Meagan KellyCopywriter

Categories

industry

To Podcast or Not to Podcast? Here’s What to Consider.

It seems like everyone has a podcast these days – and why not? Aren’t they a great way to share your opinions on niche topics and connect with people via shared interests? Sure, but while they might seem like the hottest trend right now, the truth is, podcasts don’t make sense for everyone – especially not every business.

So, how do you know if a podcast is right for your business or brand? Here are a few things to consider.

Review your content strategy

Step one? Have a solid, thought-out content strategy for your organization. This will give you a clear picture of your objectives and overarching business goals. Within this strategy you should identify core content pillars to act as a map for every piece of content you create. They may lead you to a podcast, or they may not – and that’s okay. Sometimes, the most valuable part of considering a podcast is knowing when it won’t work.

Consider who listens to podcasts

The popularity of audio content, whether it’s live audio like Clubhouse or pre-recorded audio like podcasts, has continued to grow as more people embrace the medium. Last year, more than 11 million adult Canadians listened to a podcast, with eight million listening once a month. Nearly half of those monthly listeners are in what’s considered the “hard to reach” category, ages 18 to 34. 

Another interesting note is urban centres tend to have higher listening rates than other spots across the country, with British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario having the most listeners. Knowing the main audience of podcasts is crucial when deciding if it’s the right avenue for you. If your target audience is over 50, it may not be an effective tool for what you’re trying to accomplish. Alternatively, if your typical consumer is 25 to 35 and spends at least an hour a day commuting, then you may have a golden opportunity to take advantage of that time. 

Ask yourself a lot of questions. (Like, a lot.)

When we’re considering launching a podcast for one of our clients – or any content stream for that matter – it’s our job to be strategic about the choices we make. And that means asking ourselves some key questions upfront:

  • How will this new format allow our client to grow their relationship with their audience? 
  • Is the content they offer suitable for an audio platform? 
  • Is there strategic value in reaching their audience this way, or is another format better suited? 
  • And, most importantly, is the content valuable enough to bring listeners back for more? 

To answer these questions, we first identify the basics, like whether the audience even listens to podcasts, and what our foremost goal is. In other words, it always comes back to strategy.

If you’re flying blind and hoping your podcast lands in the right hands (or on the right ears), then it’s probably not worth your time and resources. Look at your strategy and see what types of content you can produce to match your pillars and goals. Maybe that leads you to publishing a year’s worth of episodes, or maybe it’s something more limited. As mentioned, it all starts with aligning your content to a singular purpose determined by your strategy. 

Our success with CREA REAL TIME

We helped the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) launch its REAL TIME podcast in March 2020, after the success of its national speaking series of the same name. CREA’s members showed a clear desire for more insightful content relating to the real estate industry. Knowing we had an already-eager and willing audience, we saw immense value in taking the next logical step and turning the speaking series into a podcast. 

For REAL TIME, we provide strategic recommendations within a detailed content strategy – suggesting the flow of content and monthly episodes – to create a podcast REALTORS® can use not only for themselves as industry professionals, but to share with clients as a resource for home buying, designing, and selling. Since launching REAL TIME 14 months ago, there have been more than 12,800 total downloads and listens, with more than 27,000 website sessions for https://www.crea.ca/podcast. We also won a Summit International Emerging Media Award for REAL TIME, which celebrates campaigns that leverage new media types and technologies for a return on investment.

So, to podcast or not to podcast?

We see audio content as an extremely valuable tool, especially as the number of podcast listeners steadily increases. While it takes a lot of planning, recording audio for a podcast can be done relatively easily compared to video, photoshoots, or any other type of visual media. Plus, depending on the nature of your podcast, it can be evergreen content your business can use for a long time, which is always a valuable asset to have in your pocket. 

So, should your business start a podcast? That’s an answer we can’t give you (well, not without knowing your goals). Podcasts need to be about more than just recording a conversation and posting it to the internet. They need to serve your content strategy, make sense given your audience, and ultimately accomplish a business goal. If a podcast can help you achieve all of that, then great! If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of content streams available, and with a little research and testing, we’re confident you can find the right fit.

Thinking about planning a podcast? We’d be happy to lend a hand. Get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.

Meagan KellyCopywriter

Meagan KellyCopywriter

Categories

culture - industry

Leading an Effective Creative Brainstorm with Your Team

Running a creative brainstorm is no small task. It’s the starting point for your entire project. A strong brainstorm can lead to a strong result. A weak brainstorm can lead to…well, you get the idea.

At Alphabet®, we’ve learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to brainstorming, which help our team stay motivated and confident. Here are some guidelines you might find useful when leading your next brainstorm.

