THE number one question we get from podcasters is, “How do I get a bigger audience?”
We could argue whether that should be the number one creators’ minds, but that’s an irrelevant point for a different post. You came here to pump up those numbers and start making more money (the actual question) through your show.
Build a Podcast Worth Listening To
You thought we were going to jump directly into the hack-y things that digital nomads do from the shores of Bali as you read about online, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Ensuring you are creating good content worth your audience’s attention and engagement is the first step in eventually growing your listenership. The superheroes at Castos define quality as valuable, unique, and sticky.
I’d add consistency as a component to make up a truly quality show. “Staying in the game” long enough for your prospective audience to get a chance to engage with your content is an underrated aspect that most creators don’t consider. Time is the one variable that none of us can create more of, but it may be the most important variable to most creators.
Author/Investor Morgan Housel has written at length about the importance of compounding. In an essay titled “Last Man Standing” he describes why entrepreneurs or investors (or content creators) prioritize staying in the game above all else.
“Once you accept that compounding is where the magic happens, and realize how critical time is to compounding, the most important question to answer as an investor is not, ‘How can I earn the highest returns?’ It’s, ‘What are the best returns I can sustain for the longest period of time?'” – Morgan Housel
Creating a show that follows the fundamentals of value creation in podcasting while giving it enough time to succeed is a combination that breeds success almost every time.
Build and Launch in Public
Our creator economy is experiencing a moment unlike any other before it. We once held ideas tightly to the chest; the free flow sharing of ideas is now rewarded in difficult ways to measure. The idea of “building in public” isn’t original to me but has become a movement for creators that provides awareness and connections with fellow creators that wouldn’t have existed previously.
Treating your new show like a product that you’re building, testing, and eventually launching offers opportunities to build a community around the concept before you ever publish an episode. Doing so comes with some risk, but the upside of introducing ideas to your community and ensuring they resonate before making final decisions can be invaluable. Here are a few simple ways to begin doing so:
Invite Public Opinions
There are hundreds of small decisions that need to be made as you develop your show. Invite your future audience into these decisions by creating polls and gathering feedback on your options before making decisions.
One simple example would be to present your final two artwork options to your audience via social media and allowing them to have input in the final logo.
Leverage a Launch Team
Inviting your audience to join the team is the logical next step. Consider building a launch team that is incentivized to feedback on and promote your show as you launch. Podcaster and Entrepreneur Pat Flynn has popularized this idea. Members of the launch team can be friends, colleagues, or coworkers but should include some members of your target audience as well.
For the less “warm” members of your team, give them an incentive to help you launch. Offering rewards like an early interview on the show, future merchandise, or whatever product your business might sell could all help get prospective audience members to help you in launching well.
Launch with Multiple Episodes
Oftentimes, creators get a fixed date for launch in their minds and prioritize it above all else. Having recorded episodes in the bank can feel like money burning a hole in the pocket of a 12-year old that must be spent.
In either case, creators miss out on the chance to capture some early excitement around the show by providing more than one episode for audiences to download, listen to, and share. Bingeing has become the standard method of media consumption – especially at the start of a new show. Offering your audience a few opportunities to engage with episodes right off the bat lets them establish a relationship with the host and share their “new show discovery” excitement with other prospective audience members
Exchange Value with Other Creators
Collaborating with other creators can be applied to finding and booking great guests, but it can also help share audiences with a relevant creator.
Going through your personal connections and consumption is a great place to start. As we mentioned in the post on how to get guests, there is a proper way to find and engage with relevant people. Here are some specific platforms you could use to find other creators leveraging podcasting specifically:
- Hashtag Podcasters Slack
- Podcasting Collab Slack
- Podcasts Reddit
- Podcasters’ Support Group (FB)
- Podcast Hackers (FB)
- Podcasting (Meetup)
- Podcasters’ Hangout (FB)
Drive (Pure and Unadulterated) External Growth
This is what you came for. The hacks that build the stacks. You already know what I’m going to say.
There is no
easy way to drive growth LIMIT TO HOW BIG YOUR SHOW CAN GET BABY – LET’S COUNT THAT CHEDDAR!
The truth is, both the statement that is stricken through and the motivational guru screaming in caps are valid. The main variables that will determine your audience growth are how much time, money, and effort (into quality) you invest into the show. There may be external factors that affect your ability in one of those areas. Your job is to find the two that are most appropriate and go “all-in” as a result.
We talked about collaborating with other podcasters above. Most of the time, that collaboration will begin with you inviting guests onto your show. Proactively going on other relevant shows is an important part of your growth mix, both for the audience potential and the opportunity to learn from other hosts and producers.
Practically speaking, list out the top 50 shows you believe would be beneficial to appear on, and reach out to the listed contact on the show page. For more platforms and ideas on finding suitable shows, look at the list of platforms we included in our post on booking guests.
A similar idea is a publication swap. Shows with similar audiences can cross-publish episodes on each other’s respective RSS feeds to share the other show’s awareness
This section normally receives glazed looks and blank stares while the creator thinks of better ways to pour rocket fuel on their show using more efficient hacks. Those shows rarely succeed.
Community management may be the single most important aspect to building and maintaining a strong audience. Activities like social media conversations, incentivizing commentary and participation (ex. Leaving a rating and review), and recruiting through engagement on related platforms are often overlooked because of the time investment required to do them successfully.
I’d have two points of consideration for creators who think community management is too difficult or time-intensive to execute efficiently. First, if finding your audiences online is so difficult, are you certain they are a viable audience to support your show? Said another way, are you aptly in tune with your audience if you can’t find where they congregate digitally?
Secondly, if the idea of a show is compelling enough to spend the time, energy, and money to create, it would seem that finding the time or resources to engage with your audience (current and future) would be a worthwhile endeavor.
If there is a single action that can “pour fuel” on your audience size, paid media is the can of lighter fluid sitting near your show’s campsite.
The problem with paid media is that it is only effective when you’ve done the leg work described previously in this post. Otherwise, much like the fire that is doused without kindling, the initial spark will quickly burn off, leaving you and your empty can of fluid in the dark and cold.
However, if you’ve done the fundamental work, paid media is proven to both drive and retain audiences when executed appropriately. Spotify has made a strategic tactic they deploy for each of their new branded shows, like The Michelle Obama Podcast, Renegades, the entire Gimlet slate, and even the Joe Rogan Experience.
Executing paid media is a complicated process that we’ll leave to the few actual professionals who excel in this area. A few recommendations for partners we’ve worked with in the past include:
Audience growth isn’t easy, and there truly isn’t an easy-button that can spur instant growth. Building a show that grows and lasts is difficult but can reap enormous rewards for the long-term creator.
If you want assistance in building or producing your show, you’re in luck. At Heard, we’ve partnered with entrepreneurs, executives, celebrities, and athletes to create and produce some of the most successful shows in their respective industries. We’d love to hear about what you’re working on.