A Task for Any Social Media Business Initiative

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I hope this post doesn’t come across as too snarky, but I couldn’t resist.

I was attending a session at a conference yesterday at which the speaker presented a company’s podcast as an example of excellent communication.

The podcast sounded like a public service announcement: professional voice talent reading a script with hokey music playing in the background. The podcast was accessible on a page that did not allow listeners to comment. But here’s the real kicker.

The speaker clicked the “play now” button on the podcast page, launching Windows Media Player and its associated “visualization,” the image that leaps and dances in time with the music. After playing the podcast for a few minutes, the speaker said

Get ready for it…it’s worth the wait…here it comes

“Usually, when you listen to an audio podcast, there’s nothing to look at. But this organization has created some interesting graphics for you to look at.”

He was, of course, talking about the Windows Media Player visualization which appears withany audio file. The guy sitting next to me just shook his head slowly, his jaw hanging open in amazement.

Okay, so I’m being snarky. But this wasn’t somebody sitting in the audience. It was the speaker, a proclaimed expert lecturing some 400 conference participants…many of whom, unfamiliar with podcasting, were probably soaking it in.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many business podcasts are nothing more than the same old highly polished, impersonal broadcast audio made available via RSS with no view toward listening to listeners, building community, or embracing the social aspects of the medium. It’s what happens when companies jump on the bandwagon without actually listening to podcasts or reading blogs.

That’s why the first task in any business initiative involving social media should be to read and listen.


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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

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