Starting your own podcast and growing your podcast audience doesn’t require any kind of specialised training or insider knowledge. But it does require planning and consistency. Before you begin you will need to know what type of podcasts you’ll be creating and what sort of unique value proposition you have to offer listeners. Read on to learn how to grow your podcast.
What is a podcast?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to grow your podcast following, we need to define exactly what it is you’ll be trying to create. A podcast is a series of topical audio discussions that are typically distributed via websites like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audible and others, social media platforms and community apps like Disciple.
Reasons to start a podcast
If you don’t know why you want to start your own podcast series you’re going to have a hard time getting it off the ground. Here are some of the most common reasons people decide to create their own podcast:
- To assist in community building efforts
- To establish expertise in their chosen field
- To assist in creating a social network
- To generate some income from their specialised knowledge
- To promote awareness of a cause
- To enhance market visibility of a product or brand
- To have some fun
Some misconceptions about podcasts
People are often reluctant to create their own podcasts because they harbour one or more of the following misconceptions:
- You need to be tech-savvy to create a podcast: Not true. If you can operate a microphone and some simple software you can create your own professional-sounding podcasts.
- You need access to a soundproof recording studio: That would make things a lot easier, but it’s not necessary. Most people can create podcasts at home.
- Podcasts are old hat: Not true. Podcasts have never been more popular. Apple even have their own Apple Podcast website dedicated to the medium.
- You need millions of listeners: Not true. Everyone has to start somewhere. The key is to produce quality podcasts on interesting topics and to be persistent.
- Podcasts need to be an hour long: Not true. Your podcast can be as long or as short as you want it to be.
Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get you started on creating your own podcast series.
Getting started with your podcast
If you go into this without a clear direction, the chances are that you’ll lose interest before you’re able to get off the ground. The same will happen if you select a topic for your podcast series based on what you think people want, instead of what interests you. So before you begin worrying about how to get the word out about your podcast you need to know exactly what type of podcast product you intend to offer.
Pick your podcast niche
You might be tempted to create a podcast series that is all things to all people, thinking that is the surest way to garner a huge audience. However, those who aspire to be everything to everyone usually end up being not much to anyone.
The few open-form podcasts that succeed tend to be those led by well-known figures. For instance, Joe Rogan, who hosts the world’s most popular podcast, was well-known for being a UFC presenter, comedian and the host of TV’s Fear Factor before he started his podcast.
Unless you have that kind of built-in name recognition it’s vital that you select a niche for your podcast and commit to building your audience from the ground up. If you’re not sure what your niche should be, fall back on any special knowledge or training you have, or on something you feel passionate about.
Research your podcast audience
Once you decide on a niche, do some research on your potential audience. Who are the people likely to be interested in what you’ll be talking about? Where do they live? Are they active on social media? Do they listen to other podcasters? And if so, who?
By getting a clear picture of your potential audience you can refine the techniques you use to reach them. For instance, if they are a little older they may use a legacy social media app like Facebook. While if they’re under 25, they may gravitate more towards TikTok
Spotify for Podcasters is another great source of usable intel that provides comprehensive analytics so you can see who is listening to what.
Plan your content
By now you have already decided on your niche and gained a better understanding of the audience you’ll be targeting. Now it’s time to come up with a content plan. Before you begin, know this: If your content is 2nd rate, your podcast will wither and die.
So we’d advise sitting down and mapping out at least your first 10 podcast episodes. Plan each episode carefully starting with the subject, then come up with interesting and informative material on that subject and finally make sure you present it in a logical fashion.
But whatever you do, don’t use your podcasts as a platform for the hard sell. Your podcast will be the voice of your brand and you want people to tune in because you have something of value to offer them. Keep any marketing subtle and low-key or they’re going to exit and not return.
Set goals and targets
Your next job is to decide what success means to you. Where do you want to be 1 year after you start? 5 years? What measuring sticks can you use to determine if you have reached your goal? It’s important that you decide on a reasonable goal upfront and then use that as your North Star to guide your efforts.
Here are just some of the metrics podcaster use to determine where they stand in the podcast-verse:
- Number of subscribers
- Monthly unique listeners
- Number of repeat listeners
- Latest episode downloads
- Podcast ratings
- Podcast reviews
- Listener demographics
- Platform podcast rank
Regardless of what goal you set for yourself at the outset the things that will have the biggest impact on whether you achieve that goal are quality and perseverance. You will have ups and downs. You’ll have days when you’re convinced you’ve hit critical mass and days when you wonder why you bother. But no matter what, stay committed to producing a quality product and seeing the process through.
How to grow your podcast audience: 21 podcast growth strategies
Up to this point, we’ve been discussing how to plan your podcast series and track its progress. Now it’s time to look at some of the strategies you can employ to ensure you reach your goals.
Collaborate with other podcasts
Mountaineers roped together and cooperating with one another to overcome obstacles stand a better chance of reaching the summit than solo climbers. The same can be said of podcasters. Seek out other creators in your niche and arrange to appear on each other’s podcasts.
