When it comes to starting or growing a podcast, there are a few common struggles people face. For the majority, it's the tech, the publishing process, or the act of talking into a mic. Now and then though, I hear from someone whose biggest hurdle seems to be social media.
This might be someone who doesn't use social media through deliberate choice. Or, maybe it's someone who's never used it, and they aren't really sure how it all works. Regardless of their reasons, though, the big concern will be that if they don't use social media, it's going to be impossible to grow their podcast.
However, I don't think this true at all. In fact, in certain cases, there's arguably a potential for your podcast to grow even more by not using social media.
The Social Myth
“You need to be on social” is advice much repeated, not only for podcasters, but all content creators. But is it true?
One of the main arguments for social media use is that you can share your episodes on there. Unfortunately, most people don't even notice yet another content creator promoting their own work on social media. There will always be exceptions and examples of when it has gained traction, but these are few and far between.
I've been listening to Cal Newport's podcast Deep Questions for the past 6 months, and it's one of my favourites. If you've never heard of Cal, he's a productivity author and a computer science professor at Georgetown University. Also, he has never used a social media account in his life.
In several of his episodes, Cal argues that you don't actually need to consume social media yourself. If others share your work, it's more valuable than if you promote it, anyway.
What About Audience Engagement?
Another big argument for podcasters using social media is audience engagement.
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Sure, you can engage with your audience on a social media platform. But there are many other options out there, too.
Email lists are a traditional method, surviving the test of time. Pretty much everyone using the internet in 2020 has an email address, but not everyone is using platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Building an email list on a tool like Aweber or Mailchimp means you can engage with your audience directly, without being at the mercy of the latest update or overhaul by a social media platform.
For some other engagement ideas, you can run regular live sessions with your listeners. You can point them to the comments section on your website. You can create a Discord or Slack channel where you check in once a week to catch up with everyone. Or you can use the engagement, interaction, and community tools provided by many podcast hosting and listening platforms these days.
The point is, there are plenty ways to engage with your audience. So, don't let anyone railroad you into thinking that you “need” to be using social media.
But Why Not Just Use Social?
There's been plenty written and said about the negatives of social media without having to go fully down this rabbit hole. The big aspect here is your time and attention, though.
Platforms operating in the attention economy would like you to stay on their apps or sites as long as possible. That means you can nip on to do some well-meaning audience engagement and podcast promotion, and end up caught in the glowing lights of a never-ending newsfeed. Or, worse still, caught up in a 5-hour argument about politics with Uncle Fred.
In a report from 2018, a screen time tracking app called RescueTime reported that on average, “we spend 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on our phones”. Given that folks using this app are obviously conscious about their phone use, it's reasonable to assume that the actual figure is much higher. A typical use case might be around 24 hours a week. Sure, not all of that will be on social. But, these platforms are literally built to present you with the next distraction and keep you looking at something, or ranting at someone.
Invest More Time In Your Content
If you're using your phone for a conservative estimate of 3 hours a day, what could you achieve if you put even a fraction of that towards creating great content for your audience?
The single most important aspect of growing a show is that it is good, and people like it. That can take time and work. You only have a finite amount of time, and it's the one currency you can't get back. So be deliberate about how you spend it.
How Can Anyone Find My Podcast Without Social Media?
As I've mentioned already, just because you're not consuming social media doesn't mean no one will ever mention or promote it there. There are also arguably far better places to market your content. You'll find a list of such places in our podcast promotion and podcast advertising guides. These range from paid ads on podcast listening apps, to guerrilla marketing techniques like stickers and magnets.
One of the most effective ways to grow your podcast is simply to ask your listener to share it with someone else they think would like it at the end of your episodes. A lot of podcasters overlook these low-hanging fruits in favour of the hope of getting a few extra retweets (which rarely even translate into extra downloads).
When it comes to discoverability, many podcasters miss a trick, too. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure that your target audience can find you. The key ones are choosing a good name for your show, having descriptive, compelling episode titles, and writing thorough shownotes. It can also help to have your own podcast website, which drastically increases your flexibility and customisation options.
If You *Must* Use Social Media
If you've weighed things up and feel the negatives of completely quitting all social media outweigh the positives, then I'll point us back to Cal Newport. His advice is to get it off your phone. Schedule in set times where you deliberately open the computer and go on to do the things you need to do, see, or check.
With this strategy, you'd change your password to something complicated – something you won't remember off the top of your head. This extra layer of friction will stop you logging in on your phone out of sheer habit.
If it's a specific group or community you use social media for, then you might just set up a bookmark directly to that, too. This helps you avoid the newsfeeds and timelines designed to hold your attention, and keep you scrolling your life away.
Social Media & Podcasting
This article isn't designed to tell you to quit all social platforms. If you like social media and feel that it makes your life better, then by all means, have at it.
My intention is more to assure folks who, for whatever reason, don't want to use these platforms that you won't be at a disadvantage. In fact, you might well be at a big advantage. After all, whilst you focus fully and deliberately on creating great content for your audience, there will always be another podcaster out there who's busy arguing with Uncle Fred.
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