You’ve launched your podcast, and you’re loving every minute of it – congrats! …but now you’re wondering how on earth you’re supposed to keep up the momentum and traction – and actually start to grow your podcast audience.
I get it – I’ve been there – and in this post I’m going to share the exact growth strategies I’ve used in order to continue to grow my podcast since its launch.
First things first, sign up for our Free Podcast Course and join us on our next Podcast Masterclass! The Podcast Masterclass is delivered LIVE by John Lee Dumas every two weeks and any questions you have you’ll be able to ask JLD directly :-)
So many questions…
How can I take my podcast to “the next level”?
How do I reach critical mass, so that ALL the marketing isn’t resting on my two shoulders?
What am I doing that’s unique in order to give people a reason to want to listen to my podcast?
These are all the questions I’ve been asking myself over the past several months.
But before we talk growth strategies for your podcast and audience, lets take a step back and answer a few FAQs that should be on your mind if you’re getting ready to launch your podcast.
And if you’ve already launched your podcast, I still recommend checking these FAQ’s out because they cover key points that are important when building a strong foundation for your podcast, and are critical points to understand when trying to figure out how to grow your podcast audience.
My main point here: growing your podcast audience starts with a solid foundation for your podcast.
A solid foundation for podcast growth
What is iTunes New & Noteworthy?
iTunes New & Noteworthy for podcasts is a featured area in the iTunes Store where for your first 8 weeks in iTunes you’re eligible to be featured.
Well, that’s everyone’s best guess, anyway. Because the fact of the matter is, iTunes doesn’t share their algorithm or let you know the exact steps you can take in order to be featured in their directory – period.
So I’m going to get into it a little bit here, but bottom line: instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll be featured in New & Noteworthy, your time is much better spent learning about your audience.
When you know your audience, and you’re dedicated to providing them with value they want and need, podcast growth is inevitable.
So, here’s a peek at what you’ll see if you go to the iTunes Store and click on the “Podcast” tab: the New & Noteworthy section is literally front and center, and in addition to the overall New & Noteworthy, every category has it’s own New & Noteworthy section, so there are multiple opportunities for you to be featured.
This is amazing real estate because, not sure if you noticed, but iTunes is kinda a big deal.
In fact, they have over 40 million people who search the iTunes Store for content every single month.
Want to show up in one of those 40 million searches?
Starting a podcast is one way to do that.
Getting yourself into the New & Noteworthy section is another story, though. Just because you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you’re going to see yourself there day 1.
The EXACT algorithm iTunes uses for the New & Noteworthy section?
That we don’t know.
But we do know some very precise steps you can follow to help your podcast cash in on the New & Noteworthy real estate – that is, when it’s not frozen (like it has been for several months).
Here’s the quick version:
Join us on our next Live Podcast Workshop, because John will walk through every step you need to take in order to maximize your chances of being featured in iTunes New & Noteworthy when you launch your podcast!
For the longer version, keep reading ;)
But what about…?
If you’re reading this right now and wondering why a podcast with episodes dating back an entire year is showing up in New & Noteworthy, then it’s likely because that show originated on another platform, and has just recently been submitted to iTunes.
It could also be that – again – no one really knows what iTunes algorithm is. So, why are there podcasts in New & Noteworthy that aren’t New? Probably because iTunes considers them Noteworthy.
Another quick note before we move on: iTunes starts your 8 week countdown from the time you submit your podcast’s RSS feed to their platform – not from the date or time that your first episode was ever published on someone else’s platform.
Is New & Noteworthy the be-all, end-all?
No – definitely not. And again it’s not something to completely become consumed and obsessed over.
That said, if you do make it into iTunes New & Noteworthy, celebrate! …cause that’s a HUGE cherry on top of your podcast launch.
How long does it take to get approved in iTunes?
Typically 24-48 hours.
What is a niche, and who is my avatar?
Niching down and knowing exactly who you’re speaking to are THE most important things to know when launching your podcast.
If you launched and didn’t really know who you were speaking to, or what specific value you had to provide them based on your niche, then don’t feel like you have to just give up. There’s still hope!
