What should you do to make your podcast successful? How can you reach new listeners? How can you increase your visibility? This is what most podcasters wonder; there is no magic spell but here are a few tips that might help you grow your audience.
Roughly said, podcast is the meeting of someone who has something to say with someone who wants to hear it. But single people know it: meeting someone is hard, and you must put yourself forward, be open to people, be willing to listen, etc. To sum things up, you must stand out from a crowd full of womanisers looking for something you want too. Well, the situation is – almost – the same for podcasters.
SHOWING YOURSELF IN YOUR BEST LIGHT: A MATTER OF QUALITY
Do you remember the dad in Gremlins? You know, that guy who struggles to become an inventor? Well, this eccentric and inventive man makes a pocket bathroom, an automatic egg-breaker, a fruit peeler-squeezer, a rotary fly-killer, and a smokeless ashtray but, funnily enough, all those inventions remain unsuccessful, either because there is no demand, or because they do not work, or even because they bring no added value. That’s how it works: in terms of marketing, good content sells better than bad content.
The first thing to know about good content is that you won’t be its sole advertiser; an army of listeners will help you by recommending your show to their families, their friends and their co-workers, so convincing a listener is a victory because he/she will turn into your ambassador over time. Studies prove that the best way for a podcast to become famous is by word of mouth.
Transmission by word of mouth is both a free and very effective ad, but it takes a lot of work. You will have to achieve what most budding podcasters dream of, i.e. creating a high-quality content in both substance and form. To be up to your ambitions, you will have to invest time, energy and even money. Of course, you can make a podcast without spending money, but you will see that investing money might be the best way to save time and energy.
A perfect form
Let’s take sound quality for example. It is vital; you must be a podcast listener yourself, so you know it: among the shows you follow, are any of them interrupted by background noises or bathroom echoes? Prick up your ears and you will hear none. Perhaps you have already come across podcasts with a poorer sound quality on your favourite app, but the truth is that you have not listened to them for more than ten seconds. Maybe you would have loved the content if you have kept listening a little longer, but like most listeners, you have not given a chance to these podcasts, or maybe we should say that the author has not tried hard enough to convince you.
Do not make the same mistake! Every little detail counts to charm your audience, and a perfect sound is your top priority. Choose the most appropriate environment to record your show and, more importantly, buy a decent microphone. Contrary to what most people think, there is no need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a high-performance microphone. You will find more tips and tricks to help you finding your gem in our article on podcast microphones.
Contrary to what you might think, a podcast quality is not just about what you hear. If you want to charm a wider audience, you also need to make a good looking content. How, you ask? It’s simple: design an eye-catching cover to arouse curiosity, as the audience usually sees a podcast before listening to it. Your cover (or avatar) will attract listeners, who will then stay on your podcast and perhaps play an episode, so you should be creative and convey your podcast’s identity through your cover. Style, colours and typography are very important.
An original background
You might know it already: it is easier to reach new listeners with original content rather than with something people have heard a million times. Let’s take 2020 for example; a podcast on how to deal with quarantine is fine, but fifteen or thirty is boring as hell. Of course, making something new does not necessarily mean dealing with new topics. There are tons of podcasts on cinema, TV series or sports that are different from one another. But if you want to be among the best-ranked shows, i.e. the ones with the widest audience, you must find that little extra to make a difference. It can be a matter of tone, of concept, of guests, etc.
If you have time for that, then you can carry out quick “market research” to spot the podcasts that are like yours. By doing that, you will avoid quite common mistakes, i.e. choosing a name that is already taken or doing what has already been done. Listen to those shows. What is right with them? What is wrong? Why are some so popular on Twitter while others struggle to bond with their listeners? Your launch strategy might depend on those answers.
Funnily enough, if you are planning to make a podcast on a niche subject, your job will be easier. You will not necessarily have to find a strong concept to begin with; it is easier to be among the best-ranked podcasts of your specific category and subcategory on platforms like Apple Podcasts, whereas radio replays hog the best spots of the most popular categories. In other words, it will be more realistic to aim for the top as you will have fewer rivals, plus it will be easier in terms of visibility.
Don’t go by appearances: choosing a niche subject will not drag you down. Arnold and Willis have proven it: the world is made of diff’rent strokes. Search your favourite podcast app, you will see there are successful podcasts on all topics, be it beer, wine, American football, pastry, solicitors, etc. Of course, it reaches insiders first, but with a bit of imagination and consistency, you can charm a wider audience.
