2020 has been a whirlwind year for podcasting. Joe Rogan signed a massive, multi-year deal with Spotify worth a reported $100 million, a sign the streaming giant is taking podcasts seriously. Pandora recently announced support for podcast analytics, joining Spotify and Apple in trying to provide more accurate audience data for shows. And SiriusXM acquired Simplecast in a move that could give customers of that podcast host more data at their fingertips.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also kept people indoors because of social distancing. As a result, more people than ever before have started podcasting. Spotify reported 150,000 new podcasts in March, its single highest month in history.
With so many people vying for listeners, how can you make your show stand out? It all starts with content—but marketing plays a big role, too.
Be strategic about the content you put out
Confession time: The first podcast I ever created literally had the tagline of “the podcast about anything and everything.” That’s a terrible idea; even science says so. Your podcast should focus on a certain subject matter so your audience knows what to expect and your guests can deliver the content that’s most suitable for your listeners.
As The Podcast Host explains, creating idea buckets can help you generate lots of topics for your show (both good and bad) and it will also keep your strategy on track. This process can be broken down into three buckets:
- The process location bucket, which includes ideation, research, and an outline;
- The type of episode it is, such as a deep dive into a problem, a narrative, or just for fun;
- Where in the publishing cycle your episode will live.
Content ideas may strike you at any time, but you can also use a few tools to help you out. For example, sites like Quora and Answer the Public show you questions that people are asking and give you a taste of how frequently they’re inquiring about a topic. Meanwhile, searching subreddits on Reddit and the Discover tab on BuzzSumo show the subjects and stories that are most often shared across the internet.
These tools can be particularly helpful when you’re first starting out. With a bounty of content ideas at your fingertips, you can launch multiple episodes at once, a strategy Caitlin Johnson believes helped her 512 Brewed podcast build momentum in the early days.
“We launched with a few episodes already live,” Johnson says. “That way, listeners could binge listen and get attached to us and come back next week for the new episode.”
If you have access to your site’s Google Analytics, Google Search Console is another handy way to develop content ideas for your show. It’ll show you the long tail keywords people are using to visit your site. As these are the most popular searches to get to your website, chances are your audience wants to learn more about them. That gives you a great leg up on your podcast content strategy, and is a good tool for SEO as well.
Say you look on your Google Search Console dashboard and see terms like “how to start a business” and “top small business strategies” have solid clickthrough rates. You’ve probably got a strong episode topic on your hands. Try to look for patterns and related topics, too. Rather than just a one-off episode here, you could create a mini series around starting a business. One episode could be on finding the right niche to focus on, another on challenges business owners wished they knew when starting out, a third on tools to help you thrive, and a fourth on online marketing.
When you can plan your content well in advance, you can better hone your strategy (not to mention save you some stress from trying to record at the last minute). Thanks to these tools, you don’t have to come up with all of this content on your own.
Build collaborations with the right people
Of course, content is only a part of the picture. To truly maximize your show’s reach, you need to pair content with an effective marketing strategy.
Ryan Robinson is a blogger, podcaster, and side project aficionado who teaches his audience how to grow a profitable side business. His podcast features guests who have built their own impressive side hustles, and he’s found that forging promotional partnerships with shows that have a similar audience to be his most impactful promotional tool.
“This works so well because you’re tapping directly into people who already listen to podcasts and are primed to be interested in the topic your show covers,” Robinson says. “If you find the right partner podcast that’s in your space and is open to win-win collaboration ideas, the sky’s the limit on what you can come up with and pitch that you’ll both benefit from.”
Robinson offers a few ideas to get you started:
- Run a trailer swap with your partner, promoting each other’s podcast on your own shows.
- Play a teaser of your shows on each other’s feeds.
- Guest host episodes, recording an intro and including their full episode on your feed.
Pat Flynn, host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, recommends joining Facebook groups to help spread word of your show. While there can be value in sharing a new episode directly with the group, Flynn has found it more effective to go directly to the admins of a group, who will act as your word-of-mouth liaisons.
