For a long time, the content part of content marketing has been synonymous with the written word. Blogs, sales pages, web copy, etc.
More recently, it’s come to be associated more with interactive media and video. Things like webinars, live streaming, infographics, and Instagram Stories.
Soon, this is going to change again to reflect the booming industry of audio content.
As content marketing has always been about connecting with the target audience in the most natural and personal way possible, within the limits of technology, this evolution to audio has been a long time coming.
Until things like email and instant messaging came along, our primary and more or less only mode of interacting with one another was speaking in person. And still today, we rely on physically hearing and/or seeing someone to decipher crucial information like whether or not we can trust them.
It’s one of the reasons why video is so much more popular and effective than written content. However, unlike video and say a blog, audio content is able to fit neatly into a listener’s already busy lives and reach people where traditional content fails to.
Accompanying them on their commutes, working out with them at the gym, or supporting them while doing work around the house.
As it also touches a part of us that’s more primal than text, and so we respond to audio faster, like when hearing someone shout your name or scream down the street, and remember sounds and voices with greater ease and accuracy, it does so whilst fostering deeper and more personal ties with audiences.
That’s all without even mentioning the growing trend of turning to audio as a way of reducing screen time. Despite being a form of digital content, audio is unique in that it can be consumed without having to look at or even be anywhere near a screen.
All this means developing an audio content strategy will soon be as important for online businesses as having a presence on Google. Let’s now look at two growing areas of audio content that hold the most promise.
Alexa skills and voice apps
As of January this year, Amazon stated that it had sold over 100 million devices with Alexa’s assistant pre-installed. Add that to the fact that smart speakers are growing in popularity at a rate faster than smartphones, and its clear voice assistants are big business.
Living out its goal of being in every home, Amazon has made ties with over 60,000 smart home devices, including pet feeders, motorbike helmets, toilets, and games consoles like the Xbox. While it might sound trivial and even downright bizarre to talk to such objects, Amazon understands that in a few years it may appear just as strange, if not stranger, to encounter an object we can’t talk to.
Other than a few gimmicks and games, so far Alexa skills haven’t offered much real value to customers. The few hugely successful Skills are the ones that offer a speedier and more practical alternative over searching Google or that have come up with a clever way to use audio storytelling in a given context.
Take the likes of MyPetDoc, an Alexa skill which that you diagnose your pet’s problems without paying a visit to the vet. You simply tell MyPetDoc your pet’s symptoms, and it will ask a few follow-up questions and provide some initial advice.
The point of the Alexa Skill isn’t to replace a vet, and it doesn’t pretend to. Rather, such a Skill offers a service that acts as a stepping stone to connecting the user with another service, in this case a real vet, should that be required.
In this way, voice apps are valuable as a means of offering customers a level of convenience and connection that simply isn’t available from traipsing through mounds of websites and forums. Voice apps will thus be a crucial discovery method and the first point of contact many customers have with businesses and services. All but replacing Google for simple, location-dependent queries and, like the early days of the search engines, giving the businesses that jump on the craze a huge advantage in establishing a foothold in their market.
Podcasting has already surpassed radio to gain the majority “Share of The Ear”. And by 2021, the industry is expected to forecasted to exceed $1 billion.
The reason for this increase is two-fold: first, it’s becoming easier than ever to listen to podcasts. Podcast listening apps are becoming more user-friendly, Apple’s own app is preinstalled on more than half a billion iOS 8 devices, and Bluetooth technology has hit the masses and is a default in nearly every new car.
Second, they’re becoming much easier to produce and monetise. Podcasts always presented a relatively low-cost way for brands to increase awareness, build relationships with their audiences, and promote new products and services. But with the rise of cheap or free audio editing tools like GarageBand and Audacity, hosting platforms like SoundCloud, and analytic software like Spotify’s new analytic dashboard — which lets you access data like age, gender, location, the types of music listeners like, and where they start and stop playback — businesses can now quantify and maximise the impact they’re having.
Like blogging, podcasting is a medium that although at first seems only applicable to a few niches, has the potential to become a core part of any online business’s digital content strategy.
From a creative standpoint, podcasts can work for pretty much any industry and subject. You could be a digital marketing agency looking to share tips on how to build a successful website, a second-hand clothing store offering fashion advice on the cheap, or an industrial flooring company that provides practical advice for managing each stage of a new building project.
Like with voice apps, the key is to create something that’s not only valuable to your target audience, but that complements your core offering and makes sense being delivered via audio in relation to their context.
For instance, Harvard Business Review (HBR) has a weekly podcast called HBR IdeaCast. The podcast features interviews with industry leaders in both business and management. It’s similar content to its published articles, but in a medium and manner that brings something new and keeps their audience engaged when for whatever reason they can’t or don’t want to read an article.
The key with podcasting is to find a topic of conversation that is genuinely interesting for both you and your audience. Podcasting isn’t the most lucrative digital marketing strategy, not to mention it takes time and effort to produce something good. But as customers are looking to connect with businesses on much more than a transactional level and hear with their own ears that they are diverse, responsible, and trustworthy, it can offer a somewhat unique and invaluable means for allowing them to do so.
Joe Hunt is a freelance writer from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, meditation, and everything in between.