active podcasts available on the service. For what is essentially pre-recorded online radio, those are staggering statistics.

It hasn’t always been this way, either. Podcasting goes way back to the early days of the internet, but back then it was never particularly popular, no doubt because many believed it to be simply a digital take on an old fashioned medium.

Not so fast! The resurgence of podcasts has proved that this form of content is still utterly relevant in today’s fast paced digital society.

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Podcasts generally serve two purposes – they act as brilliant ways to spread news and advice on hobbies and general interest topics and, more recently, have been picked up by businesses looking to expand their content marketing efforts.

Today, we’re going to focus on the latter, and take a look at the basics of business podcasting. What is it exactly? Is it right for your business? How do you get started? Are there any potential banana skins one should avoid? And how on earth do you build a listener base with limited funds?

We’ll answer all of those questions and more, so grab your favourite beverage and prepare to learn about the benefits of audio-based marketing!

What is a podcast?

Podcasts are essentially pre-recorded internet radio. Varying in length from anything as short as ten minutes to two hours long, they usually focus on one particular skill, industry or hobby.

The Slinky podcast, Backlight, delves into the world of video production, digital and video marketing and has found its sweet spot in terms of content and length. “In my opinion, a business podcast should be around thirty minutes,” explains Slinky Managing Director, Scott Ledbury. “A lot of business people have limited time, and to have a podcast with hours of waffle (which some do), you’ll only put people off. Also, thirty minutes is ideal for commuters.”

Podcasts are usually downloaded from iTunes either manually or automatically, once a user subscribes to them. While you can technically listen to them on computers and tablets, they’re more at home on smartphones where they can be devoured on train journeys, during gym visits or while walking the dog.

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Why should businesses consider podcasting?

“The reason we use podcasting is to develop real world connections,” explains Scott. “We produce ours by heading out to interview people and feature their thoughts, advice and best practices on the podcast.”

Podcasts are often home to discussion panels on hobbies and leisure activities, but they have more recently made their way into the marketing strategies of businesses, charities and media organisations.

There are several reasons for this, but we’ve picked out four of the most important.

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1. Podcasting establishes you as a thought leader

When hosting a podcast, you’re immediately dealt a position of authority over your audience. They’re listening to you and want to hear yourthoughts on whatever topic you’re discussing. This enables companies to establish themselves firmly as thought leaders within their niche.

With thirty minutes of recorded audio, you can motivate, inspire, inform and separate yourself from the competition. It’s incredibly powerful.

2. Podcasting builds engagement with clients

The written word is powerful (you’re reading this post, after all), but nothing quite beats hearing a person’s voice.

On a podcast, you can convey a considerable amount of emotion and passion, which will win plenty of ears.

3. Podcasting should increase website traffic

The digital presence of your business is an interconnected, collaborative affair. The more great content you produce (and promote), the more likely you are to increase visibility of your website, and if you publish a podcast weekly or monthly that includes note of your web address, your traffic can potentially get a welcome boost over time.

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How can I get started with my own podcast?

So, we’ve tempted you to start a business podcast. Great! But where do you start, exactly? How does one get a content venture like this off the ground?

1. Don’t get ahead of yourself!

It may be tempting to simply pick up a microphone or your iPhone and start podcasting immediately, but planning is absolutely essential if you’re to make a success of it.

“To do get it right, it takes rather more work that you think!” reveals Scott. “Everything from researching and approaching guests to planning the questions, editing, sound mixing and the eventual publishing requires a fair deal of time.”

Start by deciding on a name for the podcast (something short and simple that people will remember and can easily type into a search engine), write a short summary of what it’s about (this will become the guiding light for every episode) and begin the exciting task of planning what you’ll talk about. Brainstorm some title ideas and keep them somewhere safe for future reference.

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2. Set a frequency and length for your podcast

The worst thing you can do is record a great first podcast and then never publish one again. To avoid this, set a frequency from the start.

Tell yourself you’ll record one every month, week or day – whatever frequency feels achievable.

Whatever frequency you pick – stick to it!

The same goes with the length. We strongly recommend thirty minutes, but if you feel your content would best suit short, snappy ten minute pieces or lengthy round table discussions – go for it. Just make sure each podcast adheres as closely as possible to that length.

3. Start creating great content

By now, you’ll have some shortlisted topic ideas, so it’s time to start delving into them further. Think about the goals your customers have, the questions they regularly ask and the solutions you have for their issues.

You’ll gradually begin to build some brilliant content ideas. Podcasts thrive on brilliant content – don’t hit ‘record’ until you’ve got plenty in the bag.

4. Invite some guests

You can podcast alone, but we wouldn’t recommend it. The best podcasts are those that feature discussions between two or more people. Debates can intensify, differences of opinion flourish and new ideas surface – the exact reasons podcasting exists.

Draft up a list of potential guests. These could be partners, industry experts or even customers. Approach them and ask if they fancy appearing on your forthcoming podcast, explaining that you’re looking to build a significant audience. All but the most publicity shy of people will likely jump up the chance, and once the guest ball starts rolling, it’s hard to stop it.

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5. Get the right gear

As Scott explains, you don’t have to go mad when starting out with business podcasting; “You simply need two microphones (one for the host, the other for the guest). In terms of recording devices, you can invest in laptop-based recording software, but even an iPhone can be used to capture and record the audio with the right microphone adaptor.”

If your podcast really takes off and you get hungry for better quality production, there are a huge number of options when it comes to gear. A decent laptop, Skype, USB microphone and audio editing suite such as Logic X will make for a powerful podcast recording and editing suite that will result in superb quality content.

Podcast Available on iTunes

6. Hosting Platform

“It isn’t advisable to host the podcast on your own platform” explains Scott. “Using a third party hosting service takes care of the all-important XML feeds and standards you need to adhere to in order to be accepted on the iTunes Podcast Store.”

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Things to avoid when podcasting

Podcasting is a little bit like blogging – you can experiment and have a bit of fun, but there are still one or two things you need to be wary of.

For example, if you decide to try and cut corners by producing countless podcasts that are simply rehashes of material you’ve heard elsewhere, you won’t win many listeners. Settling for dull, uninspiring content won’t work, either.

Podcasting, like any other form of content marketing, needs to be unique, engaging and completely original.

Similarly, while you can certainly let your hair down on podcasts to a degree, it should always be remembered that for the entire time you’re behind the mic, you’re the public voice of the company. Any ill-conceived jokes or material that oversteps the decency line, therefore, can do an awful lot of damage to the brand.

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How to find more listeners

Promoting podcasts is half the fun, but it isn’t easy. This stage requires time, effort and a great deal of patience.

Scott has some brilliant tips on how to find listeners: “Podcasts can be promoted through various channels, including your guests themselves and specialist interest groups whose themes your podcast episodes may touch on. I would advise transcribing your podcast, too, for publication on your website. This will make the content Google-friendly and searchable for anyone interested in the topic.”

Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to podcast promotion, too. Whenever you publish a new episode, share it across social networks on which your business has a presence. Use relevant tags and encourage employees and customers to share it, too. Word will soon get around.

Wrap up

Podcasting is a fascinating form of content marketing and one whose resurgence has caught many by surprise.

We hope we’ve tempted you to get into business podcasting, but if you need more inspiration, don’t forget to check out the Slinky podcast, Backlight, today!