If there’s one thing above all others that seems to frustrate the podcasters I talk to (at least those who have the basics of production down), it’s how the hell they’re supposed to effectively promote their podcast episodes once they release them.
And it’s no wonder why.
For most of us, it can feel like we’re beating our head against a wall, sending our amazing content out into a cold and heartless world that doesn’t give a shit about what we’re creating. Yep, I’ve been there too, and I no doubt will be again.
Part of the problem is, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us haven’t really put much thought into who we’re trying to reach with our promotion, or even what our goals are, at least beyond a vague “grow our audience”.
Yeaaaahhhh… Sorry, that’s not going to cut it in these parts.
Why Our Current Promo Strategy isn’t Working
Ok, so let’s take a look at the standard promotion strategy of most aspiring podcasters.
Post episode on Libsyn (or whatever host you use) + website
→ Post about it on Facebook*
→ Post about episode on Twitter using a bunch of #podcast related hashtags**
→ Become enraged that none of your so-called “friends” will pay attention to anything you do and support you
→ Take a baseball bat to their mailboxes…
* Let me guess, you got about 2 likes…
** Aaaaaaand 0 likes…
For you super savvy podcasters out there you can toss in Instagram as well, I’m guessing depending on your hashtagging skills and your following you’re getting 30-50 likes, and you have absolutely zero idea if you’re actually getting any listeners from the platform at all.
Come to think of it, you have absolutely zero idea if any of your promotion methods are yielding results.
That’s a problem.
That’s a BIG problem.
We’ll cover how to fix that in a bit, but firs, let’s look at where your current efforts as outlined above are falling short.
Ok, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but unless you inspire some strange and obsessive kind of loyalty in your friends, they’re not going to care about your podcast. That’s not to say they don’t care about you, but they probably know dozens of people creating cool stuff, and they just don’t have time to sift through all of it.
But think about it for a second. Why should they care? And while you’re at it, think about this as well, “Are your friends really your target audience?”
I’m guessing the best answer you have to the first question is “Because I’m their friend” and the answer to the second question is probably an overwhelming “No”.
In fact, I would say that if you feel that a significant number of your friends should be listening to your podcast, you haven’t niched down far enough in your content.
These are not the people you’re trying to reach, so keep posting your new episodes to your Facebook feed for your ego’s sake, but don’t expect to be converting hordes of listeners from your friend base. You don’t want them anyways.
I’ll be the first to tell you, that out of the primary social channels, Twitter is the one I utilize (and understand the appeal of) the least. I know I should. But I don’t.
I understand this much however. The majority of podcasters promoting their shows overwhelmingly tag their tweets with #podcast related hashtags.
Unless you have a podcast about podcasting, people searching for #podcasting are most likely not your target audience.
Again, think about it. Are other podcasters really your target audience?
See the above two themes. Also, I find getting people off of Instagram and engaging with anything to be incredibly difficult, unless your product is very visually based.
That said, I’ve still got some ideas for you that we’ll get to.
4. Taking a baseball bat to your friends’ mailboxes
I’ve never tried this personally, but it sounds satisfying. I might also suggest the flaming bag of dog poop and a good old-fashioned egging.*
* Until you’ve tried it yourself, you have no idea how satisfying it is to watch eggs splatter against the side of a house. It’s a transcendent, visceral experience that everyone should have at least once in their life…
Let’s Talk Stats
Ok, remember how I said earlier that not knowing where your listeners are coming from is a problem?*
* In fact, I said it was a BIG problem…
If you have a channel that’s working for you in terms of promotion, you want to be doubling down on it and improving its results. But without any idea of where your listeners are coming from, you’re shooting in the dark.
Let’s fix that.
To gain some insight on what’s getting clicks and what’s not we’re going to use a free tool called Bitly to gain some analytical insight into the links we’re currently throwing out there blindly.
You can think of Bitly kind of like how Google Analytics for your website. Instead of tracking website visitors however, (although you can certainly track that), Bitly tracks clicks to whatever links you create through its platform, say to your iTunes podcast page, or some other domain that you don’t own.
Bitly will then give you data on how many clicks that link received, geographic information about where your clicks are coming from, and which sites are garnering click-throughs.
Here’s the process I want you to implement starting with your next episode:
- Create a unique Bitly link for each promotional channel
- Experiment with split testing. Create multiple posts with different headlines, copy*, and images for each social platform.
- Track your statistics over the next month to find out where your clicks are coming from, and which combinations of headline/copy/image do better than others
- Double down on what’s working and drop what’s not
* If you’re reading this article the week it was published it, we’ve actually got an Expert Q&A with a copywriting expert happening in my Facebook group Cut The Bullshit Podcasting later this week! If you’re reading in the future we’ve probably got another awesome expert Q&A coming up soon!
