If you have a podcast but no one is listening, does it really exist? Well, yes, it does. But is it helping you grow your brand, reach an audience, and, ultimately, sell more of your product or service?
The simple fact is that you need to have an audience to make your podcast worth the time, effort, and money you’re putting into it. The larger your audience, the faster your growth, in many cases. Why? First, you’ll be able to attract quality guests. Secondly, you’ll be more likely to get high-quality sponsors. Finally, word-of-mouth is a great marketing tool. The more people listening to your show, the greater the chance that your content will be shared.
You need to grow your podcast audience. The question is, how do you do it? Read on for the top 30 ways to grow your audience.
First, the Basics
#1: Make your show the best it can possibly be.
Before you begin to grow your podcast audience, you need to have an excellent podcast. Sit back and take an objective look at what you currently have. If you’re not putting enough time into the episodes, if you’re inconsistent, if your interviews are boring or not well-planned, or if you’re otherwise just not coming off as professional, then people will get frustrated and will stop listening. In the case of podcasting, it’s worse to have a bad podcast than it is to have no podcast. If your self-assessment is showing you that you’re just not hitting the mark, it might be better to take down what you have, clean it up, and start it up again when you’re really ready put your all into it.
#2: Start with a great title.
What’s in a name? Well, the name of your podcast needs to tell people what it’s all about. If you were to choose something vague, lots of potential listeners could scroll right by it because they would have no idea what the podcast was about. As Income School points out, there are podcasts out there with non-descriptive, ambiguous names, but if they are doing well (and that’s a big if!), it’s likely because the host or a guest was already well-known. If you don’t yet have a title for your show, think simple and clear.
#3: Make sure your equipment is up to snuff.
There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating than listening to a podcast that’s staticky, cutting in and out, warbled, too quiet, too tinny, or otherwise just sounding terrible. Even if a listener is extremely interested in your topic, any of these issues will prompt him or her to find something else to listen to. If you don’t have the cash to spend on high-end equipment, don’t worry; there is good podcasting equipment available for almost any budget.
#4: Use the right hosting.
Particularly if you’re new to podcasting, but also if you’re not, you need to find a hosting company that will help you troubleshoot and otherwise meet your needs. There are several popular companies; some cater to larger podcasts, while others are good for smaller ones. If your show’s website is on WordPress, which most are, then we have to recommend you check out Seriously Simple Podcasting. With an integrated media hosting option you can manage your entire podcast without ever having to leave WordPress.
If you’re not on WordPress then we have to recommend Simplecast as great alternatives for platform independent options.
#5: Consider making a YouTube video.
There will always be people who prefer to watch a video over downloading a podcast. Also, YouTube is an extremely popular platform that anyone can use easily on just about any type of device. You can leverage the power of YouTube as you work on your episodes.
When you record your podcasts, consider also uploading them onto YouTube (or use a platform that does this for you automatically). You can do this as an audio-only file or as a video. If the video is just you talking, it might not get many views, but if you are entertaining with your facial expressions or if you can otherwise add to the video podcast, that could increase your audience. You can also live stream your podcasts or create videos that add more information to your podcast episodes.
Appeal to Your Listeners
#6: Focus on a niche.
If you have a business, the logical choice might be to talk about that, but you’re going to have to narrow it down somewhat. What, exactly, do you want to talk about? Will you bring your personal life into the podcast, and to what extent? Maybe you don’t want to have a podcast about what you do for pay. If that’s the case, what’s your passion? Remember that this is going to be work, so you’re going to need to choose a niche that you’re interested in and that you’ll continue to be interested in over the long haul. Check out this list of six questions to ask yourself to help you hone in on your niche.
#7: Know your audience.
While you’re deciding on your niche, this is the perfect time to really think about your audience. How old is your ideal listener? What’s their income level? What do they do for work? Do they have a spouse and/or children? What are their hobbies, passions, and goals? What do they expect to learn from your podcast? Knowing who your audience is will allow you to reach them most efficiently. And knowing who your audience is not will help you save time and avoid going down barren rabbit trails.
#8: Ask your listeners what they want to hear.
Brainstorming topics for your podcast can be a challenge, so why not let your audience help you out? During your podcast episodes, put out a call to action asking your listeners to suggest topics that they’d like to hear about. You can also put out a call for topics on your blog, in your email signature, on social media, and anywhere else you interact with people who might listen to your show.