But until you have a niche (a specific focus and concentration – a space you’ve carved out within an industry), and you know who your avatar is, you shouldn’t be focusing on how you’re going to grow your podcast audience.
You need to figure out who your audience is and what it is you have to provide them that’s of value to them before you can start to grow your podcast.
Okay, now that we’ve covered some of the foundational aspects of your podcast, let’s circle back to how the heck this all relates to growing your podcast audience…
I launched Kate’s Take in August of 2014
I marveled in the New & Noteworthy section for almost the entire time, which was awesome! This is when the New & Noteworthy section wasn’t frozen…
My downloads were looking pretty solid, given the average number of downloads per episode for a new podcast is about 132 (according to Rob Walch over at Libsyn, a platform that hosts over 30,000 podcasts).
Here’s what my first 8 weeks looked like:
But like most podcasts, after my 8 weeks of fame in the iTunes New & Noteworthy section, which afforded me all this great visibility, that orange line you see above wasn’t so much headed upwards anymore…
For my second 8 weeks – the 8 weeks after my first 8 weeks – it was more like… slightly downwards:
I had clearly secured at least some subscribers – I could tell by the consistency of downloads every time I published an episode, which at the time was twice per week.
Subscribers are very important when it comes to growing your podcast, because they will help you rank higher in iTunes, and they will help you gain traction and momentum for your podcast.
So my downloads continued to come in at a pretty steady pace, but what I actually wanted to be doing at this point was growing my podcast – not staying the same.
So what gives?
How do I get that same traction and momentum I had at the beginning back into my podcast so that my audience continues to grow versus… flat line?
Evaluating your podcast
There are a lot of variables to consider when evaluating your podcast, and comparing your downloads to anyone else’s downloads but your own is NOT one of them.
Compare and despair, my friends.
So this was about the time I got to thinking about the foundation I had built for my podcast.
If I launched strong, and my first 8 weeks were looking healthy, then what am I doing wrong?
How come my downloads were flat lining instead of increasing?
Some critical foundational things every podcaster needs to know
Before I break the foundational things down and dive into how to grow your podcast audience, I want to share something we put together to help others who are looking to start their own podcast: Free Podcast Course
Free Podcast Course is a 15-day day email and video course that walks you through EVERY step of creating and launching your podcast – it even shares the Top 5 Ways to Grow and Monetize Your Podcast!
You can sign up for your Free Podcast Courseright here and be on your way to creating and launching your own podcast today!
Okay, so these are the things I did when I launched my podcast that I believe have helped me bounce back from my 8 week “New & Noteworthy hangover” and continue to grow my podcast consistently over time.
1. How many episodes should I launch with?
Launch with 3 episodes.
Because 3 episodes will:
- Give your brand new listeners a good “sampling” of what they can expect right off the bat;
- Allow you to release episode 0, in addition to your first podcast episodes, which is an overview of your podcast and why your audience should continue to tune in;
- Give you 3x the potential downloads (vs. if you were to just launch with 1 episode).
If you launch more than 3 episodes, that’s great, but oftentimes podcasters don’t have the bandwidth or the “episodes in the bank” to support launching a ton more AND still have episodes on standby to use over the coming weeks to stay on schedule and consistent.
Staying on schedule and consistent is incredibly important.
Also, iTunes rankings do seem to be at least partially based on the number of downloads your podcast has receive in the last 24 hours.
So, while launching with more than 3 episodes might give you a huge spike right off the bat, it’s likely to actually hurt your rankings moving forward since iTunes will be comparing all your future downloads per day to that one huge spike you saw from launching with a ton of episodes.
2. What should your frequency be?
Your frequency should be a combination of:
- What you can realistically handle given your other projects and priorities;
- What your perfect audience member (or avatar) wants.
3. How long should each of your episodes be?
The length of your episode should be however long your episodes are.
It’s also important to consider your perfect audience member’s schedule (again, that’s your avatar): will they have the time/patience/desire to listen to a 2-hour episode, or will it be a lot more likely that they’d be attracted to a 20-minute episode?
