Monday, April 12, 2010

Taking it to the Next Level.

I always wanted to be a radio talk show host.  Not just any kind of radio talk show host, but a SPORTS radio talk show host.  When I was in college, I remember driving around and listening to the big sports talk personalities in Denver debate the merits of Dan Reeves and John Elway and arguing whether Bernie Bickerstaff was building up, or tearing down the Nuggets.

The idea that I could actually get paid to sit behind a mic and discuss football or basketball or baseball...well, it was like a dream job.  I finally did make my way into talk radio, although as a producer.  And while I did sit behind the mic., it was as a reporter and anchor at KOA, not as a talk show host. 

I'm okay with that.  I got closer than most others, and I did get my moments to live the dream from time to time.  I don't think I'm that different from most folks.  I think at some point almost everybody wished they had a pulpit like a talk radio show to espouse their opinions, their thoughts their ideas.  A lot of us simply want an opportunity to reach out to others and engage in conversations, make connections.

Social media helps millions of people do that everyday.  More than that, social media allows millions of people live the dream of being an honest-to-goodness radio show host.

Just like technology has made movie directors of us all, social media has the power to transform us into anything we want to be, including talk show hosts.

Ramp It Up!

For most small businesses and non-profits, diving into the social media world can be intimidating.  But the more you work at it, the more you involve yourself in the social media environment, the easier it gets.  At some point your Facebook, your Twitter your Foursquare or Digg reaches a point where it's not enough. 

This isn't to say that these platforms stop being effective.  As long as there are millions of new people signing up online every day, there are millions of potential customers or donors or volunteers you haven't reached yet, and your social media platforms are still a fantastic way to reach these new people.

But like buying a new car, at some point, you want something more.  So you add a booming sound system or flashy new headlights or some kickin' rims and tires just to, you know, get attention.  Your social media efforts are the same.  At some point, you not only have the ability, but the desire to ramp it up a bit.  You want to add a few bells and whistles to your campaign.

There are a number of ways to do this.  Obviously, we've talked about video, but you should be incorporating video into your efforts already.  So what else is there?

Blogs are a great way to start adding bells and whistles.  Some start using blogs right away when they start a social media campaign, but even the blogs can be spiced up a bit.  Whether you're using Blogspot, Blogger, Wordpress or some other program, each of them offer free widgets or add-ons that give your readers some fun extras and make your blog more interactive, more pleasing to the eye.

You can start to micro-blog, which is a smaller, faster version of a more traditional blog.  Generally, these blogs include a video component along with some short comments.  These are blog posts that you can watch within two to three minutes and the copy is generally a thought or idea that explains the video or puts it in context.  There's usually a link attached to the source of the video.

This kind of blogging has become a staple among the under 30 crowd and is proving to be very, very useful and effective in promoting products and services.

Another new element of blogging is Vlogging.  This is a video blog, and it's kind of like having your own public access tv show.  Vlogs have become more popular as well, because they provide the viewer a face to go with the words and thoughts and ideas.  Think of the original online Gossip Girl, or Lonely Girl incarnations where it was a single person pouring their souls out online to anyone who would watch them.

Think of those public access tv shows about knitting or crafts, or, my favorite, Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting.  People are putting how-to blogs online all the time now.  Showing others how to create something is a great way to attract attention. 

All you need is a camera and a recording program in your computer.  The best vlogs tend to be shorter, two minutes or less and provide something interesting, fun or useful.  One of the most enjoyable vlogs I saw was one put up by a friend who lives in LA.  She shot video of herself driving all over L.A. and commenting on the things she saw.  I found it very enjoyable.  It didn't change my life or even my day, but it was certainly fun to watch.

And that's the point, vlogs are fun to watch.  They are intriguing, they are fascinating, mostly because you get to see the person behind the words, thoughts and ideas.

Radio, Radio:

And then there's the podcast.  Most of you know what a podcast is.  But for those who don't, here's a very short primer.  A podcast is a radio show, a recording you make of yourself or others, talking about something, performing music, a dramatic reading, discussing politics, sports, anyting.  You take that recording, package it as a singular broadcast and then post it online for anyone to download. 

