Here are some straightforward tips and tricks you can follow to increase awareness of your podcast and attract more subscribers.
Talking about making a podcast is a modern trend, especially when engaged in an interesting conversation. “We should start a podcast,” is something that you say when out with your friends. You can hear it from bars to college classrooms to office cafeterias across the land. The fact is, not many people actually go through with it, and those who do often end up dropping it because no one is tuning in at first. It takes time to build a following, and it only comes after marketing the podcast and publishing it on a reliable schedule.
There seems to be a misconception that merely making a podcast will attract an audience. The “if you build it, they will come” mantra doesn’t necessarily apply to podcasts the way it does to shopping mall pretzel shops.
Like any other commodity, you have to package it correctly and then market the heck out it — unless you have a few thousand close friends who will listen to your podcast weekly. You may not need much equipment to start a podcast, but you still have to put in some work to produce it and market it. So, here are a few things you can do to increase awareness of your podcast and grow your subscriber count.
The Market Is Saturated, so Be Different
Podcasts are big business these days. According to Podcast Insights, over thirty percent of the U.S. population listens to podcasts (as of 2019). In 2013, only around ten percent of Americans listened to podcasts. No doubt there’s a great demand for podcasts, which creators have met with an astronomical supply.
The top twenty-four podcasts on Pocket Casts. Image via Pocket Casts.
With so much market saturation, it’s become increasingly hard to start a successful podcast, especially with large media companies entering the mix with their large marketing budgets, top-quality production, and A-list guests. The current state of the industry has made it harder than ever to stick out — even more so when you’re new.
Picking the right topic is essential. But, a podcaster should also know who their audience is, where they are on the internet, and how to reach them. Thinking outside the box is useful, but you should spend any marketing money wisely and only when the return is greater than the investment.
But, before you can hop on social media to hawk your latest venture, it may be useful to learn how to make a podcast.
Make a Podcast Worth Listening to (and Post Regularly)
So long as podcasters pick an interesting topic or unexplored niche, not all is lost. The podcast landscape is not what it was five years ago. That’s to say, it’s no longer a gold rush. Now, podcasters must market their show in creative ways, even more so when dealing with a small or non-existing marketing budget because, let’s face it, any money should go to equipment. After all, if a podcast sounds bad, most listeners will move on to something better.
So, one of the best ways to create a following is by producing something worth listening to. Pick the right microphone, which doesn’t mean the most expensive, the perfect intro song, the right Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), and learn how to produce a podcast.
One more thing. Create a publishing schedule, and stick to it. Listeners are most likely to tune in when you post regularly, and as a listener, it’s the worst when a podcast episode is late by a few days. Don’t be that host. Post on time — it’s good for engagement.
Sounding the part is great, but looking the part is just as important. With so much competition, your podcast has to look professional. Looking professional can mean many things, but in this case it’s all about how you present your podcast to the world.
For one, creating a website with a legit domain name can go a long way — unlike a free WordPress domain (blank.wordpress.com). Depending on the name, a domain name can be affordable. I bought my domain name from Name.com and paid around twenty dollars for a two-year license.
Sites like WordPress and Squarespace have made building a website easy, and it’s somewhere people can visit to know more about the podcasts, the host, and even listen to more episodes. You can plug your website name in your podcasts, or put it on business cards and social media pages.
If you don’t want to build a website, your podcast hosting service can provide you with a free, basic website. Buzzsprout, which is what I use to host my podcast, has a free website tool. You can point your domain name to it so when people type in your site it goes to the free site instead.
Get Your Podcast on as Many Platforms as Possible
Think of a podcast hosting service as a storage facility, a place to upload and catalog your episodes. You could direct people to the hosting site to listen to your podcasts, but that’s not how most listeners consume their podcasts. Listeners get their podcast fix from apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Overcast, and others. Having your podcast available on as many services as possible will make it easier for people to find you. Speaking from experience, it’s not as hard as you think to upload your podcast to most services.
Buzzsprout has a specific tab that makes it easy to upload to a podcast aggregator. Image via Buzzsprout.
After you’ve set up your podcast host account and created your first episode, you’ll have access to your RSS feed link. You’ll have to submit that link to a podcast aggregator, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or TuneIn, which will review your podcast — make sure you have at least one episode uploaded. Buzzsprout has intuitive guides on how to submit your podcast to every podcast aggregator, of which Spotify is the easiest. Most of the aggregators approve podcasts within a day, but Apple Podcasts has a more rigorous approval process that can take up to two weeks.
However, once a podcast is on Apple Podcasts, it automatically appears on podcatchers such as Pocket Casts, Overcast, and similar apps. Want to make sure your podcast gets approved? Make at least one episode, create a description, and make sure you have some attention-grabbing artwork.
In an ideal world, listeners would only care about the content within the podcasts, but that’s not always the case. I’ll often check out a podcast based on how the artwork looks because, for most people, that’s the only information available.
Alex Clem writes on the Shutterstock blog, “While we often abide by the expression ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ in life, it simply doesn’t apply to podcast cover art design.” If you plan on designing your artwork, check out her work which offers a ton of design insights.
Attention-grabbing podcast artwork is an essential part of growing your audience.
Create new social media accounts on every platform as soon as you figure out your podcast name. The same goes for your domain name. In fact, check to make sure the name is available on social media and as a domain before you finalize the name, or you could end up regretting it. Even if you don’t plan on using a particular social media site, create an account anyway and hold onto it in case you change your mind.