These are all great questions when you’re first getting started, so thanks for asking ;)
More importantly, these are all the things I had figured out before I launched my podcast, and that I do believe have contributed to my ability to bounce back with the growth of my podcast post-New & Noteworthy – even though I’ve never been featured on iTunes post my New & Noteworthy debut.
Alright, now that we’ve got the foundational information, and you know that there are some key points to consider before trying to grow your podcast audience, let’s dive into the strategies I’ve used to grow my podcast audience since the flat line you saw me experience right after my 8 week New & Noteworthy period.
Top 7 Strategies: How to grow your podcast audience
1. Confirm uniqueness
What’s your UVD: Unique Value Distinguisher? (thanks for that JLD!)
If you don’t have one, then take a time out and find one.
When you have something that distinguishes you from the thousands of other podcasts that are live in iTunes, then your listeners will have a reason to Subscribe, Rate & Review your podcast, and continue coming back to listen in every time you publish an episode.
For me, my UVD was my podcast being an Audio Blog, which there aren’t many of out there.
To add to that, I’m 100% transparent on my podcast – something else you don’t see too much of. I share dollar amounts, percentages – a complete “behind-the-scenes” look at how we run a multi-million dollar business. I focus on tactics – HOW to do something vs. why.
My UVD is what I needed to continue to leverage to remind my listeners why they should continue tuning in.
2. Be social
You have to share your content – continuously.
When I first launched my podcast, it was like a race against time to see whether or not I’d get social media posts out by the time my episodes went live.
At the time, I was using Hootsuite, which is a really great tool that helps you schedule out and essentially automate your social media – IF you spend time actually scheduling it.
That’s what I was missing in the beginning: I wasn’t consistently sharing my content, and in the beginning – especially in the beginning – if you’re not sharing it, chances are no one else is going to do it for you.
Within the last several months, I’ve switched over to MeetEdgar, another social sharing tool that helps you schedule out your social media.
What’s different now that I’m with Edgar?
Edgar allows me to repeat posts – automatically – so I don’t have to continue going back and sharing old episodes.
That means all of my content – all the way back to episode 1 – is automatically being shared for me without me having to do anything except upload it 1 time. That’s a lot of added exposure on social media for my podcast and evergreen content that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
3. Be consistent
Consistency builds trust, loyalty, momentum and engagement, and all of these are critical elements when it comes to building and growing your podcast.
You simply cannot grow a podcast audience all on your own.
It takes trust, loyalty, momentum and continuous engagement with your audience so that YOU can be continuously improving your podcast, all while gaining momentum so that people actually start talking about your podcast (reach critical mass, and others will be marketing your podcast FOR YOU!)
Consistency has no limits – it doesn’t “stop” after 3 months, 6 months, 9 months. Consistency continues – even when you’re frustrated, and even when you don’t feel like anyone is listening.
The consistency equation is really simple:
You post episodes consistently + your audience makes listening a habit (trust, loyalty, momentum) = growth.
Whereas if you’re not consistent:
You don’t post episodes consistently + your audience stops listening = no growth.
4. Create community
Creating a sense of community among your listeners helps them feel like they belong – like they’re in the exact place they should be.
When your listeners feel like they’re in the exact place they should be – because they continue getting support and love from you, in addition to the rest of your community via social media, your comments section, etc – they’ll have a reason to stick around.
Create a platform that allows your audience to engage not just with you, but with others.
Creating a safe space where people feel comfortable and know they can go to be surrounded by like-minded people, (like a Private Facebook Group, a meet up at a conference or event that you host for your audience, or even just in the comments section on your show notes page), will again, give them a reason to stick around.
5. Do the rounds
Two of the most underutilized strategies for growing your podcast audience that I see people pushing to the back burner time and time again are guest posting and guest podcasting.
Does it take time to build relationships and find the right connections, so that when you do guest post or appear on someone else’s podcast, it’ll benefit you, them, their audience AND help you grow yours at the same time?
Of course it does. If it didn’t, and it was super easy, then EVERYONE would be doing it. Perhaps that’s why more people don’t make a point of doing it.
