As a podcaster, it's important that you understand what your audience like about your show. What makes them subscribe and stay loyal to you?
Once you've built your community of listeners, it's time to test your audience.
Test Your Audience
Testing is an important tool for keeping that audience and also growing it. You may also know this term as screen testing, which takes place in TV & Film.
In the audio world, radio stations frequently test their audience on what kinds of music, advertisements and speech content they’d like to hear. Long running podcasts should follow suit.
This is because you need normal listeners’ views on your show. When a content producer spends lots of time working on their music, video or audio then it can become tricky to give your finished work an accurate review.
It’s always fantastic to put a fresh pair of ears onto work and who better in this case than your audience.
As far as frequency goes, there is no right answer to how often you should run testing with your audience. At the least, you should ask your audience about your podcast every year. But you may also wish to do every six or three months.
If you run seasons of your podcast it makes sense to do your testing at the end of each season so your audience can give you advice and feedback heading into your next season.
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We’ve spoken about the importance of testing and how often you should do it. Let’s actually chat about what you should be asking your audience.
What You Should Be Asking Your Audience
The key question you should be asking your audience when testing is about your content, which makes up the majority of your show.
Does your audience actually enjoy what you’re chatting about. It’s good to ask this is in the form of a ‘Yes/No’ question but do also ask them if there’s anything else they would like to hear about.
It’s also good to ask your audience if they like the way your content is structured through-out your show. Your audience won’t consciously think about the word ‘structure’ and how your show flows. Therefore you need to phrase this question in a way that they’ll understand.
If you have any set segments then it may be good to ask your audience questions surrounding these topics.
Picking the correct products to support and sell on your show is key in keeping your audience happy. You can make sure you’re supporting the right audience with the help of our Podcraft episode on approaching sponsors.
Similarly with structure, advertisements is a feature of your podcast that your audience will have subconscious opinions about. What we mean here is that they will either like or dislike what you advertise on your show. But they won’t bring it up unless you ask them about it.
Asking a question about this in your testing means you can better tailor your advertisements to what your audience want. And if you have statistics to back you up then you can use your testing results to push for sponsorship deals.
Length & Frequency
You also want to ask your audience all about how long your podcast is and how often you publish it.
Your audience might absolutely love the content you’re publishing. But if your podcast is too long, they might never finish an episode.
On the flipside you might find that your audience would love to hear more from your podcast. This might give you the opportunity to add more content or advertisements to your shows.
Finding the right timings for your show will help to grow your audience, as more will stick around for the full show. Simply ask your audience if they think your podcast is too long, or too short.
It’s also good to ask your audience if they would like to hear your podcast more often, or less often. If your podcast is reliant on listening to every episode, but you’re publishing too often, you will struggle to keep an audience.
Likewise if you have a super exciting podcast but post very irregularly then your audience won’t want to subscribe to you.
Asking your audience how often they’d like to hear your podcast is useful too. And give them a good selection of different answers (i.e. Weekly, Fortnightly, Monthly).
This helps you get some real evidence you can use rather than only asking if they like the current turn-around of your show.
You can also ask which day would best suit them. You can release your podcast on the day where the majority of your audience would like a release. And you can still use the other popular days from your research to promote your release online.
These are great tactics to helping you maintain and grow your audience.
Finally, a good question to ask your audience is about who you feature on the show. Guests can really draw a large number of new listeners to your show. If you draw names that your current listeners would like, then they’ll come back to future episodes and tell their friends.
You can also find out which guests have gone down the best through this method, and which guests your audience didn’t like as much. This helps you make the best possible podcast for your audience.
There are plenty of other questions you can ask your audience. Fundamentally the key point is that you need to word your questions cleverly. When you’re asking your questions, make sure it’s going to give you good evidence you can use to move your podcast forward.
Ways To Test Your Audience
Now that you’ve put together your list of questions you’d like to ask your audience, it’s time to work out how to garner responses from them.
With every option listed below, you should definitely use your podcast to promote that you’ve made these. If you’ve put together a questionnaire then you should use one of your ad-blocks to promote it and direct people to where you’ve hosted it.
For the purposes of this task, we’ll assume that you have social media sites set up for your podcast.
By using Facebook or Twitter, you can use polls which are extremely effective in gauging responses. The ‘science’ behind this is that is effective because everybody has an opinion.
If you ask a question which requires a written answer then you may be asking for too much time of your followers. However with polls it's simply just one click of a button for them to do. Human instinct makes it hard to pass up making a poll choice when scrolling through feeds.
That should work for your closed questions in which you just need a ‘Yes/No’ answer. But if you would like to ask an open ended question then you should also get responses from your fans who love your podcast. The more casual listener might not engage with this.
