Podcasting’s Quiet Power

Last week I participated in a B-to-B magazine webcast about social media marketing. Editor-in-chief Ellis Booker kicked things off by asking the audience which Web 2.0 applications they were using. To my surprise, podcasts came out on top, narrowly beating out blogs. In fact, some 60% of the b-to-b marketers in attendance said they’re using podcasts in some capacity.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Podcasts are one of the most useful and least appreciated social media tools. They were the subject of intense interest in 2006, but podcasting’s popularity was eclipsed by the arrival of sexier technology like YouTube video. But they’ve quietly built a head of steam in b-to-b markets in particular that can’t be denied.

Emarketer reported early this year that the audience of active podcast listeners will grow from 10 million this year to 25 million in 2012. More importantly, the demographics are compelling. The research revealed that twice as many podcast listeners have advanced degrees as non-listeners and that podcast users are twice as likely to have incomes over $100,000.

Search engine Podnova lists 90,000 podcast programs in its directory and Podcast Alley lists more than 37,000. More important than the numbers, however, is the names of businesses that are using the medium for point purposes. They include General Motors, Purina, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Kodak, Wells Fargo and many others. Nearly every major information technology companies is now using podcasts in some capacity.

Why is this channel so popular? In my opinion, it’s all about time-efficiency. Podcasts are talk radio for your portable media device. People can download educational and informational programs and listen to them when they want. This may not be all that exciting in the consumer world, but for busy corporate executives, podcasts are a godsend.

Last year, I worked with a client that was launching a social network for chief information officers (CIOs). In the course of our research, we spoke to many CIOs about their information needs. Almost everyone we interviewed was a regular podcast listener. The reason? CIOs are busy people with voracious appetites for information. They need to learn constantly, and podcasts are a way for them to absorb information when they’re commuting, flying, mowing the lawn or disconnected in some other way.

This doesn’t mean podcasting is a no-brainer for snagging CIOs. Good podcasts are scripted, tightly edited and optimized for the target listener. I’ve produced more than 150 podcasts over the last three years and have learned that listeners have little tolerance for irrelevant chatter and marketing messages. They want useful content and they’re quick to tune out when they don’t get it.

If you’re a b-to-b marketer, you should be looking seriously at podcasting. As my B-to-B webcast experience demonstrated, your competitors are already there. This is one of our core areas of expertise. Let me know if we can help.

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