Since its inception, the Internet has been primarily a visual medium, with only a small percentage of websites using audio in any way. However, recent advances in technology, including improved Internet browsers, widespread broadband access, the popularity of MP3 players, and software such as Apple’s iTunes, have made audio and video much more commonplace on the Web. Photographers who take advantage of these new technologies can set themselves apart from their competition in a number of ways. I’ll explain.
It’s relatively easy to get started if you have a plan. A microphone with appropriate software helps, too. Below are five tips for using the power of audio and podcasting to help promote your studio:
1. Let Yourself Be Heard
One way to create a bond with potential customers is to post a photo on your website with a short audio clip, or a short video clip of you and your associates. The Flash format works well for this, and there are a number of inexpensive software options available that will allow you to easily create play buttons or video windows that are very user-friendly.
I use a program called Wimpy MP3 Player (www.wimpyplayer.com), which plays audio through small play buttons on the left side of my website. Wimpy MP3 Player is great for adding testimonials from clients, which can be recorded in various ways over the phone. A dedicated answering service can be used for incoming testimonial/comment calls. I use a free service, www.k7.net, for my show.
For recording live phone interviews, I like Gizmo Project (www.gizmoproject.com), a VoIP system similar to Vonage, because it has good built-in recording capability. Skype (www.skype.com) is also similar, and inexpensive recording software can be found at www.ecamm.com (Mac) and www.pamela-systems.com (Windows).
2. Learn About Podcasting
Podcasting is a relatively new phenomenon. To learn more about it, start by subscribing to some podcasts using Apple’s iTunes software, which is free and available for Mac and Windows. To start, just click on the purple iTunes icon (above, circled in red), choose the Podcast Directory link (above, circled in blue), and enter a search term such as “photography.” Then subscribe to a few and start listening! You can also find a good overview of books, hardware, software, etc. related to podcasting at www.podcastexpert.com. An excellent resource for managing a podcast in different ways is Feedburner (www.feedburner.com).
3. Determine Your Topic and Remember the Bandwidth
Who is your audience? Do you want to do interviews or speak directly to your audience? Make sure you have a worthwhile message and “call to action.” For example, you can ask people to participate by sending in email questions or by entering a contest for free products or services. Bandwidth costs (the amount of data transferred) can get expensive if your site becomes popular. Either have enough transfer volume or sign up at a company that offers unlimited bandwidth, such as www.libsyn.com.
4. May I Have a Blog With That Podcast, Please? A weblog—aka, blog—is, in my opinion, the best place to have a podcast up and running. My website, imagingbuffet.com, was built using the WordPress (www.wordpress.com) blog engine. Many blogging platforms are on the market. You’ll find of the most popular, and free, blogging engines at www.blogger.com.
5. Let the World Know You're Out There.
Many excellent resources are available for photographers to submit cover art and podcast descriptions. The first is Apple’s iTunes Podcast Directory. Among the others are Yahoo (www.podcasts.yahoo.com), Podcast Pickle (www.podcastpickle.com), and Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com).
Be sure to write press releases promoting your new show. Podcasting is hot these days, and press releases are one of the best ways to promote your business online, in print, and on radio and TV.