Consider hooking up with podcasters who focus on related topics or whose demographic overlaps with yours (Spotify analytics can help you out here). This strategy has a long and successful history dating back to TV talk show days when hosts would appear on each other’s programmes to boost the ratings of both.
Bring in live guests
While we have no doubt that the information you have to impart to your listeners is endlessly fascinating there’s nothing like having in-studio guests from time to time to keep things fresh for your audience. At first, you won’t be able to attract big names, but that’s okay.
You can get around that limitation to some extent by asking people who have a slightly different, or even opposite, viewpoint to appear as guests and then engage them in a lively, but respectful, back and forth. Nothing like a little controversy to pique people’s interest, after all.
In a word: Interviews
The interview show has been a mainstay of radio, television and now the internet for the better part of a century. Analysing exactly why they’re so popular would take much more space than we have here so we’ll just get to the point: people love interviews.
Whether you are at a loss for how to handle your next podcast or you want a proven format to base your entire podcast series on, interviews are a simple effective way to do so. Interview guests don’t have to be famous (although that wouldn’t hurt), as long as the interview is informative and entertaining.
Create epic podcast trailers
A trailer is a proven way to grab someone’s attention and create potential new listeners and subscribers. Podcast trailers should not only preview topics and/or guests of your upcoming podcasts, they should also communicate your unique value proposition and give viewers a taste of what you’re all about.
You can use video content or photos as your background, maybe some pics of your guest, or you can simply emphasize your logo and have audio play over a rolling transcript. You can create the trailer yourself and post it on various social media platforms, or you can use Spotify’s trailer creation software.
Post snippets or videos on social media
Here in the 2020s, social media is how people communicate. If you want them to tune in to your podcast you have to reach out through social media to draw them in. So it should go without saying that you should have a robust social media presence and use it to generate more podcast listeners.
Here are a few general rules for promoting your work via social media:
- Post a description of, and link to, every podcast on your dedicated social media accounts.
- Includehashtags relevant to the topic and guest.
- Make a point of responding to comments in order to enhance engagement.
- Post short audio clips on Instagram and Twitter.
- Post images on social media with quotes from your podcasts that people can share.
Repurpose podcast episodes into slide decks for social media
Sticking with the social media theme for another moment we suggest you make liberal use of slide decks. At its heart, a social media slide deck is no different than one you would make for an in-person presentation. It needs to be succinct, hit all the important beats and include a call-to-action at the end.
There are a lot of programmes out there today that will help you create a social media slide deck. While producing yours be mindful of branding consistency, the word-to-image balance and don’t drone on and on in an attempt to be thorough. Once finished you should share it via social media posts across all your accounts.
Turn your podcasts into YouTube video
Just about everyone knows that Google is the world’s most visited website as well as being the most used search engine by an insane margin. But do you know what the second most popular website/search engine is? That’s right: YouTube. In fact, YouTube gets 50% more visitors every month than Facebook.
Because of its enormous popularity, you would be remiss if you did not create video versions of your podcast and post them to your YouTube channel. You can do this in 2 ways: you can make a video recording of the podcast as it’s being made and post that, or you can have a static shot or series of static shots with the audio playing over the top of a transcription of the podcast.
Submit your show to podcast directories
Before you post a slide deck or a link to your podcast on your social media accounts you should submit the RSS feed of your podcast to any and all podcast directories out there. Doing so is easy. The first time will take the longest because you’ll need to open an account with each podcast directory before they’ll let you add your feed. But not to worry! It won’t cost you anything.
Here is a list of the top 8 podcast directories just to get you started.
- Apple Podcasts
- Google Podcasts
- Amazon Audible
Use podcast SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is what separates successful websites from those collecting dust in the nether regions of cyberspace. It’s also important for podcasts. While you won’t have as many SEO options with a podcast as you do with a website, there are still steps you can take to increase your visibility.
Most of those steps revolve around the title and description of your podcast. Make sure your branding is included in the title alongside the name of any guest. Use keywords in the title as well as keywords and hashtags in the podcast description. Try to avoid generic episode titles like “Woodworking Podcast #3”.
Transcribe your podcast episodes
Another way to make it easier for Google to find your podcast is to transcribe the entire thing and include the transcription in the show notes. Google can’t index a podcast based on its audio content, yet. So you need to help by presenting a text version of the podcast that Google can scan.
Create compelling episode descriptions
We just touched on the importance of your podcast descriptions a moment ago, but it warrants a bit more discussion. When someone who doesn’t know you arrives at your podcast, they’re going to decide whether to push play or not based almost entirely on the podcast description. So make it good.
Contemporary attention spans are notoriously short so make sure your description is concise and to the point. Nonetheless, make sure you preview the topic and name any guests, and that you include relevant keywords. The description will test your ability to distil your thoughts, but in time you’ll get used to cramming a lot of information into a few sentences.
Use email marketing
With email marketing, you can alter your subscribers to an upcoming podcast, give your subscribers some background on your guest in the body of the email and take the opportunity to frame the discussion that will take place in the podcast in a favourable light.
