Try these straightforward, creative tips and tricks to increase awareness of your podcast and grow your audience.
Talking about making a podcast is a modern trend, especially when engaged in an exciting conversation. “We should start a podcast” has become almost a meme at this point. You can hear it echo in bars, college classrooms, and office cafeterias across the land.
The fact is, not many people actually go through with it, and those who do often end up dropping it because no one is tuning in at first. The same could be said about starting a YouTube channel—or, frankly, any other creative endeavor. It takes time to build a following, and it only comes after marketing the podcast and publishing it on a reliable schedule.
There seems to be a misconception that merely making a podcast will attract an audience. The “if you build it, they will come” mantra doesn’t necessarily apply to podcasts the way it does to shopping mall pretzel shops.
Like any other business venture, you have to package it correctly, then market the heck out it—unless you have a few thousand close friends who will listen to your podcast weekly.
You may not need much equipment to start a podcast, but you still have to put in some work to produce it and market it.
So, here are a few things you can do to increase awareness of your podcast and grow your subscriber count.
The Market Is Saturated—So Make Your Podcast Unique
Podcasts are big business these days. According to Podcast Insights, over 50% of the U.S. population listens to podcasts (as of April 2021).
In 2013, only around 10% of Americans listened to podcasts. No doubt, there’s an increasing demand for podcasts, which creators have met with an astronomical supply.
With so much market saturation, it’s become increasingly hard to start a successful podcast, especially with large media companies entering the mix with their large marketing budgets, top-quality production, and A-list guests. The industry’s current state has made it harder than ever to stick out—even more so when you’re new.
Picking the right topic is essential. But, a podcaster should also know who their audience is, where they are on the internet, and how to reach them.
If you’re aware of the target demographic you’re going after, this will make it easier to include SEO (search engine optimization) keywords in your titles and tags. These practices are essential for ranking on Google and within the podcast apps you use.
But, before you can hop on social media to hawk your latest venture, it may be useful to learn how to make a podcast.
Make a Podcast Worth Listening to (and Post Regularly)
So long as podcasters pick an interesting topic or unexplored niche, not all is lost. The podcast landscape isn’t what it was five years ago. That’s to say, it’s no longer a gold rush.
Now, podcasters must market their show in creative ways, even more so when dealing with a small or non-existing marketing budget because, let’s face it, any money should go to equipment. After all, if a podcast sounds bad, most listeners will move on to something better.
So, one of the best ways to create a following is by producing something worth listening to. Pick the right microphone (which doesn’t mean the most expensive), the perfect intro song, the right Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), and learn how to produce a podcast.
Finding a good workflow will allow you to produce better and more consistently. Much like YouTube and other social media platforms, the more frequently you post, the greater chance you have at the algorithm helping your content out by placing it on audiences recommended feeds.
It’s important that you create a publishing schedule, and stick to it. Listeners are more likely to tune in when you post regularly. And, as a listener, it’s terribly frustrating when a podcast episode is late by a few days. Don’t be that host.
Post on time—it’s good for engagement.
Sounding the part is great, but looking the part is just as important. With so much competition, your podcast has to look professional. Looking professional can mean many things—but in this case, it’s all about what your audience sees when looking your podcast up, or what they see when the podcast ends up on their feed for the first time.
For one, creating a website with a legit domain name can go a long way—unlike a free WordPress domain (blank.wordpress.com). Depending on the name, a domain name can be affordable.
I bought my domain name from Name.com and paid around twenty dollars for a two-year license. Prices and choices are always a crapshoot given the amount of domains out there.
Sites like WordPress and Squarespace have made building a website easy, and it’s somewhere people can visit to know more about the podcasts, the host, and even listen to more episodes. You can plug your website name in your podcasts, or put it on business cards and social media pages.
If you don’t want to build a website, your podcast hosting service can provide you with a free, basic website. Buzzsprout, which is what I use to host my podcast, has a free website tool. You can point your domain name to it so when people type in your site it goes to the free site instead. In addition to having a website, your podcast needs an RSS URL and feed.
What Is an RSS Feed?
If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of an RSS, it basically acts as a middleman between your content (your podcast episodes) and distributors like Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, etc. These big distributors will ask for your “RSS URL” when trying to upload. So, yes, you need it.
What this does is you create an account where you enter all the podcast information: Title, Description, Cover Art, and a few tags to help categorize it all, then you’ll upload your audio file (the podcast recording) to the RSS feed.
So, when you take this URL to these big distributors—like Spotify—all the information you uploaded to RSS will populate and give this information to the distributors so they can check and verify everything.
It might take a little while for them to approve and upload your podcast, so be patient and expect a slight wait time.
Get Your Podcast on as Many Platforms as Possible
There are a few directions you can go from here. First, let’s talk about the RSS service you’ll find when searching online. In my opinion, the obvious and best solution is to use the actual RSS website. You can find it here. The best part—it’s free!
However, several other “hosting” sites act as a home for your podcast. It created the RSS feed for you, allowing you to change anything, schedule ahead of time, WordPress integration, and (most importantly) analytics. These sites and accounts are usually paid, but they help manage it all, allowing you to focus on the important part—creating a good podcast that people want to listen to.
Here are some of the best options available right now:
Think of a podcast hosting service as a storage facility, a place to upload and catalog your episodes. You could direct people to the hosting site to listen to your podcasts, but that’s not how most listeners consume their podcasts.