Finding a specific community is much easier these days on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit. Facebook groups are varied and exist for all manner of hobbies, and Reddit has subreddits for every topic imaginable. When I created my podcast I started a Twitter account and followed every related account I could think of. I also went to Reddit and shared my podcast with a relevant community.
As a rule, you shouldn’t use social media purely as a sales tool. Nobody likes being sold to all the time, and that one-sidedness may put people off, which can hurt engagement. It’s impossible to outline concrete steps since every podcast and community is different, but engage with your community. If you’re really passionate about a topic you’ll find like-minded people who care about what you think. Building a following doesn’t happen overnight. However, it can happen if you post regularly and provide humor, insight, wisdom, and help — and come across as a genuine person.
Share Podcast Clips
One way to increase the visibility of your podcast is by creating short clips with embedded audio and subtitles. Pick an interesting section of your podcast and create a video using your artwork. Select the audio you wish to use, and don’t forget to add subtitles so that it’ll catch the attention of someone who scrolls by your post. Most people won’t turn on the sound for videos on social media — they might be at work or somewhere they can’t turn on the volume — which is why subtitles are essential. A random social media stranger may see your clip and become a listener. For reference, sites such as Overcast, Anchor, and others can quickly produce podcast clips to share on social media. The clip below was made through Headliner, an app that you can use for free to create awesome podcast clips.
Episode 7 is live! It's a good one. We get really in our feeling, and reveal some bold opinions…007: Google Pixel 4 Reactions & a Chat with @ijustine & @jennaezarik!Listen anywhere: https://t.co/PEFpFuCRqE pic.twitter.com/AiwkG2GMV6
— Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast (@WVFRM) October 18, 2019
Record on Video and Post on YouTube
Consider posting your podcast clips onto YouTube, or better yet, put up the whole podcast on YouTube. Again, you don’t have to shoot a video, and you can just upload your podcast audio with a static image of your artwork. Make sure to add your website name and social media handles in the description, and maybe you can add a different sign off at the end of your podcast, asking your listeners to subscribe and like the video.
I know producing a podcast is already hard enough, but recording your podcast on video and posting it on YouTube can help you stick out. While most listeners consume podcasts on their way to work, many listeners also listen to podcasts at home, and recording your podcast on video can be more entertaining. You can still take the audio from your video podcast and publish it wherever you want, but recording a video podcast gives you more ways to reach people. If you want to know more about recording a video podcast, Jourdan Aldredge covered it for The Beat a few months ago.
Become a Patreon Creator
If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a way for fans to fund their favorite creators. Creators get to pay their bills, and patrons receive exclusive content, among other perks. People who like your podcast can donate a few dollars every month — Patreon creators can set specific tiers with varying perks. Although the site takes a cut from whatever money you make, it’s a small price to pay, and creating an account is free. The site is built for creators, and it has a built-in community page where you can directly communicate with your fans and, most importantly for your community, where your fans can communicate with each other.
Patreon may seem more like a business plan, and it is (for the most part), but the exclusivity aspect may attract more listeners than you think. Mention the perks in each episode, and soon enough, your listeners may catch a severe case of FOMO. I became a Patreon supporter of a podcast because I wanted the episodes early, but I also got access to Patreon-only episodes that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen on YouTube.
Be a Guest
Want to get your name out there? Ask to become a guest on a podcast that is adjacent to yours. You see it all the time in the podcast industry — podcast hosts becoming guests on each other’s podcasts to attract more followers. If you have a sports podcast, it may be beneficial to be a guest on another sports podcast that isn’t a direct competitor. You never know who’s listening — that person may become a future listener. A high tide raises all boats, so reach out to other podcast hosts and work together to increase your listener count.
Get a Guest
Inviting a guest on your show can be mutually beneficial. Their fans could become your fans, and vice versa. Image via VGstockstudio.
Alternatively, seek out guests with large fan bases to increase your visibility. As an unknown podcaster, you may not land an A-lister, but it can’t hurt to slide in those DMs and ask. The worst that could happen is getting a “No.” Here’s a quick story: an editor at IGN — a video game news site with a passion for Teslas — started an unofficial Tesla podcast, and he eventually got Elon Musk to do a one-on-one interview, on his 200th episode. Isn’t that awesome? Of course, that may not happen for everyone, but if you’re passionate and stick with your podcast, who knows what can happen.
Guests increase listenership, and it may invite potential listeners to check out your podcast. For example, I listen to Conan O’Brien‘s podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and he has a celebrity guest every week. But, I’m more inclined to listen to the episodes starring guests that I know and admire. He’s already famous, but some listeners may be more inclined to press play if Ali Wong or John Mulaney are on that week’s episode. To be clear, the person doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity, though it should at least be someone well-known in the community.
Be Persistent, Not Spammy
Look, it’s only natural to want to tell your friends and family about your new podcast, and you totally should, but be chill about it. No one likes a pushy salesman, and you don’t want to force people to listen to your podcast, no matter how good it may be. My podcast is Esports-related, which most people I know are oblivious to, so I don’t mention it. Instead, find your community and audience, and sell it to them. They’ll appreciate it more.
Remember some of the points above — produce something worth listening to, look professional, get on social media, and be a guest. Making a podcast isn’t easy, and getting people to listen to it is an issue that affects every podcaster, but keep at it. You’ll know when you’ve made it when you’re selling mattresses and monthly subscription boxes to your listeners!
Cover image via Pocket Casts.
Looking for more on making your podcast the best it can be? Check these out.
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