How to Grow Your Podcast Audience (The Right Way)

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The bigger your audience, the bigger your guests, the better your production gets, and the bigger your audience continues to get.

Seems simple, right?

The challenging thing is growing your podcast audience in the first place. Luckily, I had the chance to catch up with co-founder and CEO of SparkToro (and Moz) and author of Lost & Founder, Rand Fishkin. (You can hear the full B2B Growth episode featuring Rand in the podcast player above. ☝)

Rand helps us answer today’s big question:

What’s the right way to grow your podcast audience? To grow your podcast audience, you need to… 

  • Get creative with paid media
  • Feature guests and topics your (future) audience cares about
  • Find the right sponsors
  • Don’t only be known for your podcast
  • Invest in a flywheel model

Let’s dig a bit deeper into this audience growth strategy.

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Paid Media for Podcast Audience Growth

Historically, Rand says B2B podcasters have done well with LinkedIn and Twitter paid advertisements. But he also points out that there are a ton more creative ways to leverage paid advertising and grow your audience.

Get Creative w/ Paid Advertising

Even though PPC ads have been relatively successful for podcasters, they’re expensive compared to other things you could be doing with your time and money.

“Going for something like paid targeted ads with a subscriber-to-a-podcast model is not a great use of your time and dollars.”

Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

Give something more imaginative a whirl, like… 

  • Sponsoring a (virtual) event
  • Brand partnerships
  • Influencer marketing

Don’t get boxed in by what everyone else in the space is doing.

Learn more about your target audience

Due to data privacy legislation, PPC platforms like Facebook have had to limit the number of characteristics advertisers can glean from their audiences. This means less targeted segments and more unqualified leads. 😰

If you haven’t already, try learning more about your audience with SparkToro (there’s a free option). A few things you could learn about your future audience:

  • Accounts they follow on social
  • Their favorite websites
  • Types of posts they engage with
  • Keywords they engage with

Those are some valuable insights, IMO, especially for B2B podcasters.

See, you could learn about the influencers your ideal customers (listeners) follow and ask them to be on your show. Then, because you know the platforms your target audience hangs out on, you can advertise the episode via those channels, whether it be paid or organic.

You could even use a snippet or quote from the guest in your ads and posts.

Email Capture vs. Podcast Subscription

Paid media should actually be one of your last resorts for building an audience. Aren’t email addresses more valuable than podcast subscriptions anyway?

Rand thinks so.

When someone is warmed up to your brand or show, email open rates can get as high as 22% and even upwards of 70% for welcome messages.

[RELATED: How to Grow Your Podcast Audience in 14 Steps]

Basically, if you’re trying to decide which type of advertising to try out first, don’t go with paid. If you ever get to the point of doing paid advertising, make it creative (and use SparkToro for more targeted segmentation).

Earned Media for Podcast Audience Growth

Earning media attention for your podcast takes two main ingredients:

  1. Have guests on your show who already reach the audience you want to reach.
  2. Cover topics that your audience cares about and talks about.
woman-using-rolling-pin-on-dough-great-british-baking-show

Again, SparkToro can help you uncover both of these essential ingredients.

Pitch Your Show

Once you’re able to get industry influencers on your podcast and cover the topics your audience cares about, think about pitching specific episodes to other influential people.

For example, if you’re appealing to independent record labels, pitch an episode that discusses new artist marketing techniques to a music blogger or publication. Use sound snippets and quotes from the guest to drum up more intrigue.

Then, maybe that story gets picked up by an even larger industry publication.

Start w/ a Niche

The key to growing your podcast audience through earned media is starting niche. Don’t try to pitch an episode to the Washington Post, because you’re not going to hear anything back (unless you’re Joe Rogan).

When you pitch an episode to a blogger or journalist, they should be influential in the very specific topic that particular episode covers

Getting an industry influencer to report on your show gives it the opportunity to be picked up by an even larger media circuit. But, at the very least, you’ll reach more fans than you did yesterday.

Rand’s Pro Tip: When you’re pitching to an independent publication or blogger, don’t use the traditional news release format. Be more personal and informal. (Don’t @ him, PR professors.)