Going back to the starting a business example, pick out a few active Facebook groups that seem to cover these ideas. Group names like Small Business Tips, Entrepreneurs Across the World, and Business Owners in the United States would all be good fits. Click into these groups to get a sense of the content that gets shared, and then reach out to the admins. Say you’re recording an episode on a topic and would love to get their input.
Here’s why this is so effective: Some of the more popular Facebook groups often have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, and you’re featuring the folks that manage the groups on your podcast. They’re likely going to share it within the group, and they’ll have the power of the admin badge on their side. People will be more inclined to tune in, and you can capture new listeners for your show.
Make it easy to generate content
To easily feature these expert sources, Flynn suggests using a tool called SpeakPipe. The tool provides you with a link to send to anyone of your choosing. They record via their phone, as if they were leaving a voicemail. The recording is shared with you, and you can embed it into your episode.
Other tools like Headliner and Waave can take your audio content and turn it into audiograms, or easily digestible snippets of an episode. This is a fun way to create a “highlights package” of your show, but it can also be a useful way to record intros and shout outs, especially if you’re working with partners. Since these tools only require an audio file instead of a podcast feed, you can use them for voice recordings, too. Give your top listeners a special personalized message or have a guest or partner give a little more info about themselves, all while plugging your show.
There are also classic tools, like Click to Tweet, that you can use on your episode’s landing page. It’s an eye-catching way to give your guest (or yourself) easy promotion, offering your audience the ability to tweet a quote or highlight from the episode. They’ll share it with their network, getting you in front of additional people.
Repurpose your episodes
Don’t simply post your podcast and forget about it once it goes live. There are so many additional ways to repurpose your show.
Anna Sale is the host of Death, Sex, & Money, a podcast that discusses life’s tough topics and difficult questions. During her presentation at the virtual 99U Conference on how to have hard conversations, Anna deftly wove in clips from her podcast, including a conversation with her now-husband about one of the first times they talked about fears of their relationship over the phone, all while he was bike shopping. It was a great way to drive home her point about the importance of having difficult conversations, even if you don’t always have an immediate solution.
Grabbing an impactful piece of audio from your podcast and including it during a speech or event can provide a nice change of pace from the rest of your presentation. If the audio clip includes insights from a guest, it’s like you’re featuring multiple speakers. And since you featured them, those speakers will likely share your presentation with their audience too.
Visual tools like Canva or Visme can turn your content into eye-catching images or infographics. Take two or three quotes or takeaways from your episode, drop them into graphics, and share them across your email newsletters and social channels.
It’s also smart to transcribe your episodes. Transcriptions are helpful for a number of reasons, including providing a boost to SEO, offering more opportunities for backlinks to your site, building thought leadership, and making your show accessible to everyone. There are several services like Otter.ai and Rev that can transcribe audio and video files for you, and some podcast hosts also offer transcription services. If you need some inspiration for how to lay out transcriptions and show notes on your podcast site, these podcasts are a great place to start.
Think outside the box
At the annual Podcast Movement conference, Tom Webster of Edison Research presented on podcasting’s “next frontier,” how we’d get the industry’s next 100 million listeners. Webster encouraged all different kinds of promotion, including a few outside the box ideas. Perhaps the most unusual? Target your listeners when they’re a captive audience—like when they’re using the bathroom.
Putting up a flyer or ad in a bathroom might seem extreme. However, Webster argued your audience’s eyes have such a limited scope in this setting, they can’t help but see your show.
There are other unique ways you can try promoting your podcast, too. Maybe you’re hosting a virtual happy hour because of social distancing? Make the password to join the name of your podcast. It’s a subtle way to promote your show and a good conversation starter, particularly if everyone doesn’t know each other.
Joe Vorell, host of the Square Table Degenerates Podcast, found direct word-of-mouth promotion helped get his podcast started. He hosted a comedy show at his local Veterans for Local Wars to promote his show, and also created business cards to leave on community boards around the city.
If your show has a local angle, you can work with businesses in your neighborhood to run fun cross-promotions. You can have an item menu or product named after your show, or co-host a live episode with them. Get creative in how you build connections and you’ll see strong results.