As Matthew has told me before, if you want to grow your audience, you need to know your audience. But your audience isn’t necessarily going to drop everything to write and tell you what they value most about your show. And, if your audience doesn’t like something about your podcast, it’s easier to switch to another listening choice than it is for them to tell you. A survey can help. If you make it easy for your audience to participate, reward them, and use the data in a transparent and meaningful way, you can use audience surveys to grow your show.
Why Survey Your Podcast Audience?
Your podcast workflow probably has enough tasks as it is. Why add another to the queue?
Podcasting, in general, can feel really pointless without an audience response. Many podcasters have a hard time getting their audience to keep in touch. If your listeners don’t write reviews, reach out on social media, or otherwise write to you, a survey incentivizes them to tell you how they feel. You’ll get the specific feedback your show needs to improve. And your audience feels appreciated if you approach them with gratitude.
A survey isn’t fishing for compliments. When you ask your audience specific questions, the negative feedback can help you without hurting your feelings. Then, you can use this information to improve your podcast.
Plus, you may learn something that surprises you. Maybe your podcast teaches people how to bake bread, but the majority of your audience says that your voice is so soothing, it puts them right to sleep. Time to re-brand! One minute, your show is Challah If You Knead Me; the next minute, you’re Knead to Rest. Or something (our Alitu Showplanner can help).
How to Survey Your Audience
Anyone who uses the Internet, especially in podcasting circles, is inundated with surveys. Running a survey may seem like extra work for you, but it’s also putting your audience to work. So, what do you do to get your listeners to participate? Make your survey rewarding, keep it simple, and use the data responsibly.
Incentivize Your Audience Survey
Right now, people can sign up to take surveys in exchange for frequent flyer miles. If you don’t provide a tangible reward for taking the survey, people won’t know what’s in it for them. Offer a prize or reward. A gift card to an online vendor makes a good prize for one randomly chosen winner. Or, you can offer extra content for all the survey respondents, such as a PDF with a unique recipe or relevant worksheets.
Make Participation Easy
The fewer obstacles between your audience and the survey, the more likely they are to answer your questions. Mention the survey in your podcast episode and link to the survey in the episode’s show notes. Use a short link system like PrettyLink to make a clear link to your survey. It’ll look something like yourpodcast.com/survey, and it’s easy to repeat in the recording stage.
To reiterate the survey announcement, put this in a blog post on your podcast website. This way, if your audience listens to your show while driving or up to their elbows in dishwashing suds, they can come back to the survey later.
Mention the survey in your podcast call to action in at least three subsequent episodes. This gives your audience time to consider their response.
Keep Your Audience Survey Brief
Don’t let your survey wind on and on for too long. Ten questions are plenty. Five questions are even better. Draft out your questions in advance, before you start typing them into a web form. This way, it’s easier to make changes, instead of dealing with a website’s quirks before you’re ready.
Multiple-choice questions are easy for your audience to answer. This option makes it easy for you to process the data later. Open-ended questions give survey respondents more freedom to show you how they really feel. But, the answers can turn into epic sagas. The best practice is to impose a character limit for open-ended questions in your audience survey. 280 characters is the same length as a tweet, and your survey respondents are likely to be used to expressing themselves in that amount.
What to Ask In Your Podcast Survey
Like everything else in podcasting, the answer is, “It depends.”
The Pew Research Center has a resource explaining how to write survey questions, which social scientists would argue is an art form of its own. Pew’s guide’s most important information, for our purposes, is:
- Group your questions by topic, and put them in a logical order.
- Start with simple questions so your respondents are invited instead of overwhelmed.
- Keep the questions interesting: intersperse difficult questions with easy questions so the respondents don’t feel burdened.
- Save demographic or personal questions to the end.
In my opinion, look to limit what survey makers call question branching or logic jumps. This is when some (but not all) answers lead to more questions. For example, if question one is, “How did you find out about our podcast,” and the respondent selects “Facebook,” then a new set of questions opens up about how they found it on Facebook.
These if/then branches of questions often make the survey more complex than necessary. Not all survey-making tools will let you make branching question routes. If they do, they may ask you to upgrade to a higher price point.
Specific Survey Questions for Podcasters
Asking how your audience found your podcast helps you know which of your promotion and marketing efforts are working. If something works well, you could experiment with doing more of it. If something isn’t working at all, you could consider cutting it loose.
You also want to know their favorite aspect of the podcast. And, as unpleasant as it may be, their least favorite part, too. Keep your questions (and answer options) as neutral as possible. Your audience will respect you for neutrality because it lets them feel free with their opinion.
At the end of the survey, thank the respondents. Make sure you get their email address if there’s a prize involved. If you’re going to include their answers on the show later, tell your audience survey respondents that you’ll do that. Just use their first name.
Podcast Survey Tools
Different survey tools offer different features and/or ease of use, so keep your survey goal and questions in mind when you choose one.
Voice Feedback Survey Tools
A voice feedback survey lets your audience respond as easily as leaving a voicemail message. Websites like Telbee and Speakpipe often have a free tier for simple surveys. These are great for one open-ended question.
Google Forms has a gallery of templates that you can use to create a standard type of form. It’s easy to use, and everyone knows the brand, so it’s pretty low-barrier. The look is, for me, a bit dated, but it’s totally adequate for your average survey.
SurveyMonkey‘s free tier is probably too limited to be useful. If you collect over 25 responses in your survey you’ll need to upgrade to view the rest. Their paid plans aren’t the cheapest, so most folks will probably opt for Google Forms instead. That said, SurveyMonkey does offer a lot of features if you think you’d get the use out of them.
Behind Typeform‘s fun, pretty exterior is a robust set of tools and integrations. They don’t just help you compile questions and answers; they also integrate with other tools in your workflow. For example, your Typeform audience survey can connect with Google Analytics, Hubspot, Slack, Zapier, and more. Typeform even has an online quiz maker to help you grow your brand.
Paperform is my final recommendation for those who want the full power of a paid product. With full flexibility and a range of beautiful templates, you can make a survey that looks great and really draws people in.
What to Do With All This Data?
Your podcast’s most loyal fans will be as curious as you are to find out the survey results. Share the data in an episode and a blog post on your podcast website. Canva has a free infographic maker, which can be a fun way to present the information. Alt text makes those infographics more accessible for folks who use screen readers.
Take what you learned and apply it to your podcast. If there’s something you can eliminate from your show, for example, think of it as a way of streamlining the process.
What better reason to make big changes in your show and to try something new? It feels good to know that you’re doing what your audience wants. Just be sure that any changes you make fit your own vision and workflow, and, aren’t just the anecdotal demands of one listener.
Surveys, Surveys, Everywhere, But Yours Can Be Special
When you perform live onstage, you know immediately what the audience thinks of you. When you make a podcast, you hit publish and get silence. It’s frustrating. Think of your survey as an invitation to your audience to participate in your show’s creative process. Use the same ingenuity you’d put into your show in your survey mechanism. Sharing the survey data with your audience can be one more way that you and your audience explore your podcast’s topic together.