When podcasts were first introduced over ten years ago, many people derided them for being too hard to download and covering topics that were too obscure. Podcasts had an audience, if a limited one, in Apple iPod owners, but few people could’ve predicted that these audio files would have much of an effect on web marketing or the Internet as a whole.
Of course, these naysayers have been proven wrong in a big way. Subscriptions for podcasts through iTunes alone reached 1 billion last year, while the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled in the last five years. Hundreds of millions of people now listen to podcasts regularly, and the connections they feel to their favorite podcasts are akin to how people once felt about their favorite TV and radio shows.
Podcasts are clearly in vogue right now, if the success of programs like This American Life offshoot Serial are any indication, and web marketers have even found that they can be profitable. Just like blogs and social media, a podcast can be used for advertising and for driving traffic to a business’s homepage. The only problem with using a podcast for this purpose is that there is so much programming already out there that it can be hard to stand out and make an impression. Here are some surprisingly simple ways to grow a podcast’s audience and make it an effective marketing tool.
Have a Clear Purpose In Mind
Like blogs, a podcast should have a specific subject and appeal to a certain niche. There are podcasts about sports, marketing, video games, movies and just about any other niche imaginable. Whether the podcast is just launching or it’s been up and running for a while, the subject matter of the podcast should be its central focus. Make sure to focus on the subject as much as possible; all stories and conversations should be tied back into the main topic of the podcast. Doing research is an excellent, no-nonsense way to build expertise; writers should read blogs, listen to other podcasts and pay attention to the news to learn more about the podcast’s niche.
Having a purpose for the podcast goes beyond just focusing on a niche, however. The podcast should be focused on achieving something to be successful. Is it just a creative outlet, or is it meant to advertise and promote business? If building value is one of the goals for the podcast, it pays to advertise as much as possible on social media, guest blog posts and across other platforms. Podcasters also frequently collaborate, appearing as guests on other podcasters’ shows in order to contribute and to promote their own show to a new audience. Advertising shouldn’t sound too blatant, but the business’s website and services should be mentioned often enough to earn the site some traffic and generate leads.
Consider IT Training
Podcasts are far more technically sophisticated these days than some people may realize. File formats need to be optimized for use across different devices, each episode needs to have excellent sound quality and be expertly mixed, and any music or sound effects need to sound convincing without being too distracting. Anyone venturing into professional podcasting probably know something about producing radio-quality sound already, but there is always more to be learned through IT training. There are plenty of webinars and training classes out there, not to mention books and even podcasts about podcasting, so there are plenty of resources available to anyone wanting to improve their podcast’s production quality.
Use the Right Tags
The text description of a podcast will determine whether or not people will listen to it, so it’s important to make sure that the podcast and each individual episode are tagged well. Any tags should accurately reflect the podcast’s niche and content and make the show easier to find. It’s difficult for new podcasts to be found in search engine results since older podcasts tend to rank higher, but using accurate and concise tags to identify a podcast will go a long way towards improving its ranking.
Feature Fun Guests
Interviewing guests is a great way to gain a crossover audience. People who might not normally listen to a podcast or even know it exists may be willing to tune in if someone they like appears in an episode of the show. It’s best not to venture too far away from the podcast’s niche—the host of a sports-themed podcast might be out of place as a guest on a podcast discussing tech trends, for example—but including guests with expertise in the subject is a great way to grow the audience.
Make Appearances on Other Podcasts
Just as featuring guests on one’s own podcasts can attract a crossover audience, so can appearing as a guest on other shows. Being interviewed on other shows gives an individual a chance to plug his or her own podcast while sowing the seeds for a partnership if the appearance goes over well. If the audience responds well, a guest might be invited back for another episode.
Finally, the most important way to gain an audience with any podcast is to keep it going. Sticking to a regular release schedule is crucial, and it’s important to let listeners know if the show will be going on hiatus for any reason. Establishing rapport with the audience is key to gaining their trust.