Hear me out: Podcasting is a medium worth investing in

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Social Chain shed some light on podcasting so that marketers can decide whether it's right for them.

Podcasts are growing; 'we’re all going to make millions, get on it, quick!' This seems to be the general consensus at the minute.

Now, I can understand the excitement, I’m excited too. A passionate, engaged audience, an intimate environment, niche targeting opportunities; it’s hard not to be interested. So, it’s absolutely no surprise that 75% of brands expect to spend big in the podcast realm this year.

How you do it is the important thing. Fundamentally, you have two options - either to advertise in the space or make your own branded podcast.

Now, when they’re done right, I’m a massive fan of both. But, there are a million articles at the minute talking about the former, so let’s concentrate on the latter and question how you can create your own podcast successfully.

Podcasting is an amazing opportunity to spend some serious, one-on-one time with a consumer or potential customer. Where they have actively sought you out and are happy to spend the best part of an hour with you. Can any other medium get anywhere close to that level of engagement? Can your best salesperson hold a customer’s attention that long and leave them in love with your brand? No, no they can’t.

This is your chance to tell a story that reflects your brand's values, changes perceptions, illustrates work (with a charity for example), or highlights your products and services to a captive audience. But at its core, it needs to have heart. It should give human insight, tug at our heartstrings, relate to our personal experiences, give us a fresh perception, pique our curiosity, or scare the living crap out of us. Whatever it does, it needs to hit the listener right in the feels and mine some of that glorious bonding glue we call oxytocin. Every single decision we make is an emotional one. And if you can add emotional currency to your brand, then that is undoubtedly going to drive consideration and purchase intent. Making it well worth the investment in time and money.

And you will need to spend money. You need to get your podcast out there at scale, otherwise, what’s the point? To that end, you should consider your promotional strategy as much as you consider your podcast content. As a guide, you should be spending at least three times more on promotion than you do on production. To make a quality podcast, you should be spending a decent amount on production. There's no justifying room noise and distortion, rambling on about nothing or unoriginal content; listeners expect more.

This will sound all too familiar to you

“We’ve got this AMAAAZING idea for a podcast! Me and my friends, Julie and Pete, are going to sit around a kitchen table, open a couple of bottles of wine and talk about all the things that piss us off in life. And we’re middle class, so we’ll call it ‘Thirst World Problems', it’s going to be hilarious!”

Christ! You’d be amazed how many times I hear this sort of idea from people. But the scary thing is that brands say similar things and attempt it... and undoubtedly, fail. The problem here is the perception that anybody can make a podcast. You stick a mic in front of your face and press record... easy isn’t it? Few stop to think, “What’s the point of this, why would anybody listen to this?” “What’s the listener experience going to be like?”, “Is this any different to other podcasts out there?”

Now, given the right equipment, treatment, structure, guests and stories, the above could actually work as an idea. But that’s a lot of stuff to think about and get right.

Promotion; How are you going to let people know it exists?

“We have a strong brand and our customers love us, that’s how!”

If your brand awareness is good and you have a huge social following then it’s certainly helpful, but if you’re expecting big numbers from that alone, you’ll likely be disappointed.

The thing that brought me to Social Chain was the ability to make use of our huge social network to promote the podcasts we make for clients and our own brands through the immediate, snackable, and visual power of social which can be used to promote the emotive, soul-nourishing, intimate, imagination-sparking power of audio. Our strategy director describes this combo as burgers (social) and broccoli (podcasts), which I love. In life and in comms strategy, we all need a bit of both. So, remember to add a side of quarter pounder to your plate of broccoli. Or if I’ve completely lost you here, do a load of social to promote your podcast.

Now, I can’t reveal our Big Mac sauce recipe, but I can tell you that our soon-to-be released insight piece into podcasting tells us that 55% of respondents hear about new podcasts via social media ads and 38% discover them from an influencer. So, omitting this vital part of your podcast roll-out wouldn’t be wise. However, it does mean you’ll need a video team to film, edit, and cut into shareable durations.

By now, you’re probably thinking one of two things.

“This all sounds amazing. I get to spend quality one-on-one time with my consumers and potential ones, bring to life our product and brand vision, build our emotional currency and drive consideration. And I get to create shareable video content to spark engagement across all our social channels!” If so, great, go for it!

However if you're thinking “Oh. I didn’t realise it was quite so involved.. I'll take my £20 microphone back to Argos” - that’s ok. There are still lots of amazing sponsorship and advertising opportunities available, so you can still be relevant in this space.

Tom Whitlow, head of podcasting at Social Chain Media.

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