By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Social Distancing Silver Lining? People Are Listening To Podcasts More

As COVID-19 keeps Americans isolated at home, many of us are craving entertainment more than ever before. Think about it: Our reliance on technology has never been so strong.

According to Nielsen, social distancing could lead to a 60% increase in time spent watching content on platforms like Netflix and others. Indeed, Netflix has been installed by more than 59 million new users since the start of the year, while competitors like YouTube also are seeing jumps in usage. In Europe, Netflix and YouTube have even reduced streaming quality to deal with pandemic-induced traffic spikes.

But people aren’t just watching Tiger King during these turbulent times; they’re also turning to podcasts. While podcasters may have lost much of the commuter audience in recent weeks, nearly 20% of U.S. adults say they are listening to podcasts more. This is especially true for young Americans: Over 30% of Gen Zers are now listening to podcasts more often.

In many ways, there’s no better time to be a podcaster. If there is a silver lining to our public health crisis, it’s that today’s influencers have a golden opportunity to reach new audiences and change hearts and minds when many people are looking for ways to keep themselves busy and entertained.

If you take advantage of podcasting now, you can establish your own brand of thought leadership. You can position yourself as an expert on your given subject matter — from PR and marketing to eating clean and doing yoga. Perhaps the most forward-thinking entrepreneurs can even find new clients and customers at a time when financial security comes at a premium.

In the last week of March, business-related podcasts saw a 10% increase in downloads compared to the previous week. Many Americans seem to be using their newfound free time to learn new ideas and teach themselves new skills. Look at it this way: That could be you reaching listeners.

Since I launched my podcast, I’ve interviewed all sorts of interesting guests — from community bank CEOs and celebrity chefs to newspaper executives and news anchors. And I’ve reached thousands of listeners who didn’t even know about my company or understand the PR industry two years ago. Even though there are countless PR podcasts out there, my listeners depend on me to convey useful information — and they keep coming back for more.

Most importantly, it’s been a blast. Podcasting forces you to be social and make new connections — whether they’re personal, professional or both. Two years of podcasting later, it’s now one of my favorite activities.

And podcasting is only the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps you’re more interested in a video format, and you can do that too.

The recent rise in YouTube viewership is an opportunity for influencers of all kinds to expand their reach and promote their respective brands. On March 15, YouTube saw a 500% increase in views compared to its usual daily average, with videos on meditation (55%), cooking (100%) and exercising (200%) experiencing massive traffic surges.

If you’re in the fitness industry, why not start a channel and create that first video? If you’re a local chef who’d like to reach a national audience, why not share a favorite recipe with your fellow YouTubers? What’s the worst that could happen? One of my clients is a chef who has been helping people create recipes from the things they have in the back of their refrigerators and kitchen cupboards. It’s been interesting, to say the least.

Even after COVID-19 has run its course (hopefully sooner rather than later), the work-from-home trend probably isn’t going anywhere. From hosting conferences to completing projects, technology makes it easier to be productive remotely. As millions of Americans do work at home on their laptops, many of them will inevitably play YouTube videos in the background. Many workers will even take breaks to watch educational videos (among others). At the same time, they may turn to podcasts to hear from their favorite influencers.

Again, that could be you. Think of your niche in the marketplace of ideas. Find the right topic. And then create a script for that first podcast or video. Preparation makes perfect.

If you’re comfortable with the microphone or the camera, trust me: You won’t regret it. It’s time to take your influence to another level.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in April 2020.