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Small Business Guide to Podcasting

Podcasting, in essence, sends your own radio show over the Internet. Despite the name, your audience doesn't necessarily need an iPod to receive a podcast. They can listen to podcasts on a computer or on most MP3 players. Podcasting works by delivering online audio content via an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed.

Fortunately, you don't need to know much about RSS or audio files or even iPods to become a podcaster. Turnkey software and Internet resources make podcasting inexpensive, easy and accessible to all. There are three simple steps to creating your own business podcast: 1. Create an audio file. 2. Add your file to an RSS feed.

3. Post your podcast on your Web site and on podcast directory sites. Here are the steps for creating your own podcast: Record your podcast A computer microphone and some readily available software is all you need to get started.

Resources: Audacity is free software for audio and recording. Use a low-cost service like FeedForAll to create your RSS feed. To reach a wide audience, submit your podcast to iTunes or Podcast Alley. Reach your customers Regular, interesting podcasts can keep you in front of your clients. Tell them via email that your podcast is live and let them know that they can receive it automatically and listen any time. Resources: Ipodder, PodFeeder and Doppler deliver podcasts to subscribers at no charge to you or them.

Show your authority and expertise in your business Use of regular podcasts can promote your company's expertise and enhance your image as a thought leader in your field. But if you hope to be heard by the masses, you'll need to submit your podcast to directories. Resources: FeedBurner helps publicize and optimize your podcast to maximize distribution. Deliver content that's customized and flexible Your podcasts can feature product info or tutorials, interviews with executives, talk shows, commentaries, or other information designed to engage your customers.

Resources: For more ideas on how you can use podcasts, visit Podcasting Tools. Put a personal face on your business The very nature of podcasting is up-close and personal, allowing you to talk one-on-one with your customers. You can use your own voice, tone and passion to communicate your message.

Resources: Besides Audacity, Mixcraft software can help you record your podcast and sound more professional. Finally, here are a few more tips and tactics: - Be concise, relevant and on subject in each show. Most podcasts are six to seven minutes long, although some are more like traditional, 30-minute radio shows. - Use your podcast in conjunction with your blog. Both should be consistent with your brand.

- Avoid advertising in your podcast and stay away from a hard-sell approach. - Be consistent. Decide on a podcasting schedule and stick with it.

TV writer/producer Lou Bortone is "The Online Video Guy," who gives small businesses the tools for creating their own online video content. Lou helps individuals, businesses and non-profits produce compelling video blogs, podcasts and TV programs for the Internet. Be sure to visit http://www.theonlinevideoguy.com and pick up your FREE Special Report "7 Secrets to Boosting Your Business Using Online Video!"

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