Picture: Pexels
Picture: Pexels

There’s nothing new about podcasting – it’s just a new name for what was called “audio blogging” in the 1980s.

But what is new is the phenomenal pace of this medium’s growth in recent years. It has been fuelled – like so many innovations on the continent – by the rapid development and adoption of mobile technology, better and broader internet access and, more recently, the overload of available content and more “downtime” caused by the pandemic.  

I love podcasting as a tool for growing SMME businesses for several reasons.

First, there’s the obvious – you can use the podcast to establish your company, make important connections and grow your audience.

Second, and for me importantly, while podcasts are accessible to a huge pool of potential customers regardless of their geographic location, the fact that the more successful podcasts are those that are exceptionally niche and geeky means that they give you the opportunity to connect with people who are going to be 100% interested in what you have to say.

Think about it. You are passionate about fly-fishing and want to focus on selling high-end, bespoke fly-fishing gear. The traditional media reach big audiences, but they can’t guarantee that people who are serious about fly-fishing will be listening. If you ran a really gnarly podcast about all things fly-fishing, you’d be sure to have every one of those seven (just joking) tuning in.

Most brands are already using social media to interact and converse with customers and build a personality for their brand, service or company. A podcast is an extension of that – another way to continue that conversation, but in a long-form format, and to ensure potential customers associate a name and a voice with that product or company.

Sticking with the fly-fishing theme, traditional media will tend to position a corporate spokesperson as a salesperson hoping to lure people into buying a rod or two. A podcast presenter, on the other hand, is positioned as a passionate professional who is there to provide listeners with information and resources.

The final reason I love podcasting as a tool is that traditional media requires people to have some expertise to make an ad, buy ad space and see that it runs. With podcasting there’s no barrier to entry; you can do it yourself or enlist the help of your 12-year-old, and you don’t need fancy equipment. In the lowest-tech example, you need some hardware, some software and a distribution channel.

A smart phone with a working mike – hardware – tick. (By the way, you can also record on your laptop or using Zoom, for example.) Free editing software like Audacity – software – tick. Spotify’s Anchor – distribution channel – tick.

Come on! If you’re the lady who sells dog food in the parking lot next to the favourite dog walking beach, start a podcast. If you’re that guy who wants to import and sell that crazy new off-road running shoe, start a podcast. If you’re the husband-and-wife team keen to distribute high-end baking equipment, start a podcast!

Here are my top five tips to get started:

1.  Make it specific – if your topic is for everyone, basically it is for no-one. “River Fishing in the Western Cape” beats out “Fishing in SA” as a podcast topic.

2.  Develop a long-term strategy for content for so you don’t run out of ideas, and do this before you record your first podcast. Visit www.answerthepublic.com for some help. All you need to do is type in your topic and it will give you all the questions people are asking about it.

3.  Be consistent and don’t worry about frequency; it doesn’t have to be weekly, and especially don’t do five and stop, or 10 and stop, because the algorithm will punish you.

4.  Don’t use music, except for 10 to 15 seconds. It’s copyrighted and the record labels will flag you and shut you down.

5.  Consider what you want from your hosting channel before signing. My preference is Anchor (as it belongs to Spotify it probably is here to stay) but it allows you to share widely to other platforms. There are pros and cons. The good bit is it is very user friendly and totally free. The bad bit is it owns your chain of monetisation (kind of like YouTube); but you can get off, for free, whenever you want to. There are also great affordable pay platforms like Libsyn, Buzzsprout and Podbean, but they are less easy to use.

*Jon Savage is a director at InBroadcasting, a division of HaveYouHeard specialising in innovations in broadcasting, content strategy and media technology.

The big take-out:

Podcasting is an ideal and cost-effective mechanism to grow SMME businesses.

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