This is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, as it’s a question that often crops up – most recently at a corporate seminar I was taking part in last week. Talk of podcasting often prompts the question: “but is it social media?”. It’s a fair question. Where is the conversation, the community, the ‘social’ in what is essentially a broadcast technology?
Podcasting may borrow from some of the conventions of radio, but I think it’s wrong to think of it as a passive one-way medium. It makes more sense to think of it as an audio blog. There are three things that make podcasting social media for me:
- It’s in the prosumer, DIY-media tradition of the social media revolution – putting low-cost publishing tools in the hands of ordinary people (although companies can play too).
- It’s syndicated. A static audio file (or video file) on a web page is not social media: it’s just media. A podcast is delivered by an RSS feed, like a blog.
- It involves the audience – or at least has the potential to.
This last point is an important one. Some of the most successful podcasts involve their audience, which is something all social media should do – whether it’s comments on blog postings, YouTube videos, or Facebook walls.
Like a blog, people can comment on podcasts if you let them. There are various web widgets that you can use for people to leave voicemail messages, or you can set up a dedicated Skype number [other Internet telephony is available]. You can also read out email comments, and encourage people to leave comments on the blog that you use to deliver your podcast. You can even interview your listeners.
For example, Steve Parks is an author of several books for entrepreneurs, and presenter of the Flying Startups podcast. He’s created an online community around his books, which is helped by the fact that he interviews his readers about their businesses on the podcast. It’s that sort of focus on and involvement of the audience that helps create online communities.
I do also listen to more broadcast-style podcasts, such as the excellent Guardian Media Talk. But if you’re an author rather than a media organization, if you’re producing your podcast on a shoestring, the quickest way to build your audience and foster a sense of community is to involve your listeners. Then it really becomes social.