If you’ve already started an audio podcast for your small business, why not go a step further and add video?

Done the right way, video podcasts, also called video blogs, vblogs, videocasting or Web shows, can be effective promotional tools. “It’s a cool opportunity to take people behind the scenes of a business,” says Dina Kaplan, co-founder and COO of blip.tv, a three-year-old Internet TV network.

Although they aren’t as popular as audio podcasts yet, more small and large companies are using video podcasts to market what they do, Kaplan says. Her network airs video podcasts from hundreds of companies as diverse as the New York City Ballet

to the crafter website Etsy, which broadcasts online classes. “It’s been interesting to watch, especially in the last year, how many businesses have created Web shows to promote their product or gain exposure for principals,” Kaplan says.

Starting a Web show or video blog takes four basic ingredients: equipment, a theme, an online home and marketing.

The equipment

Very small businesses can get a video podcast going with a webcam or camcorder, wireless microphone and simple video editing equipment such as Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio or Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition. However, if you use a webcam, you’re limited to filming yourself sitting in front of a computer, and that’s not very exciting for viewers, says Peter Brusso, an Anaheim, Calif., podcasting producer and technology marketing consultant. Instead, invest in a camcorder, preferably a “three-chip” camera that uses three computer chips to separate colors, which results in a higher quality picture, Brusso says.

If you have a bigger budget, hire a professional to produce video podcasts for you. Prices run from $1,000 to $15,000, according to podcast industry sources. Employment attorney Helene Wasserman created a video podcast called Employer Helpcast a year ago to market her work as a partner with Ford & Harrison LLP, a Los Angeles law firm. Wasserman uses Brusso’s company to produce video podcasts and pays $2,500 for segments that run anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. It’s worth the money, she says. “If you’re trying to market yourself as having a very professional business, you want to put your best foot forward,” she says.

The show

You could have the best-looking video podcast around, but it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t do something that was interesting and consistent, says blip.tv’s Kaplan. Stick to a regular broadcast schedule, whether that’s once a day, week or month. And keep shows short. “Your aptitude for sitting in your uncomfortable office chair atrophies after about six minutes,” she says.

The best podcasts are also personable, says Kaplan, who previously worked in local TV news and advises podcasters to stick to the old news adage to show, not tell. If you run a retail business, walk around the store, and talk about new merchandise. “Talk to a customer. If you have a hardware store, show them the new hammer on sale,” she says.

Hosting and marketing

Once you’ve got a video podcast in the can, upload it to free or paid hosting sites such as blip.tv, iTunes or SwitchPod. Where a podcast is hosted isn’t as important as spreading the word that it’s there. Wasserman’s podcasts appear on blip.tv and iTunes and cover workplace issues such as job sharing, corporate culture and managing a multi-generational workforce. Wasserman points prospective viewers to the podcast from her website and blog and by including a tagline promoting the show in her email signature.

Wasserman also uses a free service that puts word-for-word transcripts of her video podcasts on the Web, where they can be searched by Google and other search engines. More people find her podcast through search engines than by visiting blip.tv or her website, and the traffic had led to speaking engagements and new work, she says. “It’s the wave of the future. For anyone who wants to use 21st century technologies, this is the way to go.”

SIDEBAR: More Resources for Video Podcasts

You can find out more about starting a video podcast here:

  • Blip.tv’s Learning Center -- Links to information about podcasting, equipment, production tips and more.
  • Yahoo’s video blogging list -- A message board where people interested in video podcasting post questions and trade information.
  • Leesa Barnes -- The tagline for this Website of a noted author and expert is “Make Selling Fun and Profitable Using a Podcast.”
  • Digital Inspiration’s list of video podcast hosts -- This review from a technology Website covers 10 companies that host video and audio podcasts.