French podcast Passion Médiévistes is the best example: it was launched in 2017 by Fanny; she invites Master’s or PhD students specialised in the Middle Ages to talk about it. History lovers are not all into this specific period, and even those who are do not necessarily listen to every episode on that topic. Despite all that, this podcast gets thousands of views every month. As for all podcasts, it is due to various factors: a strictly followed publication schedule, interesting guests, crossovers with other podcasts, etc. Over time, Fanny has diversified her subjects and angles of attack; she has launched Passion Modernistes, for which she interviews modern history students, and Vies de Médiévaux, each episode of which ends with the story of medieval characters who deserve to be known. She has even created Super Joute Royale to subjectively rank the kings of France, century by century. With this strategy, she has reached new listeners beyond academics and history lovers. This specific example may not apply to all subjects but keep in mind that podcasts that sleep will never rise.
Use your imagination, be creative, be original, and never give up!
OPTIMISING YOUR PODCAST’S SEO
Your regular listeners will follow you through their favourite podcast app but newcomers won’t.
People can discover a podcast through word of mouth (see above) indeed, but they are more likely to do so through the world’s best friend on the Internet: Google (or any other search engine). Yes, SEO is the best way to reach new listeners, hence your podcast name, the titles of your episodes and their descriptions being so important.
Being a good writer is a key to success! “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it is crucial; to optimise it, you need to stuff your podcast descriptions with tons of keywords related to your subject.
Here are a few tips taken from our related articles:
- The name of your podcast: be as creative as catchy; an original, creative or funny name (a play on words, for instance) may make it easier for you to bond with your audience. It is most podcasters’ favourite choice. Don’t rush headlong though; it might not be as fun and charming, but if you think about it, a more down-to-earth name might get better results on Google or Apple Podcasts.
- The titles of your episodes: once again, be straightforward! These titles should give a clear and accurate clue on what your episodes are about, as well as they should optimise SEO (and so give you better chances to be found by potential listeners). You should then avoid long titles (as the last bit would be cut on some pages), or at least try to put the most important words at the beginning.
- The descriptions: here you should give as much information as possible on your podcast topic. Think about the keywords your listeners might search on the Internet, then put them in well-constructed and complete sentences that cover all the themes you deal with. And if you quote brands, famous people, events, books or films in your episodes, don’t forget to mention them in your descriptions, as your audience will then be more likely to find you in the Internet jungle.
Most podcasters do work on their episode titles but tend to neglect their descriptions, and it is a huge mistake as it may have severe consequences in terms of SEO. Seriously, you can’t imagine how many listeners came to their favourite podcast thanks to the good use of a keyword or a tag.
Once this meticulous work is done, Podcastics helps you with an automatically generated internet website for your podcast; all the information you provided are formatted to optimise SEO. Podcastics is a precious partner that will help your podcast make a name for itself.
OPENING UP TO PEOPLE: MAKING YOUR PODCAST EASY TO FIND
There you are: your podcast looks good, it is original, you follow a strict publication schedule, your intros and outros are perfect… But you struggle to build a community (or it is not as big as you wish it were). Don’t give up! You have broken the back of it, i.e. making a high-quality podcast, and now comes step 2 of your world conquest.
You experienced it while quarantined: you can’t meet people by staying at home. So you need to meet potential listeners wherever they are, be it on podcast platforms, on social media, on forums, or on other podcasts. There are various compatible tools to help a meticulous podcaster forge precious links with his happy audience, so don’t overlook any of them!
Use all podcast platforms
Podcastics makes it fast and easy for you to feature on all platforms (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Deezer, Stitcher, TuneIn, etc.). You need variety, as it is absolute nonsense to ask potential listeners to use another platform to listen to your podcast. They should make no effort to discover your podcast so you need to be everywhere, and say it to your audience, of course.
But it is not over; broadcasting your podcast on every platform is useless if you are not visible. On the most popular platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, there are rankings for each category. They are generated by algorithms that are kept secret but that seem to be driven by one important feature: the users’ opinions and the publication interval between them (the more maximal rates in the shortest timeframe a podcast gets, the better its ranking). You should then ask your listeners (at the end of your episodes, for instance), to leave you a five-star review and a positive comment on their favourite app.
As these rankings are category-related, choose “your” category wisely. As mentioned above, some categories and subcategories (Culture and Society, for example) are an open field for the most popular radio show replays. If your main theme fits in, perhaps you should go for seemingly more confidential but actually less competitive subcategories. You can change it later anyway, as categories can be modified whenever you want.