There are entire podcast networks out there you can post to, or you can simply post it on your website or blog. 

Just like blogs, your social media platforms, vlogs or anything else you do in the online evironment, you have to provide interesting, fun and useful product to get people to listen, watch or read.  Podcasts are no different.

Go online and type in podcast and see what comes up.  You'll find podcasts on health care, love, romance, car maintenance, home repair, travel; basically anything under the sun.  If you can talk about it or write about it or think about it, it probably exists on a podcast.

If you own a deli, why not do a podcast on quick and healthy meal preparation.  Or if you own a cleaners, why not do a podcast on the best ways to clean your clothes; tips on getting tough stains out, keeping those slacks unwrinkled during travel, how to do your own cleaning on a wool sports jacket.

The point is, you can become the talk show host you always wanted to be.  Talk radio doesn't have to be only about politics or sports.  One of the most popular talk radio shows on the air today is a show called "The Car Guys."  They simply talk about car maintenance.  That's something we can all relate to.

It's Easy To Do!

Just like video production, many small businesses and non-profits worry about the equipment they need to produce a vlog or a podcast.  But there's no reason to fret.  Unless you're working on a computer that is very old, most computers today have easy to use video components.  You simply have to get an affordable camera and plug it in. 

Most operating systems today have built in programs to take in video and allow you to do some basic editing.  Most laptops have cameras built-in, as do a majority of the desktops nowadays.  Even if you don't have a computer with a camera, you can shot video on your phone and email the video to your computer.  Once you have the video, it's as easy as posting it to YouTube and then using the HTML code to imbed that video in your blog or vlog or website.

You can record something at 1pm and have it posted on your social media sites by 1:10 at the latest. 

Podcasts require a little more equipment and investment in time, but still, they aren't a massive undertaking and can provide a huge boost to your social media efforts. 

To produce a quality blog, all you have to do is buy a simple computer microphone.  You can pick up a cheap microphone at any computer or office supply store.  You can spend as little as $15 or as much as $75, depending on what you plan to do.  Like most products, the more expensive the mic., the better the sound quality.  But for most podcasts, you don't need professional quality.  You just need something that will record you clearly.

I will say that the cheaper mics will often pick up background or ambient sound.  It's worth it to pick up a mic. around the $30 range.  These tend to cut out the background noise better and will last longer.  If your computer has a built in microphone, then you obviously don't need to buy a mic.

As I mentioned earlier, most computers have programs built in to allow you to record audio and video.  If, for some reason you don't have a program already bundled with your operating system, you can download some easy to use, free programs online. 

Sound Recorder, DJ Studio; both are good, free programs.  Right now, Audacity is the most popular free download and is very easy to use.  You can download that program and within minutes be recording your very first podcast.

Apple, Microsoft, bloggr, Blogspot and Wordpress all have podcast tools to help you take your recording and publish them online.  Suddenly, you are the star of your very own talk show.

Get The Word Out:

Just like blogs, vlogs or your website, podcasts have to be promoted.  You can't just put it out there and expect people to just find you.  By adding tags to your podcasts, by promoting it in your groups, on your various platforms, by tweeting each new edition and telling others about your podcast, you'll start to get a following.

You have to make your podcast available on podcast networks and post it everywhere you can.  The more places people can see your podcast, the more people will listen and hopefully subscribe to your podcast.  This also holds true for your vlog and blog as well.

Creating the product is actually easiest part of blogs, vlogs and podcasts.  Getting the word out is really the hardest part.  But if you approach the promotion of your blog, vlog and podcast like you promote your other platforms and website and business, your efforts will find success.

Podcasts and vlogs can reach an entirely new audience and bring people to your organization in droves.  They may be looked at as just bells and whistles, but they can also be beacons, a spotlight to attract the myriad of viewers, readers and listeners to your doorstep.

So get out there and ramp it up, and hopefully you'll be busier than ever before.  Good luck.

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