Reviews & Comment Boxes
Another good way to create feedback from your listeners is through reviews and comment boxes. If your podcast is up on i-Tunes then you’ll have the opportunity to earn reviews from your audience.
Some may say it’s never good to listen to critics but in this case it may be productive! You might find that a listener has really enjoyed your podcast and wants more of one thing, or less of another.
As well as reviews on podcast host sites, you can also add a comment box to your Website. This again encourages your die-hard fans over your casual fans because it involves them seeking out your site to leave feedback. However creating the opportunity will mean that you can help please those who really care about the podcast that you’re making.
Create A Questionnaire
Perhaps the best option for getting good statistics for your audience testing is through the creation of a questionnaire.
Using sites like SurveyMonkey or SurveyPlanet are great options for doing so. Both are free of charge and you can ask plenty of questions in a variety of manners be it multiple choice or comment box style questions.
From here, you’ll be able to analyse the data you receive a bit more easily than others. These survey sites are set-up so that you can receive graph data or lists of responses quickly and easily to read.
Hosting A Testing Session
This is a little harder to do, but something that many screen and radio companies will do is actually host a screening/listening party. They’ll invite paid members of the public to watch their film before it goes to public, or listen to their radio in the hopes of gaining fresh ears on new material.
The reaction of a new audience viewing or hearing their work will then help shape what approaches they adopt moving forward. Podcasters can also do this with their shows in a similar fashion.
You might not have expendable income like these companies do, but you can get creative with how this takes place. You can visit forums or a subreddit of the niche that your podcast covers and ask for volunteers.
This creates a good opportunity to create new listeners whilst also giving you fresh ears. If people are willing to volunteer, you’ll find they’re willing to be opinionated about what they hear. You could conduct this in the form of a web chat on a service like Google Meet, or Discord.
What To Do With Your Information
Whichever method you decide to go with above, you’ll need to work out how best to analyse it all and use it as evidence moving forward. You’ll have a variety of different opinions from different people so it’s important you lay everything out in front of you so it’s easy to understand.
Graphs Are Great
The easiest way to understand a big bulk of data is to turn it into something colourful. Graphs do the trick!
The best way to do this is to use a data collation programme like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. These programmes work fairly similarly in that you can input all of your data into columns, rows and cells to make it easily readable.
A good way to do this is to create a different tab on your spreadsheet for each question you’ve asked your audience and then input your data using the rows and columns for your variables.
Once you’ve put all of your data in, you can click on the Chart option within the programme.
If you’re using Microsoft Excel for this, you’ll have many options of different graphs you can add. If it’s Google Sheets you’re using then it’ll try and choose the most effective graph for you to use for your data.
And there you have it. All of your variables and comments from your audience are now in the form of easy to understand graphs. Now it’s time to use these to draw up some conclusions.
You should now have data in front of you both detailed written comments from your audience and simplified as graphs. From here you should be looking to draw up conclusions from all of the questions you have asked your audience.
Those that were closed questions, like asking ‘Yes/No’, should be easy to do this for. Take a look at what your audience voted on for these questions and write up a statement for yourself on what the result was.
For example, if 80% of your audience voted Yes to have a longer Podcast, then write this down. It’ll be good to come back to later when we’re deciding on how we move forward with this feedback.
The more difficult conclusions come from where you’ve asked open-ended questions. This may be for example that you’ve asked your audience if they like your advertising, but have also given them the option to leave feedback.
In this case check what your audience have voted in favour of first of all.
If 60% have voted in favour of keeping the same types of advertising then you can conclude that your audience are happy with your advertising.
You can however add to your conclusion that some would like to hear different advertisements. You can look at the 40% who didn’t vote in favour and check their responses. If there are recurring opinions here, then these may be worth investigating moving forward.
Once you have your results written up from your questions, it’s finally time to put all of this into action.
From testing your audience, you’ll now have indications of what the strengths and weaknesses of your podcast are. You’ll know what you do well, and what you can improve on.
There may be some areas where a minority of people voted against the status quo of how your podcast works currently. These areas are probably not worth prioritising focusing your changes on.
Where you want to focus is areas where a majority of your audience would like change. You can use the comments from your audience to work out how you are going to do this.
It may take a bit of time edging in changes to your format but it’ll be worth it. It’s going to be welcomed by a majority of your audience.
And remember, testing isn’t a one-time thing. You should be looking to survey your audience semi-regularly. Your audience can evolve, grow and change all the time. So some areas which are currently liked can change with the growth of your podcast.
If you’d like to run testing in future but are currently still looking to grow your audience, take a look at our guide on how to grow a Community, which runs you through everything you can be doing to create an engaged podcast audience.