Listeners get their podcast fix from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Overcast, and others. Speaking from experience, it’s not as hard as you think to upload your podcast to most services. Having your podcast available on as many services as possible will make it easier for people to find you.
In an ideal world, listeners would only care about the content within the podcasts, but that’s not always the case. I’ll often check out a podcast based on how the artwork looks because, for most people, that’s the only information available.
If you plan to design your artwork, check out this article, which is full of A+ design insights.
Create new social media accounts on every platform as soon as you figure out your podcast name. The same goes for your domain name. Check to make sure the name is available on social media and as a domain before you finalize the name, or you could end up regretting it. Even if you don’t plan to use a particular social media site, create an account anyway and hold onto it if you change your mind.
Finding a specific community is much easier these days on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit. Facebook groups are varied and exist for all manner of hobbies, and Reddit has subreddits for every topic imaginable.
When I created my podcast, I started a Twitter account and followed every related account I could think of. I also went to Reddit and shared my podcast with a relevant community.
As a rule, you shouldn’t use social media purely as a sales tool. Nobody likes being sold to all the time, and that one-sidedness may put people off, which can hurt engagement.
It’s impossible to outline concrete steps since every podcast and community is different, but engage with your community. If you’re passionate about a topic, you’ll find like-minded people who care about what you think.
Building a following doesn’t happen overnight. However, it can happen if you post regularly and provide humor, insight, wisdom, and help—and come across as a genuine person.
Include Video or Start a YouTube Channel
One way to increase the visibility of your podcast is by adding video to your podcast. While that might sound like entirely too much work, if you have a camera and you’re already going to record a podcast, why not just film it and upload it to YouTube!
Then, pick an attractive section of your podcast and create a video using your artwork. Select the audio you wish to use and don’t forget to add subtitles so that it’ll catch the attention of someone who scrolls by your post. Most people won’t turn on the sound for videos on social media—they might be at work or somewhere they can’t turn on the volume—which is why subtitles are essential.
A random social media stranger may see your videos or clips and become a listener over on the podcast app your podcast is hosted on. For reference, sites such as Overcast, Anchor, and others can quickly produce podcast clips to share on social media.
Take “Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast,” for example. The accompanying video only helps its audience grow on multiple platforms.
I know producing a podcast is already hard enough, but recording your podcast on video and posting it on YouTube can help you stick out. While most listeners consume podcasts on their way to work, many also listen to podcasts at home, and recording your podcast on video can be more entertaining.
You can still take the audio from your video podcast and publish it wherever you want, but recording a video podcast gives you more ways to reach people. If you want to know more about recording a video podcast, Jourdan Aldredge covered it for PremiumBeat. Check it out.
Become a Patreon Creator
If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a way for fans to fund their favorite creators. Creators get to pay their bills, and patrons receive exclusive content, among other perks.
People who like your podcast can donate a few dollars every month—Patreon creators can set specific tiers with varying bonuses. Although the site takes a cut from whatever money you make, it’s a small price to pay, and creating an account is free.
The site is built for creators, and it has a built-in community page where you can directly communicate with your fans and, most importantly, your community, where your fans can communicate with each other.
I became a Patreon supporter of a podcast because I wanted the episodes early, but I also got access to Patreon-only episodes that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen on YouTube or heard on Spotify. Patreon may seem more like a business plan, and it is (for the most part), but the exclusivity aspect may attract more listeners than you think.
Often, I see creators uploading an extended cut of the podcast, usually an unedited recording of the podcast. Superfans love this type of extra content. Mention the perks in each episode and, soon enough, your listeners may catch a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Be a Guest
Want to get your name out there? Ask to become a guest on a podcast that’s adjacent to yours. You see it all the time in the podcast industry—podcast hosts becoming guests on each other’s podcasts to attract more followers. Think of this as another way to market yourself.
If you have a sports podcast, it may be beneficial to be a guest on another sports podcast that isn’t a direct competitor.
Remember earlier, when we talked about knowing your audience? You never know who’s listening—that person may become a future listener. A high tide raises all boats, so reach out to other podcast hosts and work together to increase your listener count.
Get a Guest
Alternatively, seek out guests with large fan bases to increase your visibility. As an unknown podcaster, you may not land an A-lister, but it can’t hurt to slide in those DMs and ask. You never know what someone will say, and the worst that could happen is they say no!
Here’s a quick story: An editor at IGN—a video game news site with a passion for Teslas—started an unofficial Tesla podcast, and he eventually got Elon Musk to do a one-on-one interview on his 200th episode. That’s awesome.
Of course, that may not happen for everyone, but if you’re passionate and stick with your podcast, who knows what can happen. Even the biggest names in the world aren’t as busy as you’d assume.
Guests increase listenership, inviting potential listeners to check out your podcast. For example, I listen to Conan O’Brien‘s podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and he has a celebrity guest every week. But, I’m more inclined to listen to the episodes starring guests that I know and admire.
He’s already famous, but some listeners may be more willing to press play if Ali Wong or John Mulaney are on that week’s episode. To be clear, the person doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity, though it should at least be someone well-known in the community or topic that your podcast covers.
Remember, it always comes back to knowing your audience and delivering the content you think they want.
Cover image via Mushakesa.