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Thursday, 26 November 2009

7 Ways to Use Website Audio in Your Marketing Arsenal

Most visitors to your website are using computers with audio capabilities. Recently introduced techniques make it easy to take advantage of this capability.

In the past, web audio was primarily decorative, consisting of musical fanfares or other clich├ęd sound effects. Now, you can use audio to multiply the impact of your message and create stronger bonds with your visitors.

Audio's power comes from its ability to engage more of your visitor's senses. The more senses you engage, the easier it will be to effectively communicate. Instead of just reading your words and looking at your picture, you can communicate with your voice – and the voices of your clients.

The power of audio can be appreciated by comparing the newspaper column version of Tom and Ray Magliozzi's Car Talk with the program aired each week on National Public Radio. Although the newspaper column and radio program address the same topics, it's far more fun to listen to Car Talk – where you can experience Tom and Ray's intonations and phrasing – than to read the same words.

Here are some of the ways you can employ audio on your website:

  • Welcoming messages. You can create closer emotional bonds with website visitors by personally welcoming them to your site and introducing some of the features they should explore.

  • Testimonials. Audio testimonials are far more powerful that written testimonials, especially if you include a photograph of the individual speaking the testimonial. The next best thing to a face-to-face referral is a recording of a client explaining their satisfaction with your product in their own words.

  • Guarantees. Your satisfaction guarantees gain impact when you deliver them in your own voice. Place them on your order form, at the point of sale. People are inherently cautious about ordering products and services from the Internet. Reassure them that their credit card and personal information are safe with you.

  • Seminars and teleconferences. Short excerpts about upcoming events can make your event even more appealing. Snippets from past seminars can whet visitors' appetites for more.

  • Tips. Add interest to your site by describing an audio ‘tip of the day' or ‘tip of the week' in your own words. Be sure to offer access to previous tips, too.

  • Audio postcards. You can include audio invitations and testimonials as links in email sent to clients and prospects. To arrange an audio testimonial, simply provide your client with a phone number and password, and invite them to call up and express their satisfaction with their purchase from you. Audio postcards are a great way to stay in contact with your clients and prospects with an announcement of an upcoming product or service. They are also a quick way to acknowledge a special occasion.

  • Streaming audio can be used to allow visitors to playback longer events, like seminars or teleconferences.

When you add audio to your website, allow your visitors to maintain control. Don't begin playing your message when the webpage loads. Instead, invite visitors to ‘click here' to hear your voice. Keep your messages as short and concise as possible.

And avoid ‘scripting' your introductions and guarantees. Write down the key ideas you want to communicate, but deliver them in your own words as conversationally as possible.

Web audio is no longer a futuristic luxury. Web audio is here now and it's as close as your telephone. It is an affordable and easily added feature that can set you apart from the competition and help communicate your message with added impact.

A Brief Guide to Audio Conferencing Services

Audio conferencing provides a way for businesses and other groups to interact, without having to travel to each other's offices. The savings in time and travel expenses quickly make up for the cost of audio conferencing services and equipment. Audio conferencing usually involves other types of teleconferencing technology, such as video and collaborative software. Collaborative software is software that one user may send to other users for simultaneous viewing and modification. For example, if the group wants to work on a diagram, it can be seen and drawn upon by anybody in the conference via a special electronic whiteboard.

An audio conferencing system can be rented, bought from a vendor or reseller, or hired as part of a full audio conferencing solution. Such full-service packages include human support services like management, marketing, and tech support.

When audio conferencing services are rented, the communication is routed through the vendor's server software. The client is charged according to the number of users or “seats” who will be participating, the length of time each seat will be participating, and any initial equipment rental or purchase costs. The vendor can charge a per-seat and per-minute fee (for example, $0.15/seat/minute). Alternatively, a client can rent the service by the week, month, or year, with a maximum allowed number of seats per conference or session. For example, a one-week service for five seats could cost $100 a week, while a one-year service for 100 people could cost a few thousand dollars. Rental audio conferencing services are best for small to medium sized businesses where the initial equipment purchase costs would far outweigh the savings on travel.

When audio conferencing services are bought, the communication is routed through the client's server software, which is bought and licensed from the vendor. The client chooses how small or large a package he or she wants. For example, the client can buy software that allows for 100 seats, 1000 seats, or much more. The client can decide whether to include any of a number of high-tech add-ons such as whiteboard capabilities, and whether expandability is important. The client buys all the necessary equipment and software to run the system. The initial cost can be tens of thousands of dollars, so these are best suited to larger numbers of seats over the long term. However, tech support will always be a necessity, so the client should subscribe to the vendor's expertise.

Adding audio to your web site

What do you do with your intranet or internet site once you've added words and pictures? How about adding audio as well?

