How to grow your podcast
If you’re about to launch your podcast or you’re struggling with attracting listeners to your early episodes, this one’s for you. We dive into how to get more podcast listeners, how long it takes to grow a podcast audience and whether you should launch without an audience (spoiler alert – the answer is YES!).
You spend hours on your podcast – researching, writing, securing interviews and guests, recording, editing, producing your episode show notes. You can’t wait to launch your podcast baby out into the universe and into the ears of your waiting audience. And then . . . crickets. No one’s listening. Even worse, they don’t even know your podcast exists (along with the 2 million others out there). So here’s how to grow your podcast audience in five simple steps.
Why growing your podcast audience matters
A bigger audience means more downloads. And when you’re chasing ad revenue, brand collabs or big name podcast guests, the larger brand footprint your podcast has the better. Your level of influence is higher when your audience is larger.
But that only works when your audience is genuine, engaged and love what you’re producing. Creating quality content that provides tangible value for your listeners ensures you’ll build a loyal audience who regularly listen, engage with your other digital channels, consume your content across multiple platforms, and buy what you offer.
Should you launch a podcast with no audience?
YES! A podcast can be a powerful tool in growing your audience, even if you’re starting from a tiny base.
If you’ve got an email list, promote your podcast content – while your audience is familiar with your written content, they may be even more actively engaged with your audio. If you’re growing your social presence, a podcast can boost your followers and engagement, especially if you post teasers, Q&A, key quotes, downloadable guides and BTS. (And if you produce an audio-only podcast, try posting video content of the recording process, or snippets of your bloopers – that ‘behind-the-curtain’ access helps your audience to relate to your brand and builds personality and connection.)
And if you’re nervous about launching, or worried about your voice or your editing techniques, launching with a small (or non-existent!) audience takes the pressure off. Use this launch phase to hone your craft, work out what works, refine your editing process and create all the supplementary touch-points you’ll want to promote as your podcast grows (consider landing pages, podcast episode excerpts, shownotes, downloadable PDFs or checklists, blog posts or video content).
How long does it take to grow a podcast audience?
John Lee Dumas, uber-successful host of the award-winning Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast and insider secrets book The Common Path to Uncommon Success suggests you’ll see growth within the first 30 days. (He’s been podcasting daily since 2012, raking in over $20 million. He knows a thing or two about growth.)
Go slow and steady. You want an authentic, engaged audience who consider you their go-to source for info, entertainment, laughs, insider tips or education – whatever your niche might be. Consecutive growth, month on month, is the key to lasting success.
5 steps to get more podcast listeners
1. Be consistent
If you’re going to publish weekly, pick a day and time and stick to it. Don’t go hard for a month and then skip a few weeks. Don’t burn out by launching without a few episodes in the bank. Prepare at least a month’s content in advance so you’ve got Plan B in case of emergency. (Illness, your business takes off and you don’t have time to record, your guests pull out, even a tech failure can derail your efforts to hit PUBLISH on your latest podcast).
Your audience needs to know when to expect new episodes so they can create a habit of listening. And better yet, searching out your content.
2. Focus on quality over bells and whistles
You don’t need a full production suite or pro studio. All you need is a basic starter kit (check out our tips for podcast equipment for beginners), a defined niche and a clear strategy. Inspirational guests or incredible story-telling will win more audience than uber-produced audio and sound engineering (although no one wants to listen to crappy audio).
As Sarah Davidson, host of successful podcast Seize the Yay says, “People are forgiving when you’re starting out but only to an extent.”
TIP: Get more of Sarah’s insider tips on launching your podcast in our step-by-step guide.
3. Content is KING – add value
A rambling conversation between you and your mates might be fun to record, but will anyone want to listen to it? And then come back for more?
Whatever your niche, get super focused on what VALUE you’re delivering. Is it entertainment? Laughs for the morning commute? Fast hacks on e-commerce? Conversations with inspirational founders about their why? Secrets to manifesting?
Drill down hard into your unique space within the podcast universe, and carve out a territory you can own. Then get specific on what your audience needs. Are they looking for motivation? Practical advice? Written resources to take action?
Once you can define exactly what value you need to deliver and how it will answer a burning desire for your audience, you’ll be able to deliver over and over in your podcast. Set yourself some non-negotiables or structure your episode format with key elements you’ll keep consistent every time, so your audience knows what to expect and you can ensure you keep producing value-driven content they can’t get anywhere else.
4. Ask for feedback – and then incorporate it
Don’t be precious about your podcast. Sure, it’s your new baby and you’re nervous about proactively seeking criticism. But think of it as an opportunity to polish your podcast and ensure it resonates with your audience. Consider everything from topics to guests to the structure of your episodes to your intro, outro and music beds. Some audiences love a longer-format podcast to listen to while training or driving. Some like short snippets to fire them up before work. Your audience might hate stock music beds. Or love the way you provide three action items with every podcast and link to your other free resources. You won’t know until you ask.
And then . . .
Incorporate their actual words into your content. Nothing makes your target audience feel more seen and heard than when you speak their language and describe their pain points, with custom solutions from your own unique perspective. It makes you more relatable, personal and trusted – when you can empathise on a deeper level, you increase their connection and therefore loyalty. And this all translates to more downloads
5. Share everywhere and invite audience shares
Don’t let your podcast live only on Spotify or Apple. Share that bad boy everywhere. Create an episode web page or blog post and summarise the key points, then include a link to stream your podcast. Create graphics with the most powerful quotes from your podcast and post on your socials. Include BTS, video or audio snippets on your Stories. Share every episode in your regular eDMS, with a downloadable PDF to add even more value.
Then don’t forget to invite your audience to share. Be direct – include a strong call to action inviting your listeners to share a Story or post of them listening to your podcast. (Then re-share their posts, so you get more eyeballs, more credibility, and your listeners feel seen.) Or invite your followers to comment their favourite part of your latest episode when you promote it on your socials.
Ask your listeners to leave a review on whatever podcasting platform they’re enjoying your content (and don’t forget to respond). (Remember, third-party validation is gold – 5-star reviews can attract new listeners keen to see what they’re missing out on.)
And don’t forget to include a link to your podcast anywhere you’d publish your contact details:
- Social bios
- Email autosignature
- Ebook footers
- Website Contact page
- eDM banners
Once you start to publish consistently and refine your content, your podcast will continue to grow. Then it’s time to level-up your efforts: guest interviews, diving deep into your metrics, optimising content and episode themes and expanding your digital footprint across other channels. But for now, focus on producing quality content, with crystal clear audio that compels your listeners to download episode after episode.
And when slow and steady feels a little toooo slow, remember why you started. Dig deeper into your niche and enjoy the process.
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