When podcasters think of their audience, they think of listens–but they also think of engagement.
Audience engagement is how invested your listeners are in your show. Most podcasters think that engagement just comes from “making good content,” but it's much more nuanced than that.
To get your audience engaged, you have to earn their trust and make them feel included. You have to stay relevant and make sure they remember you even when there's no new episodes.
Getting in touch with your audience can be stressful, and if it's not done right, even unhealthy.
But if you follow a few simple steps, you'll find your audience engaged and loyal to you and your podcast.
Here's the most important thing to remember about engagement: your community is you and me–not just you. The more you make engagement about yourself and your podcast, the less engagement you're likely to see.
Be nice to your avatar
Your podcast avatar is the person you're addressing in your podcast. We've written about how to make a podcast avatar, but now let's talk about how to treat your podcast avatar.
Even if your persona on your podcast is a cynical scumbag–I know this is popular, but I have no idea why–you should always be nice to your avatar.
Your listener sees themself as your avatar, and your listener isn't going to feel loyal if you make them feel like garbage.
If your persona is tender, be extra tender when addressing your avatar.
If your persona is that cynical scumbag, let your podcast avatar be the exception.
You want your podcast avatar feel special, because your listeners are special. They're the people keeping you afloat.
They're giving you the kindness of listening to your podcast. You should try to give some of that kindness back.
Make your social media posts meaningful
Social media is the best way to stay on your listener's mind after they've listened to your episode.
Most podcasters make a huge mistake here, though. They only use social media to post when they've updated an episode.
Not only does this not help you stay relevant, but it also makes you seem like you only care about your podcast. It makes listeners feel like your social media only exists to get more listens.
That might feel true for you, but it's a turn-off for audiences. It feels self-centered.
When using your podcast account on social media platforms, think about what's relevant to the show, and then post about that.
If you host a podcast about relationship advice, post when you come across a sweet love story, or post handy tidbits of guidance.
If you host a politics podcast, post about current events while they happen instead of just waiting to record.
This works for fiction, too. Is your audio drama sci-fi, fantasy? Post about works in that genre. Is your audio drama a comedy? Your social media posts should be funny then, too.
Keeping your social media accounts active and focused on more than just new episodes means your listener has your podcast on their mind, and your podcast has more than just itself on its mind. It's also likely to end up in a lot more retweets, reblogs, etc., which will get your podcast in the eyes of more people.
Another way to help your audience stay involved and engaged is to be interactive.
Think about how your audience usually interacts with your podcast. It's a one-way street: you're delivering something to their ears, and they can't give anything back.
That creates intimacy, but it doesn't necessarily create engagement.
Think about fun ways your audience can get involved in some part of your podcast.
You can try using a hashtag on social media, especially if that hashtag isn't just to tweet about your show. Think about something like The Far Meridian‘s #FarAwayFriday on Instagram, which encourages listeners to share pictures of interesting places every Friday.
The Far Meridian is all about interesting places, and this lets listeners interact in an interesting way that doesn't just feel like you're using them for self-promotion.
To get listeners engaged, you could even do something as simple as a Q&A episode. You can get questions via email, on socials, or by having them send you a voice memo. It's a great way to give knowledge back to your listeners and connect.
If you start your podcast with some music and your title, ask your listeners to send you audio of them saying your podcast's title, and then use it in some episodes.
Make sure you're being kind and considerate, though. Never ask your audience to do something for free if you'd usually pay someone who doesn't listen to do the same thing.
Don't just ask for engagement; engage
It is not your audience's job to engage with your podcast.
It is your job to encourage engagement from your audience.
This means that when it comes to engagement, the outreach is something you have to nurture.
As listeners keep listening, it's likely that they'll try reaching out to you somehow. You should always let the listener come to you first (other than your call to action) so you don't seem overly hungry for engagement, but when they do, don't leave them hanging.
If a listener responds to one of your tweets with a gif or a joke, gif or riff right back.
If a listener emails you with questions or concerns, take them into account, and write an email back.
If a listener tags your podcast when they say something nice about it, thank them on that post.
You can even just shout out specific listeners on an episode if they've been active on your social media, if they've recently donated to your Patreon, or if they gave you a nice review on iTunes. Use their name, and tell your listeners what they said. It's a nice way of showing listeners you appreciate their engagement.
Make sure you're not becoming too casual with your listeners, and while it's difficult, make sure you're not encouraging intense parasocial relationships.
Making your listener feel seen and appreciated is important, but keeping boundaries is important, too.
The key to an engaged audience is to engage your audience.
When posting on social media, don't always make it about your podcast. It makes your posts seem egotistical and forgettable. Post about things that matter to your podcast and your audience.
Get interactive! Ask your listeners to submit questions or short audio files. Strike up an interesting conversation that your audience can contribute to.
Make your audience feel acknowledged and appreciated. The best way to make sure your audience cares about your podcast is to show that you care abut your audience too.
What's your favorite way to engage your audience? Do you have any inspirational stories about your dedicated fanbase? Let us know in the comments below!
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