Download numbers can tell you a lot about how your podcast is doing, but they're not the full story.
The topics and subject matter of podcasts can vary wildly from one show to the next – and that means that so too can the potential audience size.
Entertainment and “general” interview shows have huge potential audiences. On the other hand, podcasts with huge potential audiences rarely realise them because they're simply not targeted enough.
A lot of podcast listeners want content that it feels like it's been made exclusively for them. That's why it's often hyper-niche or localised shows that have a real hardcore of engaged listeners.
Measuring your audience engagement isn't as simple as looking at the cold hard facts of your download stats though. It can take a bit more digging to find out exactly how your show is performing.
So here are 8 different ways you can try to gauge your engagement. Not only that, but they'll hopefully give you some ideas for ways to drastically improve it too!
1. Survey Your Audience
It's good practice to survey your audience at least every couple of years.
The best way to grow your audience is through catering to those who're already part of it.
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Running a survey can give you valuable feedback, as well as plenty ideas for new content.
It'll generally be your most engaged listeners who take part in any survey you run.
The best place to ask your audience to take part is at the end of each episode you put out throughout the time the survey is open.
Make this your call to action, and give them clear links and instructions towards finding and completing the survey.
2. Ask For Reviews
Reviews can help encourage and motivate you to keep putting out new content.
They also act as good “social proof” for potential new listeners checking out your show.
The most popular place podcasters ask for reviews is Apple Podcasts. But you can also ask for them on other directories, such as Stitcher. Or on social media platforms like Facebook.
Again, it'll be your most engaged listeners who respond to this request, and as ever, the best place to ask is towards the end of your episode.
We've created a guide on how to get more podcast reviews which will hopefully give you some tips and ideas on this front too.
3. Start an Email List
Collecting email addresses is traditionally the main obsession of marketing podcasters.
A list is a handy thing to have though. It offers you a direct path to communicating with your audience.
If a listener willingly gives you their email address, they're probably pretty engaged with the content you're putting out.
With an email list, you can send out regular updates about anything new you've created or released, or share stuff that you think your audience will find useful.
You can also gather valuable feedback or get new ideas by asking questions too.
For more on this, check out How to do Email Marketing for Podcasters, Bloggers, and Youtubers.
4. Start Social Conversations
Your email list isn't the only place you can ask questions and talk to your listeners. There's also the social media platforms you're active on.
Whether you're posting regular questions, or asking for thoughts on news items within your niche, you'll find your most engaged listeners are keen to talk to you.
You can even ask questions at the end of your episodes, and direct the audience to somewhere like Twitter to offer their opinions. Many podcasters ask them to use a specific hashtag here to create a thread that everyone else can follow too.
If you read out replies or comments on future episodes, that further reinforces how much those listeners like your podcast.
It also encourages others to get involved in the conversation in future, leading to more even more engagement.
5. Run a Live Event
You can run a live event for your podcast audience, either in-person, or online.
With a live event, you might choose to present something to your audience that'll entertain them or teach them something.
There's also the option of running a Q&A where people can have their questions answered directly by you.
Events have the added bonus of allowing your listeners to interact with each other, either in a webinar chatroom or in-person.
Naturally, the latter is going to be more powerful, but in-person events can also be much less practical to put together, and harder to pull off.
Whatever route you go down though, it'll generally be your most engaged listeners who show up consistently at these events.
The simple act of asking for money can tell you a lot about your audience engagement.
Many podcasts run a Patreon account where their listeners can help financially support them.
This can be done either by donating a certain amount per month, or per episode.
You also have the opportunity to create special rewards and bonus content for those who support you in this way.
With these, it's more about raising a one-off sum in order to create or achieve something. Nevertheless, any amount of money raised is always a good gauge of audience engagement.
7. Sponsorship, Affiliate, & Product Sales
It'll usually be your most engaged listeners who buy stuff based on your recommendations.
This is all down to the trust you've built with them over the course of running your podcast.
So whether you're selling your own product or service, or someone else's, you can get a decent picture of your audience engagement through sales and income.
Obviously, there's a great responsibility in that too. Make sure every recommendation you give your audience is for something you 100% endorse.
On another note, many potential sponsors and advertisers who are unfamiliar with how podcasting works, are going to see download numbers as the deciding factor in whether they support a show.
If you're looking for a sponsor, and want to convince them of the importance of audience engagement, then check out our article Should I Sponsor a Podcast?
8. Tracking Clicks
Recommendations don't always need to be about sales or money.
As a podcaster, you might find yourself talking about all manner of things. Other shows you like, articles you've read, videos you've watched.
When you mention any of this stuff, be sure to tell your listener that you'll put the relevant links in your episode shownotes.
Most web hosts will let you see which links have been clicked, and by how many times too.
You can also use tools like PrettyLinks to track clicks, and create short custom URLs that are easy to remember when mentioned on your episodes.
Your most engaged listeners will be keen to check out the things you recommend to them, and you can measure how many of them are doing so in this way.
Asking Your Audience
The bulk of this post involves asking your audience to go and do stuff.
There's an art to asking though, and some podcasters make the mistake of asking for multiple things at once. This is much less effective that simply asking for one thing on an episode.
Many make the mistake of asking for things like financial support or reviews at the start of their episodes too.
The start of your episode should be about the content you're about to deliver to your listener though. Jumping straight in and making it all about you is a bad first impression for new listeners.
Have a look at our guide to introducing and ending your episodes to make sure you're doing this in a way that's going to be effective and beneficial for both you and your audience.
Growing Your Audience
Though engagement is more important that numbers, the two don't exist in isolation.
An engaged audience will regularly share your content, and talk about it enthusiastically with others.
This means you'll always have new listeners arriving to check out your show, and download your past episodes.
And if you've already created a core of engaged listeners, who's to say these new listeners might not end up falling into that bracket over time too?
Need More Help With Your Podcast?
In there, you'll also find all our courses on planning, launching, equipment, editing, interviewing, and more.
There's a community forum, and regular live Q&A sessions too. As well as loads of downloadable checklists, guides, and ebooks on all aspects of launching and running a successful podcast.
It would be great to work with you there!