#9: Keep track of what’s being downloaded the most.
By being on top of your analytics, you can be aware of which episodes are getting the most hits. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these are the episodes that are actually being listened to the most frequently, warns George Weiner on wholewhale.com. It merely gives you a place to begin when you need to make an educated guess as to what type of content your listeners want to hear more of.
#10: Be engaging and interesting.
If all it took to be engaging was the desire, then no one would have a podcast that went unheard. It’s easier said than done, but make the effort to figure out what will engage your audience (you know exactly who they are, right?), and make a plan to integrate those interesting features into your episodes. Mix it up: Don’t always interview the same type of people, don’t always make it a monologue, and don’t always cover the same topics or use the exact same format.
#11: Don’t be afraid to experiment with edginess.
This tip should be taken with a grain of salt because not every audience or every topic lends itself well to edginess. If yours does, however, give it a try. Don’t get too daring at first; a little taste of grit or surprise will go a long way. For most shows, you’re going to want to keep it clean. If you’re having trouble discerning where the boundary is, here’s an article on cruising that fine line between edgy and unacceptable in marketing; you can apply the tips to your podcast.
Don’t Go It Alone
#12: Learn how to network.
The more contacts you have, the greater chance you have to talk up your podcast. Even if the person you’re speaking to isn’t interested, he or she might run into someone who is, and they can pass the info along. Andrew Vest of Forbes.com suggests just being your natural self and focus on being friendly and open. Also, never discount anyone; talk to everyone from the cashier at the grocery store to the high-powered attorney on the treadmill next to you at the gym.
#13: Make friends with fellow podcasters.
Getting hooked up with other podcasters means that you have people to bounce ideas off of. You can also promote each other to enjoy some overlap when it comes to your audiences. For example, if your podcast is about marketing, chances are great that yours is not the only ones that your audience listens to. By collaborating with your friends who also have marketing podcasts, being guests on each other’s shows, and recommending specific episodes to your respective audience, both of you will benefit from an increase in listeners. Now multiply that by two, five, ten, or twenty over time, and you’ve got yourself a nice group of new listeners.
#14: Get out and about.
You might wonder where you’re going to meet these new podcasting friends. You can certainly contact people through the contact forms on their websites, but that’s basically the same as cold calling. Consider attending a podcasting conference. This will give you the chance to mingle and network with podcasters while picking up some great tips on all facets of the craft.
Harness the Power of Being Social
#15: Experiment with different types of social media.
Okay, now it’s time to talk about promotion. Social media is an amazing tool, as you already know. Don’t be afraid to try platforms other than the ones you’re currently using. Facebook and Twitter are great, of course, but don’t forget about LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tumblr. You don’t need an account on each of these, but consider who your audience is and where they are likely to spend most of their time online. Go to those platforms and concentrate on them.
#16: Don’t forget to engage your social media followers.
Okay, you’ve got your profiles all set up, and you’re posting along at a steady pace. But your social media marketing job is not done yet! The point of social media is engagement, so you need to engage with your followers. Like or respond to their comments. Answer their questions. Re-post material that they’re posting. Have contests, ask questions, and look for suggestions. If you aren’t engaging with your followers, they aren’t going to continue to be interested in what you have to say.
#17: Build an amazing website.
Sure, anyone can slap together a free website and call it done. If you just need a simple blog, this can work for you. If you’re just starting out and you’re not ready to invest in a bells-and-whistles site, go ahead and set up something simple on your own. With sites like Squarespace and Weebly, you can make it look professional by keeping it neat and clean. Once you are able to, however, talk to an SEO company or a web designer about creating a user-friendly, optimized site to use to keep your audience coming back for more.
#18: Build a spectacular blog.
One of the most important parts of your website is going to be your blog. You can use it to write about topics that are coming up and topics that have already been covered on your podcast. If you’ve talked about something controversial on your show, you can use your blog to show the other side or to bolster your own side with more resources and evidence. Post photos and talk a little about yourself personally. This type of material will keep your readers coming back not only to read, but also to listen to your episodes.
Make It All Fit Together
#19: Repurpose your content.
If the thought of coming up with content for your website, blog, YouTube channel, social media, and podcast seems overwhelming, you’re probably making it too complicated. Anything you post can be repurposed for any of your other platforms. For example, you already know that your podcast can be put up on YouTube for those who prefer watching a video. You can also turn it into a blog post and make it the subject of your social media posts for that week. Make your content work for more than one platform to appeal to more people and to make your life simpler.
