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Debate simmers as to when the first true podcast was created (many point to the Carl Malamud-created and 1993-launched Internet Talk Radio as the first), but the format is certainly twenty-plus years old, and without question a medium that has been particularly popular in recent years — seemingly everyone and their mother racing to create audio media. According to information collected by Gartner, over 155 million Americans consistently listened to a podcast in 2020.
Some of these shows come from individuals chasing passions, while others exist so that companies can create targeted marketing content, but all face the same challenge: growing their audience. In spite of already massive and increasing appetite, it’s one of the biggest hurdles creators and producers face. Podcasting collaboration platform CoHost released data this year showing their most pressing challenges. Among the biggest:
• Achieving stable, regular growth (85%).
• Getting discovered by those interested in listening to their content (83%).
• Comprehending the manner in which their show is (or isn’t) growing (58%).
Not far behind on the worry index was consistently coming up with ideas for content, but clearly, growth is the most critical task. From that same CoHost research: when presented with the statement, “Growing my show’s audience is one of the hardest things about podcasting” 55% strongly agreed and 36% agreed.
Without question, then, forming a solid growth strategy is an existential matter.
A few ways to do just that:
1. Create a Trailer
If you don’t have a trailer for your show (typically a short and sweet summary of why you exist), make one. There’s no need to wax too eloquently or stick to your normal podcasting format, just take a few minutes to speak directly to potential listeners. Give them the elevator pitch about why you formed the show, what they can expect and why they should subscribe.
2. Work on SEO
Search engine optimization isn’t reserved for text-driven content — it works for multi-media as well, including podcasting — and there are many ways you can boost your show’s organic search results, such as:
• Creating a website for the podcast.
• Utilizing keywords in episode titles and show descriptions.
• Promoting on social media (see tip 4).
• Including transcripts and show notes.
3. Find Two-Way Guest Opportunities
Guest podcasting is a powerful way to help others find you, and there are two ways to go about it. The first is to find guests, and it’s best to seek out those who have clout and are respected by the kind of people you’re trying to attract. The second option is to go on other shows yourself. Guest-starring in this way puts you in the spotlight and gives you an instant boost of authority.
4. Wield Social Media
You can grow awareness of a podcast exponentially by posting, interacting and sharing content on social media. Start by looking for the platforms most heavily used by your target audience. Common examples:
• LinkedIn: Great for business podcasts.
• Facebook: Excellent for topical podcasts.
• Twitter: Good for shows with active listeners.
As you come up with social posts, avoid being blandly promotional — mix things up by pulling quotes from individual shows, making related points and linking to a podcast to boost interest and appeal.
5. Use Email Lists
Email lists give you a direct link to individuals who have opted in to hear something, and marketing in this way is a great way for businesses to promote their podcasts. They can use their own lists to inform followers of fresh content, and perhaps ask them to share and rate it.
And individual podcasters can also utilize email marketing; if they don’t have their own lists, they can tap into those of others that cater to a similar demographic.
6. Pay Your Way
There are many paid options for promotion. For instance, you can boost a social media post and target it toward potential listeners, and do similar PPC investing for Google searches. You can also pay other shows directly to put ads in their content.
7. Be Creative
Finally, be willing to think outside of the box. The ideas listed above are infinitely flexible — adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in. And you are also free to think beyond them — to use them as a springboard to come up with other unique ways to promote your show. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Crafting a Strategy
It can be hard to utilize every tip listed above. While they are useful, trying to embrace them all simultaneously can be overwhelming, and often ineffective. Instead, create a strategy that implements different techniques at various points of your growth arc. Consider starting with SEO and a good trailer, then gradually incorporate other ideas like guest posts and social media. Whenever you feel things are getting stagnant, tap into that creativity (and perhaps a little bit of your income, too) to spice things up.
If you can take the time to develop a strong, insightful podcast growth strategy, it can give your show fresh momentum, and has the potential to send it into the stratosphere.