As of 2022, there are over 4 million podcasts worldwide, with over 75 million episodes between them, according to a report by PodNews’ James Cridland. With such a high-stakes competition between podcasters, standing out can be challenging.
You can spend hours creating the most brilliant content ever, but what’s the point if it doesn’t reach the ears of your intended audience? In order to make sure you’re maximising the reach of your podcast, it’s important to ensure your marketing and PR strategies are as effective as possible.
Social Media is not the silver bullet to success
Fiona Fraser, founder and Director of Pow PR - a publicist company specialising in podcasts - advises to think about your podcast from a marketing perspective: what’s the idea, who is your audience, and why will they listen to you? This way the audience will know you’re talking to them and be more inclined to listen to the content you’re putting out there.
“We’ve all got to start somewhere,” says Fraser, “but you need to think about the kind of followers you’re getting, because that is going to be posted out to people with similar interests, and that’s how you’re going to grow.”
Alisha Dandridge, marketing lead at multi-award-winning professional podcast production and promotion company MagsCreative, advises to treat social media more as an awareness tool, rather than relying on it as a method to convert new listeners.
“It will depend on the engagement of the accounts you have access to,” Dandridge says. “How much does that audience care about converting from casual social follower to a 40-minute podcast listening superfan?”
According to a report by Buzzsprout in September 2022, only 17% of podcast listeners discover new podcasts through social media while 30% of them discover new shows by searching on the internet. Rather than spending the majority of your efforts on curating the perfect social media feed, your time may be better spent creating a clear and accessible online presence.
Keep your digital footprint at the forefront and be consistent
With that in mind, the best approach to growing an online presence which is easily accessible to new followers is by allowing enough time at the very beginning to plan a marketing strategy before launching your podcast.
“It is totally dependent on your podcast and what materials you will require to promote your show,” said Dandridge. “As a safety buffer, we would probably say a month before launch is when you need to really start thinking about getting all your promotional materials in line.”
People will scroll back through your social media feed, and there is a real potential they may be put off your content if they see you only started caring about promoting it halfway through starting your podcast. Keep your content looking professional from the very beginning – whether that’s through your website, logo, or social media pages – so people will see that you have a clear idea.
“If someone says to me that they have a podcast, I will click on to look at it and ask ‘do they look like they know what they’re talking about or not?’,” said Fraser. “If they do, I’m probably going to listen to it, but if it looks like the person is all over the place, then forget it.”
Even if your podcast only comes out every other week, it’s still worth continuing to promote your content consistently across social media. You can do that by extending topics within your podcast in several ways, like using them as themes of the month, conversations in your newsletter, setting up Facebook groups or polls, and so on.
“Say you’ve got a football podcast which is about one team but then throughout the week, you could talk about anything, sharing funny things about football or quotes from people in football,” says Fraser. “It helps create that community that is interested, so when your next episode comes out they’ll transfer over and listen.”
A multi-strategy approach is key
Launching a new brand is all about trial and error, and the only way you can find out what works for you is by trying out multiple strategies at once. According to MagsCreative, its go-to marketing tools are: paid advertising, press, cross-promotion, guest appearances, platform visibility, and social media.
Dandridge mentions that if you have the budget, paid advertising may be worth investing in, but you can also build organic growth through targeting podcast-specific press outlets that are supportive of independent podcasters (such as PodPod) to promote your show.
Sam Shetabi, content director at Acast, says that his best tip for growing your podcast is to cross-promote with fellow podcasters, expanding your audience by featuring on podcasts that are both similar to yours and ones that are “a bit left field”. Once you’ve found a suitable podcast, you can run each others’ trailers, or feature as guests on each other’s shows so that both are benefiting from this strategy.
“That’s a really strong way of building an audience and extending your network without actually having to pay any money towards advertising your podcast,” Shetabi says. “Think about cross-promoting your podcast from the beginning and how you can extend your audience over time.”
Using video in podcasting has also become a popular strategy to gain better reach and engagement for your show. As of 2022, YouTube has become the top preferred platform for podcast consumption, according to the Luminate Podcast 360 report. If you’re able to invest in recording video for your podcast, it might be worth putting it up on YouTube to see if you’re able to reach new audiences.
Even if you’re only recording your podcast as an audio form, you can also create videos by layering it over artwork and using subtitles. This gives you a new piece of content you can use anywhere, like for YouTube or TikTok. You can also use this to create a library of content so that when related topics crop up in the news, it gives you an opportunity to re-promote an old episode.
Fraser says: “It just makes sense to make your life as easy as possible and to have as many avenues, because as much as you want to be driving listeners to that podcast link, content is content and whatever you talk about in your podcast can turn into something else.”
Build up your own community of followers
Getting someone’s attention in the first place is one thing, but once you’ve had engagement from people, it’s important to build on it. For example, setting up an email list allows you to let people know when your next episode is live or send out any updates about your podcast. You’re able to slowly build a community from there by asking people to send in silly questions or setting up a poll so that they feel included.
The podcasting industry is also a great space to network in and you can find multiple events and conferences like Podcast Day 24 or join online communities like the Podcaster’s Support Group on Facebook to gain valuable advice and share tips with one another.
Poppy Jay, co-host of BBC Sounds’s Brown Girls Do It Too calls the industry a “podcasting utopia” for exchanging information. She recognises that she is protected in her position as a podcaster, not having to worry about the business side of things like creating revenue, since their production company takes care of all that.
As such, events like the Podcast Show 2022 - which she was involved in as a panel speaker along with her co-host Rubina Pabani - as well as other podcast conferences are important for networking, collaborating and sharing ideas with other podcasters.
“I love this podcast community because they share tips and tricks,” Jay says. “...When I meet fellow podcasters, I can see that there is a real hunger for information, and sharing information and experiences.”
Growth does not happen straight away
For podcasters who are only just starting out in the industry, one key thing is to remember to be patient and not give up if you don’t see your subscriber count go up straight away. Just like with any other project, you have to make sure that you are committed and try out different things until you see what works for you.
Dandridge says: “The common mistake which we tend to see is thinking that growth happens straight away, but I think it’s definitely a longevity piece.”