Are you interested in getting on a new platform before mass adoption happens? Would you like to build an audience on a platform with no algorithm? Does automating your content distribution to go to the world’s biggest platforms at once – without any interaction from you – sound appealing? Would you like to have your content available to older people who may not be on social media, or those who may not be able to read?
Welcome to the world of micro-casting.
What is Micro-Casting?
If you’re familiar with the concept of Stories on social, then you’ll understand micro-casting. Micro-casts are short-form, disposable audio clips, usually just a few minutes in length, designed to be consumed quickly. Typically, the audio is between 2 and 6 minutes long, based around news or content to educate the listener, with new episodes published frequently – often daily.
I’m Daniel Hill, the host of The Instagram Stories, a 3-minute daily audio show. I received permission from Instagram to use their trademark, logo, and branding on my content, which is now available on Amazon Alexa, Google News, and many other platforms. I have thousands of subscribers and hundreds of daily listeners from around the world.
If you’re familiar with podcasting, you know how saturated the market is already. According to PodcastHosting.org, there are 1.5 million podcasts out there!
Often, people or brands create podcasts only to quit when realizing overnight success is unlikely. Typically, pod-fade happens when the content creators understand the significant amount of time and effort required to grow an audience.
The reason that podcasting can be hard is that there are so many different ways to listen, all with different listening experiences.
Some people listen on a dedicated podcasting app, some people use Spotify or Apple Music, and some people listen to podcasts on YouTube without looking at the screen. Additionally, there can be an overwhelming amount of content produced as part of a podcast – it’s a lot of work to edit, so longer length episodes are left whole when uploaded, and then there’s often a large catalog of back content to catch up on.
What if there was a way to short cut the time it normally takes to grow that audience?
Micro-casting for Smart Speakers
Here’s how you can shortcut the Podcast audience growth problem: by providing micro-casts for Smart Speaker users.
If you’re not familiar with them, Smart Speakers are the fastest-growing consumer technology product of all time.
By comparison, the computer, internet, and radio each took 20 years to reach adoption by 50% of the U.S. population, while TV took 10 years. The smartphone took 5 years to reach the same point of 50% of the US population – but smart speakers did that in 2 years, using lower-cost devices like the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.
As of October 2020, more than 55% of U.S. adults have either a smart home device or a smart speaker.
How Does Micro-Casting Work?
Here’s how the concept of micro-casting works: people tell their Smart Speaker or Voice Assistant a specific voice command, and then listening quickly becomes part of their daily routine.
For instance, they might say “OK Google, tell me the news” or “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing” to hear your latest audio every day while driving, cooking, or other activities that require their hands.
Listeners don’t have to remember your name or handle, and you don’t have to fight an algorithm – as long as they say the phrase “tell me the news” or “play my Flash Briefing”, they will hear your content.
The Advantages of Smart Speaker Listeners
The average Smart Speaker user includes a very wide demographic, across a broad age range and household income, especially when compared to social media. Most importantly, this is an inclusive technology – those who have bad eyesight don’t need to stare at a tiny phone, those who aren’t able to read are still able to talk to a Voice Assistant, and even those who are too young to have access to a personal device may likely have access to a Smart Speaker.
This gives you an excellent opportunity to build an audience of people who might not use social media, listen to podcasts, or read blogs – often because they are a bit older and are not heavy smartphone users.
Compared to other delivery methods, micro-casts are most similar to Stories as a format – each day typically has a new episode, and although the back content is available and consumable, most listeners only hear the latest episode as part of their morning routine, so they don’t feel pressured to go back and listen to older episodes.
Starting Your Own Micro-Cast
So how does one get started making a micro-cast? There are some things to think about first.
Picking a Topic You Can Consistently Create Content About
The most important thing is to pick the right topic. What would you talk about? Although it’s tempting to just make a short audio show featuring whatever you feel like talking about that day, that may not resonate with an audience, who expects consistency.
It’s like your favorite TV show. I, for instance, love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because I know what to expect: the main character will do some stand-up comedy, she’ll do or say something shocking, and everyone around her may act horrified, which will be funny.
However, if one episode she did stand-up, then the next episode was spent chasing down terrorists, then the next episode she demonstrated how to make her favorite dessert, viewers would probably be very confused about what to expect from this show.
It’s important to be as consistent as possible in terms of topic, so people know what to expect. Before going further, ask yourself: “what kind of topic could you create content for consistently, 5 – 7x per week for the foreseeable future?”
It’s perfectly acceptable if you don’t know what all that content will consist of, exactly – provided you have two things: a deep topic, and a source for information.
When I began my micro-cast, I knew I wanted to talk about Instagram for several different reasons.
