Podcasting is an emerging industry, and big names such as Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuk are now starting shows to expand their considerable reach even further. Podcasts are also a great way for newer entrants to gain the passionate following they've dreamed about.
However, the relative ease with which podcasts can be produced turns out to be a double-edged sword. Forty percent of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to at least one episode, and podcasters are racing to produce shows that can net them a piece of this substantial pie.
While there may be 112 million American listeners in total, most podcasts are consumed by a smaller number of avid listeners who tune in to an average of five shows per week. Standing out from the crowd of hopefuls clamoring to attract some of these subscribers is no small task.
"Marketing a podcast is unique; you must learn to integrate and balance several elements to have a successful marketing campaign," said Mike Kapetanovic, president of marketing agency LMO, when describing some of the difficulties of gaining a loyal following. "Since it is an audio-only medium, it requires a certain degree of innovation, finesse, and experimentation to create a marketing strategy that will be immersive enough for audiences, without the aid of accompanying visuals -- at least initially."
If juggling all of the necessary elements sounds impossible, don't despair. These five tips will help you to cultivate a following and keep your listeners engaged and consuming your casts.
1. Diversify your publishing sources.
In order to advertise a podcast effectively, you need to be able to track down information about your current and prospective listeners. If you have any podcasting experience at all, you know that iTunes really isn't the best way to get insights about your audience.
Publish your podcast to a number of different directories, such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher. Not only will these other platforms give you more robust analytics, various listeners will prefer different platforms for discovering your content -- give them as many options as you feasibly can.
2. Direct listeners to a central hub.
While you want to pull listeners from as many places as possible, it's important for community building purposes to draw them together toward a single location. A website is a great way to make this happen, in addition to being a resource for getting information about your listeners.
As the site will likely contain blog posts, archived episodes, and other relevant content, most of your traffic will be from fans of your show. Use a tool such as Google Analytics to figure out who's tuning in and where you should be spreading the word to attract more regular listeners.
3. Encourage conversation on social media.
While social media is overwhelmingly visual (most video ads these days even play muted), it's still a great way to use networks to get the word out about your podcast. Posting a link on your LinkedIn profile or sharing with Facebook groups can help you attract listeners who could potentially become loyal fans.
Social media promotion also makes it easy for people who are already fans to spread the word about your show with a single click. Audiences trust their social circles more than advertisements, so take advantage of any opportunities to promote your podcast organically.
4. Get visual.
While podcasting is a fantastic medium, video content still reigns supreme when it comes to shareability. Post on YouTube a short clip of yourself recording your podcast. Videos are just another way of enabling listeners to discover you, whether it's via the text in the video description or a search of keywords. They could also be directed to your video from a similar podcast.
5. Issue a call to action.
Assume your listeners were huge fans of your very first podcast. What do you want them to do? Think about your goals and how listeners taking action can help you achieve them. Do you need more reviews to rise up in the Apple Podcasts rankings? Should they tweet about your show to their followers or share it on Facebook? Should they join your email list or send you some feedback or ideas for future shows? Whatever it is, if you don't ask for it, you can't be disappointed when no one volunteers it.
Once your podcast has achieved a critical mass of listeners, making lists such as the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes will help you maintain your momentum and be found by even more listeners. In the search for a larger audience, don't overlook the importance of providing the highest-quality content you possibly can. It sounds obvious, but you'll realize just how critical it is when referrals from your fans take off and snowball into something bigger than you imagined.