It started with Clubhouse’s exclusivity and its ability to grant direct access to big names like Musk and Naval in 2020. Today, big tech companies have announced similar alternatives – Twitter’s Spaces, Spotify’s acquisition of Locker Room, Slack and of course Facebook’s upcoming ‘Soundbites’.
It seems the big tech are favoring a move into audio content in the coming years. Can small business owners and brands ride the upcoming wave of audio content?
The advancement in technology has equipped most of us with a pocket sized video and audio recorder. If you’re looking to test the viability of audio content (podcasts, live streams or discussions) as part of your content strategy, you have almost everything you need to get started.
This quick and dirty guide to audio recording is written for the small business or brand with limited resources and a small in-house team.
Quick disclaimer: if you’re looking for a pro-level audio recording or remastering guide, this isn’t it. Instead, this guide is created for small businesses who want to create audio content in house with little resources. I’ll be sharing a quick and dirty process with resources you can tap into. (Most resources are free, others come with a small fee.)
How to record audio
Basically, you’ll need a sound recorder or a microphone that’ll capture the audio and an audio editing software for editing or in some cases, to export the raw audio file into a shareable file (mp3, ACC, WAV, etc).
Audio Recording Equipment
Here’re some equipment you’ll need, arranged according to budget.
I’m using a Samsung S10+ which comes with in-built sound recording functions that lets me record sounds for different purposes – standard or interview. The built in microphone is great at close distance.
Most laptops come with in-built microphones and a basic sound recorder as well.
If you’re going for this route, there’re a few steps you may want to take to improve your audio recording quality.
- Record in a quiet place. This greatly reduces the noise that’s captured by your microphone.
- Speak as close to the microphone as possible.
Have a budget to work with?
If you have a little more budget on hand, I suggest getting an external microphone.
Built in microphones provide great convenience but their quality varies. I’m rather satisfied with my Samsung S10+’s mic, however I wouldn’t say the same for that of my laptop’s.
Look for a lapel mic with a TRS cable that lets you plug it directly to your devices. These mics are compatible for both phones and laptops. For a budget option, start with the brand BOYA and if you have a bigger budget look at RODE or Sennheiser’s offerings.
If you’ll be recording with a laptop or desktop, USB microphones are a good option. Start by looking for microphones that are either cardioid or super cardioid mics. The Blue Yeti is popular for its plug and play functionality.
If you have an XLR Microphone, you may need an audio interface or mixer or a phantom power supply in order to record your audio with your laptop. Dynamic microphone may work with a simple XLR to USB cable.
Quick tip here. Avoid super cheap microphones because they may sound worse than your built in microphone. You’ll want to look for a model with good reviews.
When should you consider upgrading your audio recording equipment?
If you’re recording alone or a single speaker, a phone is probably sufficient.
However, if you wish to record an interview with multiple parties, you may want to consider a more comprehensive set up that would allow you to record each speaker clearly and separately.
How to (quickly) edit audio, for free
You’ll need an audio software or app.
If you prefer to work on a laptop or desktop, download Audacity or use Garageband if you own a Mac.
These softwares may have a slight learning curve, so here’re some great tutorials that’ll get you started:
How to use Audacity for audio editing
How to use Garageband for audio editing
How to upload your audio content?
As a long-forgotten media format, you may notice that many platforms might not as friendly for audio. But this is likely to change in the near future.
I did a quick recording on an acoustic guitar to illustrate the process using different equipment.
- Phone (Samsung S10+)
- Microphone (Sennheiser e835s) plugged into a Behringer XENYX1204FX mixer and recorded with Garageband
Comparison of Recording from Phone vs Microphone
Things to note:
- Recording was done in an open room with no sound isolation. Sound source is about 5cm away from the microphones.
- Recording was done at the same time, with phone and mic next to each other.
- No post-audio editing was done.
- Pardon the horrible finger picking.
The following recordings are uploaded directly through WordPress, with playback is enable using the Audio block :
Quick recording from Phone:
Quick recording with Microphone
You may notice that the phone recording is cleaner / less noisy compared to the Microphone recording. This could be due to several reasons:
- this was a quick and dirty recording, meaning no sound isolation was done.
- the mixer was plugged into the MacBook Pro using a cheap ($10) USB sound card which could have introduced extra noise.
- the gain level might have been too high.
This comparison was done to illustrate the difference in skills level required, if you plan to use better audio equipment. Please be clear that you’ll need to either outsource this by hiring someone who is competent, or spend the time to master the basic skills of audio production. Quality of the content you publish speaks volumes about your brand.
If you’re not running your website off WordPress, or prefer to upload your audio files elsewhere, do take note that most audio platforms will tend to compress or reduce the final playback quality, regardless of the recording and editing quality of your audio file. (This is also true for platforms like YouTube) This is done to ensure faster streaming speeds for the masses.
I’ve included the follow playback of tracks uploaded on:
SoundCloud is a popular audio streaming and distribution platform. Here’s how the recordings sound like:
Quick recording from Phone:
Quick recording with Microphone
The difference isn’t too noticeable, unless you’re dealing with an audiophile customer group (in which case you shouldn’t be reading this article…)
Now that we’ve gotten the operational portion of audio recording down, let’s talk about the most important component of audio content marketing (and any form of content marketing really):
Where to share your audio content?
Once you’ve created your audio, you’ll need to share it.
Uploading it to your website is a good first step, but that alone is insufficient if you wish to reach a larger audience.
Here’re three platforms you should to consider when marketing your audio content.
1 – Existing audience base
If you have an existing audience (could be email list or customer list), share your content with them. They already know your business and could even help you reach out to similar people who’d find your content useful.
Your website is another platform where you should publish your original audio content. You may want to complement the audio content with a written summary or video.
2 – Social Media
Market your content via your brand’s social media assets. These could be your Facebook page, Instagram page, YouTube channel, etc.
The advantage of using social media is twofolds – you can reach your existing audience and if you have the budget, you can spend a little to reach potential customers who had never engaged with your brand previously.
3 – Podcast Platforms
Podcast platforms and directories can also allow you to reach colder audiences or potential customers who have never heard of or interacted with your brand previously. To distribute your audio content on podcast platforms or directories, you’ll need a RSS feed.
If this is new to you, you’ll find this guide to creating a podcast RSS feed useful.
To learn more about content marketing, read my Content Marketing Handbook for small businesses.
Since Clubhouse erupted in popularity late 2020, big tech companies are starting to take a second look at audio content. Facebook has recently announced that it is working on tools that allow creators and users to publish audio easily. Other tech companies like Apple, Google and Spotify have made moves into the podcast space.
If you’re toying with the idea of creating audio content, you’ll need three things to get started:
- Audio recording equipment: for a start, a good phone will do
- Audio editing capabilities: tools like Audacity and Garageband are free, but you’ll still need to learn how to use them, or hire someone who does.
- Audio distribution network: make use of social media platforms like Facebook which is planning to create tools to push audio content. Or create an RSS feed to distribute your audio content as a podcast on directories and platforms like Spotify.
All the best!