Be active on social media
Social media are the best way to grow your audience. Podcast enthusiasts are both young and over-connected, according to the Havas-CSA study introduced during the 2019 Paris Podcast Festival. Here is the Identikit of typical podcast listeners:
Here is another interesting stat: 90% of podcasts make 90% of their audience figures over the four days following publication. It shows how crucial it is to reach many people as fast as possible. Through social media, you can tease for your next episode (the day before publication, for example) and, most importantly, you can share it several times over the few days following its release. You can even share it any time it seems appropriate, like when its main theme happens to make the news.
If we had to rank social media in order of importance, Twitter would come first, then Instagram, and finally Facebook.
Twitter is where most podcasters gather. The best thing to do would be to follow as many accounts – directly or indirectly – related to your theme / universe as possible. Most accounts will then follow you back and their fanbase will become an asset when you advertise your next episode.
There are more and more podcasters on Instagram too; its growing popularity makes it an important media, though it is more for a visual kind of use. So why not share a few behind the scenes pictures there?
Facebook is not very podcaster-friendly because it is hard to gather followers from outside your circle (at least for free). However, for a few dozen dollars, you can buy targeted advertising (i.e. directed towards specific age groups and interests) for your posts, and grow faster. It might also be interesting to join mutual aid groups for podcasters, like the one created by the Podcastéo community for French podcasters.
Finally, keep in mind that whatever your favourite social media is, pictures and videos catch more attention than text alone. There are many tools that may help you with that. Here are our favourite two:
- Quozio, through which you can insert a quote taken from your latest episode in a picture;
- Headliner, which is Podcastics’ favourite in terms of video clip making, as it helps you promote a few extracts from your shows. It is especially useful when it comes to convincing people to download your new episode!
Being active among the podcasting community
Don’t be surprised, but most podcast listeners are podcasters themselves. They even are those who talk the most about it, so your first listeners, except from a few relatives of yours, will be podcasters, and the best way to grow your audience is to invite one of them once in a while.
There are many good reasons why such peers, especially when they deal with the same topics, are great guests. First, they already have a good equipment, so no need to explain how technical and contextual things work. Second, their own communities will be pleased to discover your podcast after this featured episode. It is up to you to make the most of this kick-start, by:
- Asking your guests to promote the episode through their own social media (though they usually do it by themselves).
- Tagging them in your posts related to this episode.
- Promoting, in the future, your guests’ important news by sharing your featured episode again.
Of course, it is not a one-way move. You need to be involved in other podcasts’ lives by reacting to their news and asking if you can join as a guest in the future. It is common for podcasters to feature in many of their peers’ shows, and such collaborations help them grow big on Twitter.
In a broader sense, get involved in the podcasting community; get in touch with specialised magazines, attend the podcast-related events, and, of course, promote your show by talking about it whenever you can.
You can even print flyers and make goodies in that sense. For instance, Podcastics staff members were impressed by all the goodies designed by Cyrille to promote his podcast (Mes disques à moi) on the Pod Village of the French Radio Fair, a few months ago. You can tell that it works by the fact that is still a vivid memory for us today!
Finally, before you start, make sure your show features in podcast directories!
Spamming journalists: a bad idea
We started this article with an analogy on how we meet people. Let’s get back to it. On a dating website, your attempts do not necessarily pay off. Don’t worry, it is the same for everyone. But when it comes to failure, there are two types of people: those who move on, and those who try three, five or even ten times. Don’t be one of those.
If you feel like your podcast brings added value to its field, fair enough. You can try to get in touch with a journalist through Twitter or Linkedin (always better than an email); he/she may be interested in your subject, but be careful, these people get hundreds of emails every day, so target the right person and don’t spam him/her if he/she does not reply.
Showcasing your podcast through a website and/or a teaser
A website is a crucial tool to promote a podcast, especially if your episode descriptions are accurate. No need to harp on about the importance of SEO, keywords, and all that. Just note that Podcastics can provide you with an easy-to-manage full website with advanced social media features. You will find all the information you need in our article on podcast websites; they are the best way to interact with your audience.
You can also use an efficient teaser! There is nothing better to promote a film or a TV series, is it? Well, it’s the same for podcasts! People who randomly come across a podcast do not tend to press Play, but if they watch a two-minute spot that sums things up, they will definitely go for it. You just need to make sure this teaser features the essence of your podcast (a quality sound, a short introduction, a clear synopsis and catchy extracts). If your host is good 😉 this teaser will appear on top of your podcast page on every platform!