Have a moderator. 
A brainstorm should be casual, but that doesn’t mean unstructured. We use a moderator to keep everyone on task without stifling the back-and-forth that often spawns great ideas. A moderator can help push ideas further and get the most from everyone in the room. Oh, and they should be in charge of taking the notes, too – nothing’s worse than ending a brainstorm with everyone assuming someone else was keeping track!

Establish context and guidelines. 
What do we need? What’s not going to fly? Where will this be seen? Whoever is leading the brainstorm should send a brief or some general context and guidelines to everyone involved at least three days in advance. You want people to start thinking about ideas ahead of time so the juices flow when the meeting rolls around. Bring these guidelines to the meeting to ensure everyone’s staying on target. Having an open creative discussion is key when brainstorming, but we can all agree they have a tendency to veer off track. Establishing parameters focuses creativity in the right direction. 

Know that there are no bad ideas.
Okay, maybe there are some bad ideas. But a brainstorm isn’t about discerning the good from the bad; it’s just about getting every idea on a page, whiteboard, or Zoom chat. You want everyone in a brainstorm to feel like they have free reign to say whatever pops into their head. There’s no judgement, no strange looks. Oftentimes, our brains can cling to an idea without letting it go until we’ve vocalized it. Encouraging the free-flow of ideas can help your team clear their heads and make space for new thinking.

Tip: a fun, productive exercise can be to dedicate 5-10 minutes of a brainstorm to wild ideas. It’ll perk up the energy in the room, free up headspace, and potentially spark an idea elsewhere.

Think about the psychology of creativity. 
Alphabet® isn’t a psychology practice, but we do find value in looking at why and how people think. Everyone has creative biases, so we do what we can to pick those apart and approach every project with neutral minds. For yourself, try to find existing patterns of recognition and storytelling to give people something to latch onto. How can you make something familiar and turn it into something new, but still keep it familiar enough that people will connect with it?

Encourage and foster conversation. 
Group settings can be overwhelming for some. Introverts, people with different skill sets, or newer employees may find it hard to speak up in a room (physical or virtual). Encouraging conversation doesn’t mean forcing people to talk; it means keeping the energy high and creating the right environment for people to want to participate. Encouragement doesn’t have to be singling people out, either; it can mean talking about every idea that’s shared so that others know their voices will be heard. 

To help with participation, open a shared Google Doc and ask people to contribute before the meeting. Then, speak to those contributions during the official brainstorm. The less-inclined will have an opportunity to share their two cents without fear of judgement, which in turn will make them more open to participating.

A big part of leading a creative brainstorm is just knowing how your team works. As the leader, you need to be perceptive to your employees’ mood and know when to motivate, pivot, and assist as needed.

At Alphabet®, we love bringing unique minds together to create new ideas. If you want to see what we can do, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help with your creative, digital, and strategic needs.

Meagan KellyCopywriter

Meagan KellyCopywriter

Categories

digital marketing - industry

Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter, and Co: The Social Audio Wars are Heating Up

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the name Clubhouse being tossed around in marketing circles. It seems to have evolved from a shiny new trend to a bonafide disruptor, triggering tech giants like Facebook and Twitter to ramp up their own social audio offerings.

So, what is audio social media? And why it is making noise (pun intended) in the marketing world?

Audio Killed the Video Star
Platforms like Clubhouse, Discord, and Twitter Spaces are revolutionizing the way brands and people can connect. They allow for a host to start a discourse on any topic and for listeners to chime in with their own voice and opinion. Moreover, they don’t have video components, which means you can participate while lounging in your sweatpants with your eyes closed. An enticing option for a generation saturated by video.

We’ve all been on one too many Zoom calls at this point. A researcher at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Jeremy Bailenson, identified four main reasons why “Zoom fatigue” might be fueling interest in social audio apps: constant eye contact; self-criticism from seeing yourself on camera; being stationary all day; and the general cognitive energy required for a video call. In short, video conferences are draining.

With that in mind, the appeal of audio social media makes sense. As Bailenson puts it, “Just because you can use video, doesn’t mean you have to.”

So who are the major players in audio social media?

Clubhouse

Clubhouse is the widely known player, currently invite-only. Anyone with an account can start a “room” about any topic, then invite others to listen in. If you want to share your thoughts, you can use the “raise your hand” feature and the room’s moderator can invite you to the virtual stage. But make sure to take notes; Clubhouse rooms aren’t recorded. A brave dynamic in our modern on-demand world. It’s important to mark your calendar if there’s content you don’t want to miss from a creator you follow.