Audio is friendly, direct and ideally suited to getting complex messages across in a short space of time.

It's now getting easier to add audio to the net, thanks to increasing bandwidths and innovative new ways of compressing data.

The problem has been that CD-quality audio has traditionally been the preserve of ISDN- and ADSL-equipped users. Basically, there has been too much data to fit down the pipe.

But, borrowing on the same techniques that are used to compress digital photographic images, it is now possible to compress sound to make it fit down a standard dial-up 56KBps modem line.

The trick is to compress the audio in a way that doesn't sound offensive to the ear, but can still pass along the line at about 3 kilobytes per second, given that a dial-up modem downloads at about 4-ish kilobytes per second.

The next trick is to use streaming technology that can start to play the audio while it is still downloading. As a long as it is downloads fast enough you don't get annoying stops and starts. You should also end up with a “buffer”. In many cases, the whole audio file will have downloaded long before the user has finished listening to it.

The volume of online streaming audio grew by 118 per cent last year, according to market researchers US-based AccuStream iMedia Research and the top ten internet radio stations received an average of 137.5m tuning hours in the same period, up from 63m in 2003.

Typical audio formats are Real's Radio Player (as chosen by the BBC), the ubiquitous MP3 (as featured on thousands of youngster's personal hi-fis) and Macromedia Flash.

MP3SoundStream (http://www.mp3soundstream.com/cgi-bin/cppro/go.cgi?snichols1)uses Flash and works well as 98% of computers already have the Flash plug-in and the rest can easily download it. Flash takes the MP3 file, combines it with an audio controller button and streams it for you off any server, which means low-cost and ease of use.

So once you have the technology in place, what can you record? The answer is anything. Adding audio to an intranet lets you record a weekly message from the CEO or a sales message. Or why not have a weekly news round-up?

The audio can either be recorded straight into your PC via a microphone and soundcard, or recorded on a Minidisc recorder and then digitised into the computer. Once there you can add music, voiceovers, cuts and fades with a program like Adobe Audition or Sony Soundforge. Music can be bought online for just a few pounds and you can even use free audio editing programmes, like Audacity.

What was once the preserve of the BBC and other high-end radio studios is now available on a desktop computer near you – but only if you have the skills to match.

FAQs (291 words)

Q. What is streaming audio?
A. It is audio delivered to your computer that can be listened to while it is still downloading.

Q. What's the advantage over other audio formats?
A. You don't get an annoying delay while the whole file downloads.

Q. What do listeners need to have on their computer?
A. A soundcard and speaker(s) or headphones, their normal browser software and a so-called plug-in – a small piece of software that converts the data into sound.

Q. This all sounds expensive – is it?
A. Not really. You can get free programs to record your sound, a computer microphone costs less than a tenner and there are free audio editing programs available on the net. You then need to convert the audio file to a streaming format, but there is an increasing amount of software available to do that too. You also need to think about a MiniDisc recorder as these have superseded cassette tape for most applications. Royalty-free background and intro music is available on CD and via the web for a small fee.

Q. What is the quality like?
A. Judge for yourself – visit www.infotechcomms.co.uk/info10.htm and listen to the demonstration programmes. The trick is to get the quality as high as you can, but still make it playable on an average modem-equipped home computer. Once everyone has broadband it will be CD-quality for all.

Add streaming audio to your website

Adding streaming audio to your web site can help you enhance the message you send to your customers and can serve as a wonderful confidence-building tool. In the past, audio was used primarily as a decorative effect, but advances in technology and the increased use of the internet by consumers have made it easy for you to add streaming audio to your web site and create a personal bond with your clientele. You can also add streaming audio to your newsletter or blog for a personal touch that will keep the interest of your readers and subscribers.

Streaming audio can be used in welcome messages placed on the first page of your web site. Adding a personal welcome message to your readers and explaining some of the features they can explore on your web site is an excellent way to enhance the experience of the customer. You may also want to add streaming audio to your web site in the form of testimonials from satisfied customers. Most computer users have the capability to hear audio messages and will find it a refreshing change from monotonous text that may or may not hold their interest. Your newsletter or blog will benefit from the use of streaming audio as well. You may want to add a new helpful tip in audio form each day to your blog, or include audio product updates in your newsletter.

Adding streaming audio to your web site, newsletter, or blog is no longer a frivolous addition. It is not difficult or expensive to add audio to your web site and you will find that your customers enjoy this new feature. The audio content should be conversational and pleasant, and sound as natural as possible. You can write down the topics and points you would like to cover in your streaming audio message, but record your message as if you were speaking to friends and family. Adding streaming audio to your web site, newsletter, or blog is the perfect way to give your customers a personal message that will give them confidence in your sincerity and integrity.