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3 Ways Small Businesses Can Tap in to the Success of Serial

December 11, 2015

The wildly popular podcast Serial debuted its second season yesterday and small businesses can pick up some tricks from their success.  Podcasts have been growing in popularity in recent years as more and more people listen to them during their commute on their handy smartphones.  This is an opportunity for small businesses, whether its producing their own content or sponsoring podcasts related to their products or services.

But, what was it that made Serial such a cultural phenomenon?

Capturing the culture

When Serial debuted last year there was nothing to indicate that it would become the most listened to podcast in history with over 100M downloads. How does something as mundane as a podcast investigating a years old murder become a trending topic on Twitter that’s also gets lampooned on Saturday Night Live?  What Serial did have going for it were great production values and an ear for effective storytelling as an offshoot of This American Life.  That storytelling is what dragged people into it the podcast, and kept them hooked week after week.  Creativity is one of the 10 important characteristics of an entrepreneur. Now think creatively about how your small business is telling its story, and the stories of your customers.  What are you offering to drive engagement and keep them coming back?

Building anticipation

What kept people coming back to Serial every week was the mystery, they wanted to know what happened next.  Each week took listeners through a series of twists and turns as the interviewers built an increasingly complex story exploring many different angles of the case.  Is your marketing building a story and staying fresh and interesting to prospects and current clients?  Are you just selling products or building a brand with a personality people can engage with?  Predictability can get, well, predictable and start to fade into the background and undercutting your message.  At least every year, if not more often, you should look to refresh your marketing campaigns by adding new messages, images and channels to stay relevant to your target audiences.

Creating social engagement

Serial spawned a legion of amateur sleuths who picked up on the investigation and took it upon themselves to try and play detective to find out the real true story.  And then they talked about it, in blog posts, over social media and even in actual physical conversations with other people, which still happen occasionally back in 2014.  This extended the engagement listeners had with the Serial brand well beyond the time they spent listening to the actual podcast. Small businesses can also use PR and social to extend their brand awareness beyond the fleeting moments people are actually viewing their ads.    A few easy ways to get this started are by blogging about trends in your industry, participating in related forums and offering relevant comments, not promos for your business, and offering yourself up as an expert to local and industry media.  If you really want to make your business part of the conversation you’ll have to take your sales hat off for a second and just focus on adding value through your subject matter expertise.

Are you going to tune into the new season of Serial?  If it’s anywhere near as popular as last year’s season, chances are a lot of you will.  While you’re listening, take a moment to think about what they’ve done to make generally dry topics so compelling, and how you can do the same for your business.