Expanding Your Social Reach To Find Your Target Audience
Now that you’ve got a strategy to track your promotion, let’s talk about how you should actually be using your social accounts to more effectively recruit listeners.
Like I mentioned above, feel free to keep posting to your wall for ego purposes. That’s cool, I feel ya. But if you really want to find listeners for your podcast, you’re going to need to find the places where your target listeners are already hanging out.
Keep in mind, that if you don’t know who you’re actually trying to talk to, you need to start there. Actually, you should start here.
Facebook makes this super easy for you with the groups function. I’m guessing that regardless of your niche, there are at least a handful of active groups on Facebook related to your topic.
Join all of them.
Before you start spamming the groups with your content however, hang around for a couple weeks and get a feel for them. Understand the group rules, the type of content that is allowed and expected, and the types of questions and conversations that come up.
Chances are, if you’re providing content that is useful to the group members (if you’re podcast isn’t doing this you have other issues to address first…), no one is going to have a problem with you posting. When in doubt however, send a message to the group admin just to double check.
I’ve had a lot of success sharing my own content in various Facebook groups related to whatever the topic I’m currently working on over the years, and have experienced overwhelmingly positive feedback from my posts. Keep in mind I’m regularly active in the groups I post in, answering questions and jumping into conversations whenever I feel I have something to add.
So in my experience, Twitter is not the best medium to convert listeners to your podcast. It can be hard to get across in 140 characters why your podcast is worth listening to, and what listeners are going to take away.
BUT. Twitter does have some other advantages.
Maybe the most important of these is the fact that journalists and writers LOVE Twitter. When it comes to Twitter, I’ve found the platform to be most effective when targeting specific people rather than the masses.
If you can provide relevant content to someone in a position to amplify that content to a wider audience, and they bite, that’s a massive break for you.
Here’s an example. Say you have a science-based podcast and through your insane Twitter game you get on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s radar, and he retweets your show. That would be a pretty big deal right?
Now I know you might think that that’s an unattainable example, but I actually have a friend with a podcast called Ad Astra – a super geeky podcast about the space industry – and I am absolutely convinced that he is not only going to get Neil to share the show, but that he’s actually going to guest on their show at some point in the future.
No this isn’t because he knows Neil, but it’s because he knows how to get the attention of high-profile people through social media. Unfortunately, he’s the expert and not me, so I can’t really give you the goods on that…
Keep in mind, this Twitter strategy isn’t likely to garner you immediate results, it’s a long-term relationship building strategy after all. But when you finally get that break, it’s going to be worth it. Trust me.
EDIT: After publishing this article, a reader commented with the Twitter strategy he uses, which is pretty nifty if I do say so myself. I’m going to let him describe it to you here.
Remember how I said before that Instagram works best if your “product” is visually based?
That rules out podcasts then, right?
Well maybe, at least without some tweaking. Soooo, let’s get tweaking shall we?
Here are some of my favourite ideas for Instagram.
1. Quotes are huge on Instagram. Take some of the best quotes out of your latest podcast and overlay them over an image that your audience will respond to. If you don’t know what type of image that is, you clearly have yet to get the hint about researching your target audience. Go do it now.
2. Take an image of either your guest, you, or some other image your target audience will react to, and create a short video (under a minute) including actual sound bites from the podcast episode. Oh, and by the way, if you’ve put the work into making these videos you might as well repost them to Twitter and Facebook as well.*
* There’s actually an awesome service called Wavve that helps you create these types of posts reaaaaally easily. They have direct integrations with Twitter and Facebook but you can share the videos you create on Instagram, Toutube, a floppy disc you send your grandma in the mail – pretty much anywhere! If this type of content sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely check them out!
In both these cases, feel free to create multiple of each and combine them to post between episode releases. Again, track what performs better and do more of it.
Also, take advantage of posting regular Instagram stories, sharing behind the scenes content of you while you’re recording, pre or post-recording, or detailing some of the key takeaways from your latest episode. Don’t overthink these stories, remember they’ll be gone within 24 hours, just hit record and give people some further insight into your production process and insights as the host of the show.
Making You Wait for the Really Good Stuff. I’m a Jerk…
Ok, so it looks like it’s turned into another week of writing waaaay more than I intended when I set out, and so the real gem of weekly promotion is going to have to wait for its own post next week #sorrynotsorry.
Don’t worry, it’s better this way. Sure you have to wait another week, but if we’re honest you were getting tired of listening to me already and the prospect of another 1000+ words on promoting your podcast would likely have you bashing your face into your monitor. Soooo, you’re welcome?
I’d love to know what’s been working for you in terms of your weekly promotion (or what’s not) leave me a comment and let’s nerd out!
Oh yeah, remember that bit about you needing to egg someone’s house at least once in your life? I just wanted to say that I take no responsibility for what you do with your eggs, cool?
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