DEVELOPPING LISTENING SKILLS: WHAT DOES YOUR AUDIENCE WANT?
Knowing your current audience is the best way to target new listeners. You should not write information sheets about them of course, it is not about their hobbies or sexual preferences, but you should take their opinion and advice into account. Some podcasts even indirectly include their audience in their shows.
Analyse your podcast statistics
Your podcast stats should not only be a cause for pride or frustration. Do not only analyse them to feel better, brag about it to your co-workers or feel sorry for yourself drinking a whole bottle of wine.
When used properly, your stats can help you improve the length and themes of your episodes. When and how do people listen to you? Is it in the morning, on their way to work, with earphones? Or is it in the evening, in bed, with their partner? What are the trendiest topics? Are your intros catchy enough to kick-start the rest of your episodes? Our article on podcast statistics will give you an idea of what Podcastics can do in terms of stats.
You have had a glance at it already? Well, let’s focus on two specific tools:
- The comparison of your episode launches. Quick reminder: 90% of podcasts make 90% of their audience figures over the four days following publication. It is therefore crucial to reach many people as fast as possible. If your latest episode starts slowly, it is unlikely to get a miraculous second wind a few days or weeks later. Use this comparison and adapt your launch strategy accordingly; we would recommend to give it your all on social media during this short but precious launch window.
- The heat map. This map shows the most active hours of your podcast over the week, and as we have included the publication days and times, it will be easy for you to spot the most intense periods in terms of engagement. It is up to you to use it.
Surveying your audience and getting them involved
An emotionally involved listener will definitely stay by your side and talk about your podcasts to his/her circle. When several listeners give a similar opinion, consider their advice if you can. Some pitfalls may not occur to the key player, i.e. the podcaster himself. If several people underline the same problem, be it about style or content, they must be right.
If people do not react to your episodes, use social media to ask your listeners what they think. Do not only look for praise, and make them understand you are open to criticism.
Finally, take time to nominally thank the listeners who have helped you one way or another. Canadian podcast Distorsion always quote one of the five-star reviews they have got on Apple Podcasts. Another interesting move: they pay “a round of beers” to one of the listeners that has helped them through Patreon; first, they recommend a beer, and they talk about it with the listener once he/she has tried it.
On a different note, French podcasts 2 Heures de Perdues and Super Ciné Battle have set an active dialogue with their listeners; the former use a film suggestion – taken from a five-star review – to choose their episode topics, while the latter ask people to send an email with lists of films that are debated later on air.
Follow the feedbacks from the podcasting community
If you are about to start a podcast on violin, then go through all the forums and Facebook groups of violin players, then talk about your podcast in each one of them, asking for people’s opinions and criticisms. If one of your episodes deals with violin across ages, then do the same thing with historian communities; if it is about violin in Indian music, then turn to people who are into this culture.
Being proactive will help you raise precious advice on how to deal with these subjects, and, just like having special guests on your show, it will help you reach a new audience that would not have heard about your podcast in the first place. Of course, it works for all podcast themes, so do not start a podcast on violin or flute if you are not into it 😅
What about making shorter and more frequent episodes?
We can’t say it enough: you are totally free to choose the duration of your episodes. Freedom is the essence of podcast, so you can make three-minute episodes and switch to four-hour shows if you want, just like you can adapt your publication schedule to your daily life before doing it for your listeners.
However, you should make episodes people will listen to from start to finish, so they need to suit your audience’s habits and life. Most studies agree that if you want to make the most of your episodes, they should not be more than an hour-long. The previously mentioned Havas/CSA study even shows that it should not last more than 30 minutes:
By shortening your episodes, you will see that you can increase your publication rate. No need to be a genius to sort out that shorter episodes take less editing and time. You can also use a single recording session to make a series of several episodes. Remember that there is no better solution to improve your audience figures than giving your listeners more episodes; it is why daily podcasts are more likely to win the audience’s loyalty than weekly or even bi-monthly podcasts.
Experiment, invent, listen and… work hard!
As you can see, there is no magic spell to grow your audience. You just need to go step by step and make consistent efforts. Try some of the tips mentioned in this article, but, more importantly, observe the podcasting world carefully. Why do some shows gather thousands of listeners every week? What do they do better than you? Use their good practices as a path to follow while keeping in mind what makes a good podcaster, i.e. creativity, consistency, self-sacrifice, etc. Keep in mind that growing your audience is a matter of time, not days.
Edited by Podcastics • Community