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Podcasts can be powerful — if used correctly.

Should your business start a podcast? Yes, if you have a strong idea, a quality host and a high level of commitment, says Jay Baer, best-selling author, marketing consultant and co-host of the popular Social Pros podcast.

Podcast listening in the U.S. shot up 23 percent last year, to 57 million people. That means more Americans now listen to podcasts than actively use Twitter — a huge potential audience to help market your business, says Baer. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of listeners are more willing to consider products and services after hearing about them on a podcast.

If you think you'd make a great host, keep these 5 tips in mind.

Gauge your audience

A podcast isn’t a great idea if yours is a purely local business. Your potential audience will be too small to be worth the time commitment. Also, podcast listeners are generally young (72 percent are ages 18 to 54), so if your customers are 55-plus, stick to what you know already works for that demo.

Buy the basics

A decent podcasting setup ought to run you about $500. Invest in good microphones for each participant, as well as software to record conversations. (Apple’s Garageband works great for in-person. Internet calls are far clearer than the phone, so Skype is standard — but Zencastr, which is in beta, is gaining popularity because it does calls in a web browser instead.) Then hire a good producer to clean up the audio. You’ll also need a hosting platform, such as Libsyn or Podbean, which in turn feeds the podcast to player apps like iTunes, Stitcher and Overcast.

Pick a topic

Stick with what you know, and make sure it’s different enough from what else is out there to stand out. Generally speaking, a narrow topic is better than a broad one at attracting a dedicated listenership. And remember, a podcast should be a public service for your audience — not an infomercial for your business.

Pick a host

Your host should be someone who has the gift of gab and has been around long enough to know the ins and outs of the business. They should also have relationships in the industry (which will help with securing guests), the time to do a show on a regular basis and the skills to promote it on social media and elsewhere.

Make it regular

Keep the episodes short — 30 minutes each, tops — which increases the chance that people can listen in one sitting. The more frequent the show, and the more consistent its schedule, the better you’ll attract and keep listeners. If you can’t do at least two episodes a month on a regular schedule, don’t bother.

From Entrepreneur By Mikal E. Belicove

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