Email is a great (and free) all-purpose marketing tool because you can also tease upcoming podcasts, include links to previous podcasts that may have touched on similar topics, include links to your social media accounts and prompt recipients to join your online community or download your community app.
Use Q&A and polls
It’s in your interest to make your podcasts interactive. This boosts engagement and makes the listener feel like more than a passive bystander. For example, if you use Spotify to host your podcasts you can utilise the “interact” tab to create polls and posit questions for your listeners to answer.
The point is you don’t want to let listeners get away. So by adding polls and questions you create a back-and-forth with them and improve the odds that they become subscribers. At the same time, you can promote your community app and include a link where they can download it.
Host a giveaway
Who doesn’t love stuff? Especially FREE stuff! Marketers have been using giveaways as a method of increasing awareness and enhancing sales for centuries. In this case, it’s not hard to do, though in order to work well you’ll want to coordinate the giveaway with social media.
Promote the giveaway on all your social accounts along with the terms. Those terms should be simple and benefit you. For instance, everyone who leaves a comment on your next podcast has a chance to win ‘X’. In the end, you’ll be down whatever ‘X’ cost, but the comments will boost your SEO efforts as well as listener engagement with your podcasts.
Include a call to action in every podcast
A podcast should never be a standalone item. It should be linked to all your branding and marketing efforts, and they to it. One of the most important aspects of any podcast from a marketing perspective is the CTA, or Call to Action. It should be short and low-key and placed at the start and end of each podcast.
Here’s an example:
“Before we get started don’t forget to hit the ‘subscribe’ button, to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and to visit our website where you can download our community app.”
The exact wording will depend on what social media platforms you have accounts with and whether you have a community app (which you should).
Ensure quality podcast content
This one seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at how many people cut corners when it comes to podcast content quality. Maybe they decide to discuss something they don’t really understand, or maybe the audio is drowned out by background noise, or maybe they promise related content on their Facebook page that isn’t there.
Each podcast should be technically sound, feature a compelling discussion and interact with your social accounts in a seamless and productive fashion. If there are enhancements like polls or questions they should work as intended, so as to enhance your brand image.
Invest in ads
It is estimated that last year alone businesses around the world spent more than £500,000,000,000 on digital advertising. You know why? Because advertising works. Podcasters are often reluctant to engage in advertising, however, because while ads work, they also cost money. The key is spending your ad money wisely.
A good way to get your money’s worth is to buy ad space on other, popular podcasts that are similar in focus to yours. Just make sure you advertise more than once with a given podcaster because people typically need to hear a pitch several times before they tap. We suggest you buy ad space on a minimum of 4 or 5 episodes.
And don’t forget about Google and Facebook ads too. With each you have a high degree of control over content, who is targeted and how much you spend.
Make your podcast easy to share
It should be easy for your podcast guest (or guests) to share your podcast on their social accounts. Start by tagging them across your own social media. Tagging your guests and others has a bevvy of potential benefits including, but not limited to:
- A good chance the tagged person will share your post and enhance your visibility.
- That enhanced visibility generating more subscribers and revenue.
- The possibility the tagged person might link to your content, thereby enhancing your SEO efforts.
- Increased credibility for your podcast series with subscribers and potential subscribers.
Only good things will happen when you make it easier for others to share your podcast.
Connect to your Disciple community app
Make sure your podcasts become a conduit for promoting and growing not just your podcast audience, but your online community too. Podcasts are a great way to enhance the content offerings of your app, while at the same time creating a separate revenue stream and feeding potential new members to the community.
Community apps are the foundation of a well-rounded branding effort and should be the hub of brand-related traffic and activity. A Disciple community app will provide you with total control over monetization, user data and content while enabling you to create an open portal between your podcasts and your community.
Reviews are an important part of your podcast promotion efforts. The more positive reviews your podcasts can acquire the higher they’ll rank on whatever platform they’re being hosted on. We mentioned earlier that a giveaway is a great opportunity to harvest reviews from listeners, but there’s nothing wrong with simply asking people to leave a positive review during your CTA at the end of the podcast.
Promote it on your website
If you want to know how to grow your podcast audience we would suggest you look no further than that staple of internet activity for 30+ years now, the website. A website is an important adjunct to your podcast efforts enabling you to expand on your episode topics, offer related materials and present biographical and professional information about your podcast guests.
Having a podcast website can also make it easier for potential listeners to find your podcasts since SEO for websites is much more involved, and in many ways more effective than attempting to curry favor with search engines using only podcast SEO. If you already have a brand website simply add a section where you embed your podcasts and provide the additional information we discussed above.
Everyone wants to know how to grow a successful podcast with the least amount of effort. The good news is a podcast growth strategy doesn’t require you to have special training or knowledge. The not-so-good news is that, unless you happen to already be famous for other reasons, building a podcast audience will require patience, persistence and a plan.
The tips we provided in the above guide will help you create that plan, establish what constitutes success in both the short and long term and then put your plan into action. Before you know it you’ll find others are coming to you and asking how to build a podcast audience.