Audience Engagement & Growth
In my experience talking to producers, there are two main things that podcasters are generally unsatisfied by, with their shows. And one is their audience numbers. So, how do you actually go into podcasting with a plan to grow your audience in some regular way? Well, I'll ask you this: how many of you have recommended a podcast to someone in the last week? Yeah, everyone in the room, right? Or how many of you have listened to a podcast based on a recommendation that someone's made? Bingo! Podcasts grow because people love them, right? So word-of-mouth cannot be underestimated with this. So the key is you have to make a great podcast that people love and want to talk about. Easy, right? Well, I'll leave the making the great podcast up to you, but my point is, it's so valuable to make something that people are gonna love and feel like they -- that people around them have to listen to. And so, just keep this in mind, that word-of-mouth is your best tool for getting the word out there. One...
way you can do that is by finding other podcasts that are in the similar topic range of you and as your show, and suggesting that you trade mentions. So a lot of people hear about podcasts on other podcasts. So this is a really effective way where you can do a barter, where you can approach another show that might have listeners that will overlap with yours and say "Let's talk about each other's shows." These are really highly effective as well. I can say anecdotally, I've been keeping track of how people hear about Ear Hustle, and so I can tell you that the numbers bear out. Word-of-mouth is huge, family and friends is huge, other podcasts is huge. We have the heft of Radiotopia to help launch that show and still, three seasons later, people say like, that's how they first heard about it. Of course press helps, of course being reviewed and making the, you know, top ten list helps, but it's really, I feel like, that connection to listeners who love your show, that are gonna be the people out there talking about it. But there's way you can help yourself as well. Social channels are crucial because part of podcasting is that you're developing a relationship with your listeners. And that means engagement, and that means interacting with them as much as you can. Through social channels is the easiest way to do -- It takes time, it takes observation, you have to keep on top of things, but it's really a great way to get momentum going, and because things are so shareable, this is really a great -- also a great way to get your word out about your show. For example, Ear Hustle has very active Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and you can see thousands and thousands of people pay attention to these, and we just keep on top of them. We eventually hired a young woman named Erin to come on board and just help us keep up with all this and answer people's emails because the inbound volume was getting so large. But it's just very important to maintain these. People love reaching out to you, they love getting a response, it means so much to them, it will make them even loyal listeners, it will help them talk about your show at their next dinner party, so it can't be underestimated, the value of having the social channels out there. And look where the design comes back to -- you can see where having that consistency of what people are looking for can really help as well. Newsletters are great once you find out who your listeners are, don't be shy about asking people to, you know, go to a website, sign up. This is a way you can communicate directly with the listeners, give some additive information maybe that's not in the podcast, get a sense for who's out there. It's important just to keep a lifeline with your listeners in every way possible. And yes, they take time, but a really well-written newsletter is a joy to receive. And I wouldn't overdo with the newsletter. Once a month, you know, you can -- it depends on what the pace of your show is. Do you do something every episode? Do you wait and do a roundup once a month? We're experimenting with that ourselves at Radiotopia. We have a monthly email that goes out now to people, and, you know, we're constantly wondering, "Is it too much? The shows themselves send out newsletters, so as a network, are we kind of overloading it?" But I think, just people enjoy and appreciate hearing from shows that they love and new content, so I don't think you can go wrong with the newsletter. Callouts is a really active way to get your listeners engaged. Invite them to send you things. Invite them to tell you about their lives. Ask questions they can respond to. We did a callout on Ear Hustle on Earlonne's birthday and said "All he wants for his birthday is for people to sign up for the newsletter!" See, these things are all starting to interact, and it was highly effective. We had hundreds and hundreds of people sign up, and then they said "Happy Birthday, Earlonne! I signed up for the newsletter!" and then we said "Thank you for signing up for the newsletter!" and everyone was overjoyed, and it was a really positive experience. Nigel was really pleased to go back and tell Earlonne. I think we had close to 500 people sign up for the newsletter, just based on a couple of tweets saying "Hey, this is a way -- this is all Earlonne wants for his birthday," which he of course agreed we could say, and it was kind of true. Another callout that Radiotopia did was to -- all summer long, we promoted three new shows and invited people to escape to Radiotopia over the summer. By the end of the summer, we said "Send us postcards from wherever you've escaped to" and people sent us postcards from all over the country, all over the world, really, but I couldn't figure out a way to scale that so you could see. These are some postcards that we got. And then in return for postcards, we sent them stickers with a handwritten note. So here you had a digital content inspiring print mail, which inspired us to send them digital -- the stickers in the mail, and then of course they put pictures up online of the stickers they received, so it was a happy marriage between layers of interaction all through one project. And it's fun, I mean, it's great to see just the positive energy that comes from some of these callouts and responses. In Real Life. You know, podcast tours are all the rage, listening parties are all the rage. You can start meetups for your listeners, where you listen together, and then fans talk to each other and meet. It's such a personal medium at this point that having any way to interact with the actual people in the room, kind of like we're here today, and even the extended audience of people out there, like getting a sense of the community around you is a great way for people to dig deeper into your show and also just for you to get more out of creating a show and doing all the hard work that then brings an audience together. Earned media. Make a great podcast and people will write about it. So again, the quality is, you know, really to keep in mind that the better show is, the more people are gonna notice it. Now there's so many reviews, end-of-year lists, quarter-year lists, half-year lists, like there's so much out there about what podcasts are there, so it's your job a little bit to make enough noise around your show so it gets on people's radars, but I think really, the quality rises to the top, and that's where you earn the media that helps you grow your audience. And then there's paid media. So if you've got a little bit of cash to spend, and you have a budget that allows for it, you can take out ads on social channels, podcast apps, you can take out ads on those, so you can pick an app that feels like it suits the nature of your show and get it in front of more eyes. I mean, people are hungry for new shows all the time, so the more you can get your name out there, sometimes it helps to pay. It's more fun when you earn it, but you know, paid media is effective as well.