David Spark of Spark Media Solutions has a lot to say when it comes to getting yourself and your business out there with the help of podcasts, blogs, social media, and more. Check out his interview for great advice and insight!
Do you mind introducing yourself?
I’m David Spark, veteran tech journalist and founder of the brand journalism firm Spark Media Solutions.
Great to meet you! How did you begin with Spark Media Solutions?
I was writing case study articles for eWEEK, a B2B-oriented IT publication. I would get pitches for these IT integration stories all the time. Many of them were really good, but the magazine had limited space for these case study stories and I really only could get assignments for one or two a month. I would always respond, “You should publish this story yourself.” No one would ever take me up on my suggestion. Companies at the time had it so ingrained in their head that if you want a story published it needs to be published by a journalist in a major outlet.
It’s very weird how once I was working for a media outlet I was seen as an expert. The outlet gave me that prestige. I didn’t do anything different. I realized that any company can have that same prestige and also publish their own materials by simply viewing their communications as editorially based rather than all marketing based. For more, read Why Corporate Blogging is Like Selling Uncut Cocaine.
I was hired by Publicis Dialog to launch their new media and custom publishing division. I did that for three years and realized I would be more successful if I did this without having an ad agency on my back. So I quit and after 6 months figuring out my model, started Spark Media Solutions. We just celebrated our fifth anniversary and business has been going great.
Great, congratulations! Can podcasting be an important asset to a business? Should they rely on all mediums?
It all depends on what your audience is and what information they need. No one medium is a panacea for all, although I truly believe every organization must have a blog as it can act as “home base” for all other publishing and social media activities. As other things come and go, the blog can always be consistent and weather the storm of services coming and going.
Podcasting can be a phenomenal asset if you create the right series of content for your audience. It is a series, not a single program. What makes it so powerful is getting people to click that subscribe button. If you get people to subscribe to your show, then your brand is with that person wherever they go as people listen to podcasts on their iPhone, iPod, and on their computer via iTunes. They see your brand all the time. That’s huge. But that’s not possible unless they subscribe, listen, and keep listening to you. To make that possible you have to create a series of content they want to keep listening to.
Seeing yourself as a brand is great advice. How do you think podcasters should monetize their content?
I produced a 15-part series on this very subject that’s all summarized in an article entitled 9 Successful Techniques for Making Money from Podcasting. That article fully answers this question, but ultimately anyone who starts a podcast should be thinking of it as a brand building exercise and not making direct income from it. Those who stay at it claim that their podcast is the sole driver of all their leads and have grown business multi-fold as a result.
For those who do generate direct income from their podcast, there is no one way to monetize the podcast. In fact, all the successful podcasters I spoke to did a combination of the nine different techniques.
How does one get sponsors for a podcast?
I have no personal experience with this and from interviewing people I know it’s extremely hard to do. You have to first concern yourself with building an audience. If you don’t have an audience then you don’t have a shot in hell of getting a sponsor. So don’t even be thinking about this until you have an audience.
Fair advice. How does one market their content?
People share content out of selfishness. If you want to market your content via social media, you need to think how can you create content so people will want to share it as a better reflection of themselves, not you. The answer to that depends on your audience. For example, people like to share funny content so it makes them appear to have a good sense of humor to their friends. People will share insightful content because their friends might think they’re insightful. If you’re only pushing out content that makes you look good, and not your audience, you’ll never reach your audience’s audience. For more, read Why Sharing Online Content Might Be Too Easy.
Specifically with podcasting, the listeners are an incredible word-of-mouth marketers. Penetration of podcasting is very low, but those who listen are phenomenal at spreading the word. For more, read Is This the Most Effective Form of Advertising?
What are your favorite tips on using social media?
The best way to learn about social media is to just do it and learn. It’s a constantly moving target. If you’re having endless social media meetings and you’re not actually engaged in social media, then you’ve already lost. Also, social media has to be a part of everyone’s job, just like using the phone and email is part of everyone’s job. You can have a social media manager to architect strategy, just like you have a communications strategy, but the point of social media is to take advantage of everyone’s network. If you have only one person doing the job, you’re only taking advantage of his network, and when he leaves the company, he takes that network with him.
For more, read No more “What are we going to do in social media?’ meetings.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you’re not out there telling your story, someone else is, or more often than not, no one is and you’re invisible. People don’t trade or search for marketing copy. They trade and search for information. That’s why we strongly believe that “Content is the currency of social media and search.”
Thanks for the interview.
Thank you, it was great!