Guest Blogging

Another tried-and-true method of earned media that Rand suggests is guest blogging.

Heck, you could even write an article based on one of your podcast episodes (like this one is!). As long as you’re writing about a topic that your target audience gives a 💩 about, you should be able to get featured in an industry blog.

Owned Media for Podcast Audience Growth

Owned media is all about finding the right sponsors for your show. Getting paid to create your podcast means you can put more resources towards its production quality and reach.

Why should sponsors care

In order to wrangle up some first-class sponsors, you’ve got to show them why they should care about your podcast’s audience.

Guess how you can do that.

Yep. It’s SparkToro for the win! You can literally send off a report detailing the people, topics, websites, publications, activities, and keywords your audience is in to. If those aren’t some valuable insights to potential sponsors, I don’t know what is.

Match the Sponsor to Your Audience

Of course, finding the best sponsors isn’t about taking the first deal any Joe Shmo offers you.

You know your audience — pick sponsors who share your target audience, or at least certain segments.

Be independent of your company

Rand encourages B2B podcasters to separate their shows from the companies they work for. Doing this affects your owned media strategy in three ways:

  1. You can agree to sponsors that would normally have a conflict of interest with your company.
  2. By being the host and also working for your company, you’re still indirectly spreading awareness and credibility for your company’s brand.
  3. You, your podcast, and your company’s brand are more trustworthy because your audience knows you’re not pushing your company’s agenda.

Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t market your personal brand.

Be More Than a Podcast

Creating a personal brand is another effective way to grow your show’s audience. In order to cultivate your personal brand, though, you need to have more than a podcast.

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Explore Other Channels

Rand suggests posting the recorded video of your interviews to YouTube, and — frankly — I do too. This is a great way to repurpose content and reach a wider audience.

“You don’t just want to be known for your podcast. You also want some personal brand association with an area of expertise.”

Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

Another channel I urge B2B podcasters to participate in is LinkedIn. Again, you can repurpose quotes, video clips, and actionable insights from your interviews and see a lot of engagement on LinkedIn from other B2Bers.

Essentially, you want to show your audience you’re an expert in more than just podcasting. Plus, you’ll reach more fans being active on more than one channel. The options are really endless.

Curate Content

Another way to make a spot for yourself in your industry’s influencer group is to take a stance on other people’s content (LinkedIn is a fantastic place to do this).

Look for blogs, videos, and other content made by industry thought leaders. Retweet, share, or comment on the post with your opinion of the topic. This makes it easier for your audience to understand your position and maybe even encourages them to follow you on other channels.

What’s more? Making your opinions known can get you invited onto another industry podcast where you’ll reach more people interested in the same topics. 

Boom — you just grew your audience. 💥

Invest in a Flywheel Model

After you put your audience growth strategy into drive, you should be able to see the opportunity for a flywheel model.

It Starts Slow

A flywheel model is going to allow you to gradually schedule bigger guests, grow your audience, get bigger sponsors, increase your reach, and improve your production quality.

The work you’re doing now to grow your audience is revving up that flywheel.

And, in all honesty, Rand admits that it can take a long time to reach the “fly” part of the flywheel. It’s a lot of wheelin’ at the beginning (aka, the grind).

Building Momentum

It might take you 100 episodes to let your podcast’s success drive itself. It might take you 500. Or 800.

But when you invest time and resources into the flywheel, sooner or later, you’re going to see it take off. You won’t have to pay for advertising or beg guests to be on your show. You’ll have a passionate audience ready to take in your every word.

That’s the beauty of the flywheel.

The Takeaways

Hopefully, you’re able to take something Rand or I said and apply it to your situation. If anything, walk away with these four takeaways:

  1. If you’re going to use paid media to grow your podcast audience, take an original approach, not the same ol’ same ol’.
  2. Feature the guests and topics your audience and sponsors care about.
  3. Use more channels than just your podcast to demonstrate your expertise.
  4. If you’re investing in a flywheel model, be patient.

I’ll give Rand the last word.

“If something is easy, it’s not often worthwhile to do and it doesn’t help you stand out. But, if something is very challenging, there tends to be a lot of value at being good at that thing.”

Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

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