Social marketing techniques such as blogging, wikis, podcasts, twitter, and virtual worlds have given marketers an extraordinary range of opportunities to reach out to audiences. But do these techniques really pay off—or are they just trendy alternatives that offer no measurable return on marketing investment?

Each of these new disciplines has advocates; however, podcasting in particular has seen remarkable growth over the past two years and is becoming a standout because of its multilevel benefits.

Despite the name, one does not need an iPod or any sort of MP3 player to listen to a podcast; in fact, nearly half of podcast listeners use their computers. A videocast (or v-cast) is a podcast with an accompanying video or slide show.

Podcasts and videocasts can be listened to or watched live, at a predetermined time, similar to a radio show, but they are available to be downloaded any time.

Podcasting requires a commitment of time and budget to become a successful part of a company's marketing plan. A successful podcast strategy includes a podcast or v-cast full of solid content, presented in an entertaining way, on a regular basis.

Podcasts provide a vehicle for sharing information and opinions with current and potential customers—information that reinforces a brand and positions one as an industry expert. Though it might be tempting to use a podcast to advertise a company or service, the point is to enable a podcast to be an ongoing promotion by providing useful information.

Podcasting as Art

Gary Vaynerchuk is the owner of Wine Library, a wine store that caters to collectors but is also a resource for customers who need wine recommendations. Vaynerchuk thought to spread the word about his passion for wine through a weekly podcast. Not even "Gary Vee," as he has become known, could predict that his high-energy podcasts would help him become something of a media star.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Formica is VP of fmi direct, inc. (www.fmidm.com), a direct mail and fulfillment company in Philadelphia. She is also chairperson of the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association. Reach her via 215-464-0111 or lformica@fmidm.com.