Interestingly, despite being the biggest player in audio social media right now, Clubhouse’s growth rate has started to decline, according to eMarketer. This leaves opportunity for other platforms to break through, platforms with the resources to scale rapidly. Platforms like Discord.

Discord

Originally created for gamers to build communities and share messages, Discord lets users create “servers” with chats, voice channels, and the ability to share videos, images, links, etc. Each server can have channels for different topics (like an informal version of Slack). Whereas Clubhouse is an app dedicated to audio, Discord is a communication app with audio features; however, Discord recently launched a feature that directly competes with Clubhouse, stage channels, which “allow you to share a focused conversation with select individuals to an audience of listeners.” To boot, participants can raise their hands to speak and a moderator can give them the floor. Sound familiar? 

Twitter

Then there’s Twitter Spaces. Currently, few people have the ability to actually create a Space, but anyone can listen in. That said, only hosts can choose who speaks. Hosts can also name and describe their Spaces to help the public navigate content.

If Clubhouse is more for business, and Discord is more for socializing, it’s hard to say where Spaces will land—which means it might be the perfect time for someone to claim it.

Discord and Twitter are clearly trying to keep up with Clubhouse, evidenced by how Twitter looked into buying Clubhouse for $4 billion, and the fact that both Discord and Twitter have designed their audio social media features to mimic those of Clubhouse. Even Spotify is trying to get in the game, purchasing the app Locker Room—a social audio network for sports fans. Spotify says it’s planning to “expand Locker Room into an enhanced live audio experience,” which will include giving “professional athletes, writers, musicians, songwriters, podcasters, and other global voices opportunities to host real-time discussions, debates, ask me anything (AMA) sessions, and more.”

Facebook
Of course, where there’s a trend picking up steam, there’s Facebook looking to get in on the action. Facebook recently tested its own social audio offering, Hotline, a web app that lets users host a live video discussion. Being touted as an extension of Instagram live, Hotline is served as a video but attendees can chime in via chat or raise their hand to participate through voice.

How can brands leverage audio apps and features like Clubhouse, Discord, and Twitter Spaces? 
It’s an interesting question, though a bit like asking “how can we predict the future?” These apps are so new, it’s hard to determine how they’ll shape up for bigger marketing purposes. That said, there are things we know about audiences and engagement that are evergreen, such as consistency of posting, relevancy, and the timeliness of content. We can use these insights to make an educated guess on how to best capitalize on audio social media.

Capitalize on FOMO
Everyone has FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Limited-time offers, flash sales, and the overall scarcity principle are tried and true marketing tactics, and there’s no reason we can’t take them into audio platforms. Since Clubhouse rooms can’t be recorded, sharing news, contests, or just really good content on the platform can be a great way to generate hype and make your discussions a can’t-miss event. 

Sponsor Rooms and Conversations
Even if no one from your company wants to get up and talk for an hour, there are ways your brand can be at the forefront of the conversation. Sponsoring a Clubhouse room, or starting a Twitter Space from your account and having a celebrity or expert lead the session, can align your brand with content people believe in and want to see more of. You could also create your own server or Stage channel on Discord, giving your audience a place to chat and share content.

Focus Groups and Social Listening
Actively listen to audio social media to hear what consumers want. They may not be telling you directly, but you can join rooms about your industry, listen to topics related to your brand, and find out what people are talking about. You can also be more specific and run a focus group, inviting people who already follow your brand—and even those who don’t—to attend a town hall-type session. This can give you direct access to feedback from your audience, which is never a bad thing. 

Put in the Work 
These social audio apps require effort—period. You can’t just record five episodes in a day and use that content for the next five months. You need to be actively engaged and set aside time to produce content. It’s never a bad thing to explore new marketing avenues right? If they work, great! You just found a new way to engage your audience. If they don’t, at least you positioned yourself as a brand that’s being proactive.

The Takeaway
It’s important to remember that social audio isn’t here to replace podcasts—at least not yet. Podcasts are still an incredibly valuable storytelling tool and have an important place in marketing and content strategies. Social audio can be seen as an extension or an entirely new medium all together.

With giants like Facebook and Twitter getting in on the action, it’s clear that audio social media is here to stay. It strips away the formality of video-conferencing in favour of candid conversations with little production value. Clubhouse might be the market leader, for now, but stiff competition from larger providers with more resources, like Discord, could signal a swift end for the popular start-up.

It’s still too early to tell who will dominate the space, but brands should listen in to see if social audio is a worthwhile investment. Afterall, a new way of communicating is yet another tool for marketers. And at the rate this one’s being adopted, that’s a good thing.

Meagan KellyCopywriter