First, it’s confusing: Instagram doesn’t have a dedicated customer support team who’s ready and willing to answer questions via phone or email.
Secondly, Instagram adds new features all the time – faster than any other platform currently in existence.
Third, I had some good sources of information about Instagram that I could read quickly, digest, and share with an audience in a meaningful way.
To help you pick a topic, go on Amazon’s Skills site and Google’s News pages, and look for holes – topics that don’t have any content, but where you could provide value. For instance, my friend Adrian Simple has created The Gaming Observer. He saw that no one had created a daily show about Video Games, and he worked hard to fill that need by coming up with a news format that people would be interested in. What topic could you confidently speak about?
One good place to find topics is what people are searching Amazon.com for every day. Using the top 100 most searched items on Amazon is one way to ensure people will be interested.
If it’s a product that’s a trademarked name (Instant Pot! Legos!), you will get rejected by Amazon. Make sure to follow the formula I created with Instagram: begin by making contact with the company, then asking to speak to their branding team so you can explain how you want to help their company.
Create a Ridiculously Easy Content System
Once you have a topic in mind, the next step is to create a system to make that content daily. Personally, I use a combination of Google Alerts and RSS Feeds to find news, then read some of the articles during the show, including clips from Instagram spokespeople if available, then explain why that news article is relevant to growing an audience on Instagram. It’s best to figure out what your formula will be as soon as possible, and that formula should be something that will give you some flexibility to keep you interested and engaged.
Record Your First Sample Episode
Before going any further, find a quiet place to create a few sample episodes. What do you want your show to sound like? The point of creating these sample episodes to help you find your voice and test out some ideas.
Try to make a 2-minute episode, then listen back to the whole thing while on a walk. Did you have some parts that you liked and some that didn’t sit well with you? Try to improve by making a few more episodes, then send the best episode to any contacts who you know create podcasts or other audio content regularly to get their feedback.
Audio quality is important, but should not be a major obstacle – after all, this is disposable content. For a professional sound, ensure you’re starting with a good microphone in a very quiet place.
You can, of course, start with just the voice memo app on your phone. One of my friends, Amy Summers, has a very successful Flash Briefing called “The Pitch with Amy Summers” that she records into her phone without a microphone and it sounds great. She also records in her closet to make sure there’s no background noise. I once asked her, “Do you plan on upgrading your recording setup?” and she responded, “Yes! I’m buying more clothes!” Whatever you decide to start with, the most important thing is a quiet environment you can consistently recreate.
When starting the show, it’s also important to determine if your show will be scripted or off-the-cuff. I prefer off-the-cuff because that’s how I talk in normal everyday life, but it’s not for everyone. Plenty of micro-casters script their shows, and although that can take more time to write and record, it does add a layer of consistency and professionalism to the show.
Keeping it Fresh and Making it Available Everywhere
An important part of planning the show is to think about how you can prevent the show from becoming stale. I work very hard to keep an eye out for audio clips to insert in the show to discuss, especially interviews or sound bites from internal Instagram staff or other Instagram experts.
For instance, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, does an “Ask Me Anything” on his Instagram Story every Friday afternoon. I download the clips, add the audio to my show, and go through his answers one by one for my 3 minute long Monday show. This helps to improve my knowledge and positions me as a leading expert on Instagram from a unique angle.
Once you create the show, ensure that it’s published in as many places as possible. To do that, you will want to take the file path – called an RSS feed – and provide that information to Apple Music, Spotify, and others as a new podcast. This will ensure that your audio can be found wherever listeners are, and it will update on all platforms once you upload it to your podcast host or website. This happens automatically, with no interaction from you.
Your show will be available in 2 different ways: only the latest episode will be available on Smart Speakers, and all episodes will be available on other podcasting providers (like Apple Music and Spotify) for listeners to binge or get caught up.
To accomplish this, you must get 2 RSS feeds from your podcast hosting company. Feed #1 should have only the latest episode of your show (for Alexa and Google), and feed #2 will have all episodes for all other podcast providers.
Ready to get started?
Ready to start creating a micro-cast for a new audience looking to get information in small, bite-sized pieces – while taking advantage of a new platform with no algorithm?
Before proceeding, make sure you answer the following questions:
1. What topics people are searching for information on that you could uniquely provide?
2. Can you consistently create content about that particular topic 5 – 7x/week for the foreseeable future?
3. If yes, can you create a system to make that content daily?
4. Will you host the necessary audio files on your own site or with a podcast host? You will need a secure website (SSL required) or work with a podcasting host that can.
5. How will the content you create help you accomplish your goals?
Have questions about launching your own micro-cast? Send me a direct message on Twitter or Instagram @danielhillmedia!
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