Man, being sick is the worst. No, scratch that. Being sick around a holiday is the worst. No, wait. Being sick during Thanksgiving, with all that lovely food around, is the worst. Hang on. No, I’ll tell you what the worst is. The worst is when you spend two months working on a book, then you release the book, then you get sick for two weeks so you’re just not up for doing any promotion and then Thanksgiving caps it all off.
Ah, but enough about me and my woes. Now that I have my voice back, both literally and figuratively, let’s talk podcasting.
The book I mentioned is The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Podcaster, and it’s available right now, absolutely free, right here at NMX. It focuses on getting you up and running as a podcaster—that means mostly beginner-level topics along with some intermediate-level material. I’ll take you from zero to podcast in 161 pages. Interested? How about a little preview? Here’s a section of the book, don’t say I never gave ya nothin’.
An Excerpt From Chapter Six: Feedback
Podcasting can feel like a very solitary activity sometimes. For most of us, it’s a matter of sitting down with a microphone and talking by ourselves or maybe with one or two co-hosts. The audience isn’t part of the recording process, so we don’t get the kind of immediate feedback that a stand-up comedian, a teacher or a public speaker gets. If the most important key to growth is audience feedback— and it is—then it stands to reason that we need great tools for collecting that feedback.
In this part of the book, we’re looking at post comments on your website, the importance of social media to your feedback process, contact pages and listener call-in lines. Leveraging these powerful tools will get you the valuable feedback that you need to give the audience what they want—which will, in turn, lead to the growth of your show.
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: the number of comments you get on a post means nothing. Nada. Zip. Not-a-darn-thing. Sure, you could argue that a post with 500 comments is a measure of popularity for a blog, but you’re a podcaster. Your content is consumed by people on myriad devices, all of which lack the ability to leave a comment on your site. Listeners in iTunes? Can’t leave you a comment on your site. Listeners on an iPhone app? Nope. Go back to the very beginning of this book where portability was discussed. People listen all over the place: while driving, while jogging, while at the gym…planes, trains, automobiles…none of these people are likely to leave you a comment.
We won’t call anyone out by name, but look at the sites for podcasters that you know are doing extraordinarily well. The ones who have massive subscriber counts and successfully raise enough money to launch their own studios and hire their own staff. Look at their sites and look at their comment counts. You’ll never take comment numbers seriously again.
Sure, some of those listeners could leave a comment. If a listener is driving along and hears something he wants to comment on, he could make a note of it and take care of it when he gets back to his computer (or when he gets to a traffic light, if he’s quick about it).
This is not to say that comments themselves are worthless—far from it. The comments you do get, in whatever quantity you get them, can be very, very valuable. They can provide great feedback for your show! There is no right answer to the “should I have comments on my site” question, but blogs and podcast-related sites tend to have them far more often than not. And yet…
Some high-profile websites are shutting down comments altogether. Comic book-centric site Newsarama has no comments, The New York Times site doesn’t allow for them, and podcasters? Leo Laporte’s mammoth TWiT.tv network doesn’t do comments, either. Well, not on the TWiT.tv website, anyway. Their comments are all handled through their Facebook page. More about that shortly.
A Word About Commenting Systems
Disqus? IntenseDebate? Livefyre? Facebook comments? Something else? You have many choices when it comes to how comments are handled on your site, and there are pros and cons to each. Disqus is feature rich and mature, Facebook (as a plugin) is newer but has the added advantage of Facebook integration. IntenseDebate is baked into WordPress, Livefyre shows how many people are “listening” to a post. Any of these (and some others, including the default comments that your blog platform uses by default) are good choices.
No website should be without a contact page! Make it easy on your visitors and have it at http://YourAwesomeSite.com/contact. If the link to your contact page isn’t obvious, many users will simply type in /contact in an attempt to reach that page.
What you put on your contact page will depend on your needs. Let’s have a look at a few options and narrow it down so that you can decide what options to give your visitors.
Contact forms are very, very popular and with good reason: they are powerful. A well-constructed contact form can yield a wealth of information about the site visitor, provide spam protection, and streamline the communication process. Contact forms are common enough that visitors are extremely unlikely to balk at using one.
The key to a successful contact form is dependent upon two things: the construction and the execution.
Construction of the contact form is most often best handled by a plugin for podcasters using WordPress or another blogging platform. Hand-coding a contact form is certainly doable, but why re-invent the wheel if a plugin will serve? Popular plugins include:
- Gravity Forms (multi-platform, recommended but a little pricey)
- Jetpack ContactForm (baked into new WordPress installs, free)
- Fast Secure Contact Form (WordPress, free)
- Contact Form 7 (WordPress, free)
- Google Docs / Google Drive (multi-platform, free)
The execution of the form, that is, the fields chosen and their layout, is not dependent on the plugin being used. A good form layout is a good form layout, regardless of its bones. For contact forms, there are three absolutely required fields: name, email and message. Everything else is optional (desirable perhaps, but optional all the same).
A good form asks only for such information as the site owner needs and the visitors are likely to give. Unless you absolutely need someone’s phone number, do not ask for it. Even if the phone number field is optional, if you are never going to use the number, do not ask for it. Most visitors are wary of giving out too much information and will balk when they see that you’re asking for unnecessary data. On the other hand, most visitors love to promote themselves, so asking for their website is almost always a good idea, even if you do not currently have a plan to use that information.
Want to Keep Reading?
This is a very, very small taste of the book. Did I mention it’s free? Pretty sure I did. What are you waiting for? Go download it right now!
I’ll be back next week with an article I’ve been looking forward to writing: Podcasting Pet Peeves! See you in seven.