#20: Include show notes, a transcript, or at least an episode description.
When you upload your podcast episodes, you’ll want to have something available for people who want more information. At a bare minimum, you’ll need an episode description. Make it a bit of a teaser so they’ll be tempted to listen. Show notes, particularly those that are time-stamped, are a great way to keep listeners engaged. It also allows them to advance ahead to the topics they really wanted to hear about. At Podcast Motor, we can create show notes that pique your listeners’ attention and keep them interested. A transcript is another good option that you can add to your site.
#21: Have a great CTA.
Once people listen to your show, what do you want them to do? Should they subscribe? Contact you for help that you can provide? Go to your website? Buy your book? Come back next Tuesday for the second part of the episode? It’s important to have a call-to-action that inspires your listeners to take the next step, whatever that is.
#22: Come right out and ask for what you want early in your show.
This goes along with having a strong call-to-action, but it’s not exactly the same thing. You don’t want anything else you want from your readers to compete with your CTA, so if you have other requests, include them earlier in your podcast. For example, maybe you want your listeners to visit your guest’s website. Mention that in the beginning of the show. If you want them to enter a contest that you’re holding and you don’t want that to be your CTA, then talk about it before the halfway point of the episode.
Consider These Best Practices
#23: Upload new episodes regularly.
It can be hard to keep up the momentum of uploading new episodes, but if you don’t, your listeners will begin to fade away. Having a planned calendar can help. Pick a specific time during the course of your day, week, or month when you will record your show, then have a different time to edit, and a time to upload it. Plan your episodes in advance, and consider recording a week or two ahead of schedule so you can accommodate emergencies, equipment malfunctions, power outages, and the like.
#24: Plan episodes for when you’ll be away.
You can go on vacation, but your podcast shouldn’t if you are trying to build your audience. Recording ahead of time can eliminate any disruption. So can having a guest host on your show. You can even record a couple of non-time-sensitive episodes to plug in when you go on vacation. Just make sure you have something going up at your scheduled time to maintain consistency and your listeners’ attention.
#25: Engage with your commenters.
Just like you do with your social media follower, make sure that you’re engaging with anyone who is leaving comments on your show. Answer questions. If someone asks a great question that gives you an idea for a show topic, let them know that you’ll get to it in a future episode. If you can, send them a quick email or tag them in the comments thread when you do get around to putting up that episode. One exception to the rule: Don’t engage with trolls. It’s best to just delete trollish comments as they come up. Not sure if you’re dealing with a troll? Here are some tips.
Collaborate With Others
#26: Be on other people’s podcasts.
Getting yourself a gig as a guest on someone else’s podcast is a great way to boost your own audience. Your podcast will show up in their show notes, and some of their listeners will probably check out your show. There are some tips on pitching podcasters that you should be aware of; namely, start small and be specific in your pitch.
#27: Invite others to be on yours.
Another way to boost your listening audience is to invite experts and other podcasters to be on your show. If your guests have their own following (either on podcasts, their social media platforms, or their blogs), those readers or listeners might become part of your audience, too.
#28: Have a plan to ask great questions.
When you are having a guest on your show, you’re going to want to ask the right questions. Don’t ask questions that are already answered on their website, for example. You can ask for clarification on a subject or delve into a topic more deeply, however. Spend some time crafting a good list of questions that should fill your time. You can always cut questions out, but it’s stressful when you’ve asked all of your questions and you have 15 minutes left to fill. Consider sending the questions to the guest ahead of time so he or she can prepare their answers.
#29: Allow for spontaneity.
While you should have a mental or written outline for how your interview should go, it’s important to leave some room for off-the-cuff responses, stories that lead to a fascinating tangent, or asking questions that aren’t on your cheatsheet. Beware of going too far off of your intended trail, however. Remember that you can always have the guest back for more discussion if the topic warrants it.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Goal
#30: Never stop marketing yourself.
Once you’re to the point where your listening audience has grown substantially, you might feel as though it’s safe to stop promoting yourself. This is not the case! As any entrepreneur knows, it’s vital that you are always marketing. You don’t want to suddenly realize one day that your audience has dwindled down to a few dozen loyal listeners. As the months go by, your podcast will grow and change, and your audience will change, too. Don’t take it for granted that your current audience will stick with you over time.