When you first start hosting a podcast, you might be preoccupied with growing your list of subscribers and followers on social media. Sure, logic stands that if you increase your audience numbers, you’re bound to get additional download numbers, too.
However, high download numbers don’t always signal success for your podcast. Yes, you may have a wider audience for your message to be heard, but if that audience isn’t engaged, those numbers are totally worthless.
So what does having an engaged audience really mean?
Engaged audiences are loyal above anything else. They want your show to succeed just as much as you do. An engaged listener will already be a subscriber, will follow you on social media, and will regularly download your show. They are so satisfied with your content they eagerly return for more.
What’s even better is that engaged listeners will also start spreading the good news about your show to other people, becoming a word-of-mouth brand ambassador for you. Listeners who are engaged are also more likely to leave glowing reviews and ratings (which is important for potential listeners to see) and provide you with helpful feedback.
A handful of engaged listeners is worth 1,000 unengaged listeners. The trick is learning how to convert unengaged listeners into engaged subscribers.
If you’re not already using social media to grow your podcast audience, check out this post we wrote for a quick crash course and catch up. We’ll be building on these principles today to take audience engagement way beyond mere social media tactics.
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Choose the Right Content
Rule number one: If you’re not creating content that resonates with your target audience, they’re not going to stick around long enough to become engaged. Most new podcasters already know this, so they try to create content that will help solve a problem their listeners are facing.
But don’t just identify a problem and then tell your listeners how you fixed it.
According to the Social Media Desk, “The podcasts with higher levels of engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) tended to be podcasts that have discussion-based content, as opposed to story driven content.”
So instead of going on about how you defeated the hardest boss in a videogame, frame your episode with a discussion about tactics. Research what others have done in similar situations and talk about why they work (or don’t work) with your audience.
This is why having guests on your show makes for such dynamic and interesting segments; you’re able to bounce ideas off each other and discuss different solutions that worked for each of you. You give your listener several solutions instead of droning on about a single one (which may not help them).
The more value your listeners find in your podcast, the more engaged they will become.
End With a Question
Since you’re focusing more on discussions, why not carry the conversation over to your audience?
If you end your episodes with a question, you give your listeners a chance to ponder their own ideas and stances. They will keep thinking about an answer to your question long after they’ve taken their headphones off.
For example, if your episode was about how to turn a brick-and-mortar store into a thriving online business, ask your listeners about their biggest reasons for shopping online.
Post this question at the end of your show notes and across all of your social media channels to encourage interaction wherever your listeners feel most comfortable sharing their thoughts. Reply to as many people as you can, so your listeners have the feeling of connecting with an actual person. Rather than making them feel like they’re sending their information to an online void, never to be seen or heard from again.
You can even pose questions between episodes that draw attention to upcoming shows. For instance, “Next week’s episode is all about how to grow tomatoes without killing them. What are your biggest frustrations and/or best tips?”
Read your listeners’ answers and mention some of them during your episode.
Feel free to also ask your listeners for feedback — don’t take this as criticism. Take it as an opportunity to give your audience exactly what they want.
Utilize that John Hancock
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between a living and breathing person behind a computer and a robot within our vast online world. Browse any social media platform for a few minutes and you’re bound to come across an account that was created solely to promote content and engage via scripted replies.
Your listeners will not engage with a bot. Podcasts create intimacy and ignoring your listeners or using a bot will destroy that sense of connection.
The simple act of signing content you create gives the impression that you, or someone working for your show, is actually taking the time to interact in a genuine way. It shows your followers and potential subscribers that you’re a real person that cares enough to interact with them.
Nothing’s a substitute for real human connections and it’s these connections that will keep your audience engaged and interactive.
Stay True to Your Voice
Consistency is key for loyal and engaged followers. Decide how you want your show to be perceived by your audience and make sure all of your content reflects that. Treat your show like a brand and create brand consistency.
For example, Comedy Central will probably not start airing indie foreign dramas. Their brand is built around the idea that anyone can turn on the channel and find something funny to laugh at. Engage in what your audience is also interested in, or they’re going to find someone else who will.
Let’s apply this to your podcast: if your show is full of irreverent humor, then your newsletter shouldn’t take a serious tone. Think about how strange it would be to get an email about the top fart jokes from a show that discusses complex ideas from emerging science. Kind of a disconnect, right?
Take some time to nail down your podcast’s voice and make sure you can execute that all the time. This isn’t the time to start playing pretend or experimenting with your voice. People can always tell when you’re faking it. Listeners will connect if they feel like they know you and your show is in line with their expectations, which will come across stronger if you have a well-defined perspective.
Create a Club
People love being part of an exclusive club. If you create special content for subscribers, they will feel as if they’re getting insider information that separates them from casual listeners.
This content can start out as free, but if you want to offer another tier of paid-for content for superfans, you will have the data and metrics to see if it would even be worth your effort.
Your extra content could include things like: YouTube videos, mini episodes, downloadable cheat sheets, never-before-seen pictures from the show, etc.
Host a Giveaway
People always love getting free stuff. If you have sponsors for your podcast, ask them to provide a small gift to be used as a giveaway for one or a few of your listeners.
Set up the stipulation that the winner must be a subscriber of your show and post something on social media about the giveaway, product, or podcast (or all three!). Make them use a specific hashtag so others can see what all the hoopla is about.
Giveaways promote the idea that you’re giving back and treating your listeners. This extra promotion will work well for your sponsors, plus it will get your show buzz if your fans start sharing the info online.
You don’t need a sponsor for a giveaway. Think about giving away a gift certificate, memorabilia from your show, or even a personal one-on-one conversation/tutorial.
When people choose to listen to a podcast, they’re forgoing all the shows on TV, all the movies on Netflix, and all the blogs they enjoy reading. They’re tuning in to hear a person speak about topics that interest them specifically, no matter how weird or small the niche is. Connect with these like-minded individuals as if you were strangers who wanted to be best friends. Please don’t just treat them like download numbers.
Remember: Always be yourself, stay true to your voice, and be accessible.
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