Building Networks to Grow your Podcasting Audience
Every Podcaster, at some point in their career, reaches a moment where they've finally tweaked their content to a standard they're happy with, but the audience just isn't biting.
We live in an amazing time where anyone can pick up a microphone and start releasing content. However, with all the extra noise that generates, many producers find it difficult to target their ideal listeners.
In this article, I'm going to look at various ways to get the word out through networks. This isn't just the oh-so-popular social networks, but real-life networks too. In both cases, it's crucial to nurture and grow your networks so that they can not only consume your content, but pass it on to others. Let's see what we've got to work with.
The first thing anyone hoping to gain exposure requires is a grasp of social networks: that dreaded domain of self-promotion gone mad.
It's no longer enough to simply have a Facebook group and invite people to join it. You need to be active on Twitter, joining debates on Reddit and Linked In. There's also Quora, for debate and technical discussions.
You can use Tumblr, Pintrest, and many others for simply sharing what you do with some decent tags so people can find you. I could spend all day listing the thousands of social networks you could join to promote your work, but the point is if you're active in these places then you're going to meet like minded people and potential listeners.
Once you've set yourself up on a few different networks, you can't just expect the people to join you on their own and read your posts all day every day. You need to begin following and engaging with anyone you believe might be relevant to your work.
If your podcast is about becoming an entrepreneur then a quick search for anyone with the keyword entrepreneur or self starter, indie or freelance is going to bring you a huge list of people who might be interested in your output. If they follow back then engage them. If they don't follow back then decide how valuable their output will be and unfollow anyone who isn't going to benefit you with their one way communication.
When starting my first show about video games, I followed every company, every developer, every independent wanna-be I could find and began to engage them about their passion. I offered to support their work, interview them, share their news and placed myself in a position that would benefit them.
These people aren't going to tune in every week and listen to my show. But it gives me contacts who will share my links with their audience when their game is being featured. I can go down their list of followers and start picking off suitable people who might want to hear my show.
This is a really quick and easy way to grow your following online and increase your audience. People might see you're having a conversation with their favourite writer and decide you're worth following. It pays off to speak to your followers regularly.
Once you've got people relying on you for support and interviews, there are also hundreds of people out there who are constantly on the look out for people like you to talk to. You can appear on other podcasts, or write for other websites.
I recently did an interview with a website called 10 minute interview. They asked me some pretty random questions, we talked via email for a week or so, and then the interviewer published what I had said along with some links to my work. She then shared it with her network. I gained a small chunk of new followers and converted some to become new listeners.
It may not be a huge haul every time, but if I'd done ten of these interviews over a month it would be very little work, and could bring in hundreds of new followers. You just have to ask them to interview you! We linked to each other's work, my listeners read her article and then many would have gone on to see who else she reviewed. It was mutually beneficial.
You might have read the above paragraph and thought ‘Ask?!' then wondered who or how. Learning to ask is the biggest barrier for a lot of people when trying to grow their audience or get somewhere with their work.
I've got a habit of sending audacious emails to people or companies and sometimes this leads to ridiculous scenarios that leave my colleagues dumbfounded. I emailed LoveFilm as they were about to close down operations and asked them if they'd mind sending me any games they were throwing away. They replied once with a yes, and then sent me 3000 games, most of which were barely 6 months old.
We used this as a big promotion on our site. Our ‘sharing the love library' hooked in tons of listeners and we shared them out amongst our fans for free. Building good will with things like this is invaluable. Companies are happy to gain exposure by giving you things to give to your audience, and your audience love the feeling of winning something for free. The amount of times they've said to us “I never win anything!” it's a great morale boost to know you're really making someone's day.
It doesn't have to always be companies or someone who will give you objects to share with your audience. If you're really trying to promote your podcast then I imagine you've already signed up to every podcast directory you can find in an attempt to gain audience members. (if you haven't I suggest you make that step 2 on your list after social networking!)
This isn't as far as things go with these directories. Why not ask them for help promoting your show? Sometimes you might find they're willing to put you in a new spot where folk can discover you.
Another of my shows is a question and answer session, it's in the comedy genre on iTunes and so the noise is unbearable. You can't stand out against the BBC or Absolute Radio. They have hundreds of paid comedians producing content every single day.
I hunted online for some contact details and asked if there was anything they could do to help us stand out. They had a new promo on called ‘ Your questions answered' and we asked if they'd add us to the list. This saw our show leap up the charts, so I did the same with their ‘Press Start' promotion in the gaming genre. So far we've been the only independent podcasts to feature in these promotions, because I asked nicely and showed we were serious about what we do.
Why wouldn't this work on other platforms? The link above has 50 directories for you to share your work on, if you can convince 15 of them to feature you then you're set! But be warned, they're expecting quality audio, a strong image and at least a few episodes with positive reviews.
I've resisted putting up contact details because I know my contacts would be inundated with requests!
Engage with your audience
Listening to your listeners and learning about their lives is a huge way to boost your reputation and spread the word about what you do. Talk to your audience and make it a two way thing.
I've got forums and mailing lists. We put on plenty of meet ups and shows for people to come to just so we can get to know these awesome folk who are in to the same things we are. We've learned so much from them. Gained so many contacts and useful links who are willing to help us out for free or cheap when needed. It really is about who you know, and you can only know these people if you're open to talking to everyone and finding out what they do.
If you are then they'll be just as willing to support you in any way they can. They'll bring friends to your meet ups, recommend your work to their families and friends. Even the occasional retweet is enough to bring in one or two extra followers that might be the key to unlocking a new link in the chain. This doesn't have to be online only. I go to expos, shows, any events I can reach really. We bump into people and talk to them, ask for business cards, give business cards back in return.
The more you embrace your situation and become willing to talk about what you do the better people will respond to it. They might not want to be advertised to, but they want to meet interesting people with a story to tell or information that might help them in their daily lives. They might just like the cut of your jib and fancy hearing more from you online. There are millions of reasons they could want to follow up your conversation by becoming a listener, but you wont get there unless you take the time to talk to them.
At the end of the day, if you produce content on a regular and reliable basis and give your audience a way to contact you, then people will find you. Don't change your timetable too frequently or take unannounced week's off. It's ok to take a break when life gets in the way or have a regular holiday over summer.
If you're sometimes releasing on a Wednesday and sometimes on a Sunday your listeners won't stick around, and it'll mess up your ranking on websites like iTunes. Their algorithms like a show to be consistent and predictable. They want to encourage subscribers and make everything like clockwork, so the more you fit that template the better your show is likely to do.
It is about content to an extent, but also turning up week in and week out is crucial. A show with a hundred plus episodes all released on time to a well kept audience is going to rise up the ranks and make waves. The best content in the world will struggle if episodes are released sporadically whenever you've got time.
What do you think about promoting your work? Do you have a trick you think would be great for all podcasters old and new to try? Is there something you think I should write about in future? All comments and questions welcome!