The internet has provided countless creative ways to communicate and build a brand online over the last 20 years. Some have stood the test of time and evolved like the humble email newsletter whereas others have fallen by the wayside into irrelevance.
Creating content online today is easy. From a 280-character tweet on Twitter to a feature-length documentary on YouTube, whatever your skillset the internet has you covered. Twenty short years ago this was not the case. In the early 2000s, you needed technical skills and an understanding of HTML to post text and pictures online. The Web2 era came and things got easier (and crazier if we’re honest).
Two of the earliest content platforms to emerge in the Web2 era were blogs and podcasts. Both of which are still in use by millions today. While they may not have the caché of the new cool social app like TikTok today, Instagram before it and Facebook before that, decades later both continue to be important tools for influence and brand building.
The name ‘podcast’ comes from the iPod, Apple’s MP3 player which was the precursor to the iPhone. The podcasting genre launched during the iPod’s reign and began to take off after the launch of the iPhone. While Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have received all the limelight over the years, the podcast genre has been humming along with steady growth.
The podcasting genre is still a small industry in comparison to the ad-driven behemoth social media platforms. This is for a couple of reasons. The first being a podcast is harder to monetise. The usual route is through advertising read out by the podcast host or inserted programmatically in a podcast app. The second reason is there are fewer podcast listeners than there are users of social media.
Fewer listeners than users don’t mean less influence. Someone listening intently to a 90-minute podcast is entirely different to someone scrolling mindlessly through their social media feed. Quantity doesn’t mean quality in this instance. Likewise, clicking on one hundred funny 15-second videos is not the same as listening to someone speak or have a conversation for an hour.
The podcast format has several distinct advantages over other kinds of communication tactics. For starters they’re portable and you can consume them while doing day-to-day tasks. You can listen to one while driving, working out, walking and cleaning. It’s one of the few forms of media that you can consume almost anywhere.
Podcast listeners have a lot of endurance too. People spend an average of 38 minutes to one hour listening to podcasts according to numerous studies. They also spend up to 11.2 hours per week listening to them. If people enjoy you have to say they will listen to you intently and for a long time.
One benefit that podcasts have that we rarely talk about is the intimacy the podcaster has with the listener. Most people listen to podcasts with their headphones in. Imagine having someone’s attention so keenly they have you talking in their ears for hours. You can’t get that kind of intimacy from the written word.
The only media that might be better than podcasting in this respect is vlogging where you can see the whites of the vlogger’s eyes which has been shown to build trust. Podcast listening is more intimate, however. People may watch videos together but with a podcast, it’s between them and the podcaster.
Podcasts allow you to become influential by positioning you as an authority on a particular topic and by creating social proof with the calibre of guests you speak with.
They allow you to become an authority on a topic by discussing it from different angles and in great depth. You can create a professional podcast by developing it into a series and categorising it by subtopics. If you’re known as an authority in your chosen field people will follow you for your knowledge and insights.
Perhaps podcasting’s most unique and powerful feature is its ability to generate social proof. Also called ‘influence by association’ it’s the theory we perceive people differently by who or what they’re associated with.
For example, a podcaster who speaks with senior politicians, entrepreneurs, billionaires and hedge fund managers has influence by association. The status and authority of the guests rub off on the podcaster.
The ‘influence by association’ theory plays out regularly in the real world. High-profile podcasters who speak with people in entertainment and politics often become influential too. Their acquired influence is a byproduct of their desire and inquisitiveness to speak with interesting people.
Despite being almost twenty years old, podcasting continues to be underrated means to grow influence in a chosen field and among particular audiences. The podcasters who have consistently produced authoritative content and have interviewed influential people in their industry are the ones who will consistently reap the benefits.