Every time you find another website or podcast that’s in the same industry or niche that you are – and that is speaking to a similar audience – that’s another opportunity for you to put yourself in front of a whole lot of people who may have never heard of you before.
Continue putting yourself on multiple platforms and you will gain exposure for you, your brand, and your podcast.
6. Always listen
Continuous improvement is one way to not only keep your current listeners happy, but also to ensure you’re continuing to create the best content possible for your audience.
When I started a series all about systems and processes on the podcast, my download numbers went crazy – and so did my engagement with my listeners.
The feedback I was receiving was AWESOME – it’s what confirmed I was on the right track.
How did I get the idea to start a series all about systems and processes?
Through listening to my audience.
THEY told me they wanted to learn more about it.
I listened, I created, and my podcast continued to grow as a result.
Your topics, focus, niche and avatar can, and will, continuously be evolving. Don’t feel like you can’t try something new just because it’s not what you established on day 1.
As long as you’re providing valuable content to a specific group of people who want and need it (always SERVE your audience first), then you’ll continue to grow your podcast.
7. Have a strong CTA (Call To Action)
One of the beautiful things about podcasting is that the barrier to listen is extremely low. Anyone with an Internet connection can press play! Great news for us podcast producers, right?
But what if listeners are tuning in to our podcast – pressing play to listen – and they get great content and love what they’re hearing, but at the end of the episode, you – the host – simply say “okay thanks, bye!”
We’re all BUSY.
We don’t always take the time to think about what our next step is supposed to be. We sort of get into the habit of just going with the flow.
“okay thanks, bye!” = “okay! bye!”
But what if you had a strong call to action in every single one of your podcast episodes – where you were literally telling your listeners what their next step should be?
Then, you’ll make it easy for them to know exactly what you want them to do, plus, you’ll be adding even more value to their experience.
- To your website for the show notes;
- To a content upgrade that’s going to give them a free download and is directly related to the episode they just listened to;
- To your email – ask them to email you and tell you what they thought about that particular episode;
- A question – ask them a question;
- Encouragement – encourage them to go leave a comment and share their experience as it relates to the topic you’ve just discussed…
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
A strong call to action to invite your listeners deeper into your world – on your website, by joining your email list – this is what will lead to growing your audience.
Want to know if this stuff works for growing your podcast?
I didn’t make these 7 strategies up. Quite the opposite, actually.
Since I launched my podcast in August 2014, I’ve been implementing every single one of these strategies for my podcast.
And guess what?
They’re working! …and if they’re working for me, then I know they can work for you, too.
Over the past year I’ve…
- Practiced a lot of patience;
- Never given up – even when I was feeling REALLY frustrated;
- Continued to brainstorm and innovate;
- Reminded myself that slow and steady growth is a good thing; and
- Focused on continuous improvement and serving my audience.
Here’s what’s been going on at Kate’s Take over the past 6 months
After implementing the 7 strategies above to help grow my podcast, I’ve more than doubled the amount of downloads my podcast gets, and the trend is still on the up-and-up.
I’ve monetized through the podcast in several ways – maybe not as a result of sponsorship dollars like we do with Entrepreneurs On Fire – but I’m bringing in around $350 / month just from my eBook alone that I published in conjunction with my podcast launch, The Fire Path.
I’ve also landed over a dozen speaking gigs since 2015 as a direct result of improving my presentation and speaking skills via my podcast – something I never would have focused on otherwise.
The next step: Monetize
Wondering what’s next now that you’re finally growing your podcast audience?
Once you have a podcast audience to speak to, the sky is the limit, and there are multiple ways you can go about monetizing your podcast.
Sponsorship revenue is probably one of the first revenue streams you think about when it comes to monetizing your podcast, but there are several other ways you could be monetizing your podcast.
A few examples of how you can monetize your podcast
- Self-publish a book on Amazon, then use your podcast as a tool to promote it
- Through affiliate relationships that will serve your audience
- Podcast sponsorships
- Create products for your audience
- Create services for your audience
So, what are your top growth strategies for your podcast? Share with us in the comments section below!