Using TikTok to promote your podcast

Grow your audience by leveraging short-form video

TikTok is the stickiest social media platform, with a skewed-young audience of over a billion monthly active users spending an average of 75 minutes a day watching videos there. And so, especially if you want to speak to an under-30 audience with your podcast, using TikTok to reach that audience is a good idea.

But it’s hard.

There are a couple of big tensions with using TikTok to promote your show. The first is that TikTok favours hyper-short, viral-style content, and podcasts are generally much more in-depth and nuanced; the vibes of the two media are very different, and you have to be creative in how you push from TikTok to your podcast.

The other is that TikTok doesn’t really want you to escape from its walled garden, and so while accounts matching certain criteria can have a link in their bio, there’s definitely friction (and too little granularity) in trying to push people from your TikTok videos to your podcasts.

And as much as TikTok doesn’t really want you to leave, it’s likely most users don’t really want to either; when folks are in the mood for thumbing through seconds-long videos, it’s not likely they will be happy to switch consumption mode entirely to listen to a podcast that’s 45 minutes long.

At the time of writing, TikTok is currently testing the ability to play podcasts natively on-platform, but it’s unclear what this will look like, or how committed it will be to the medium. YouTube, of course, has made a move into this space, although it’s a pretty unimaginative one at the moment, but we’ve seen Facebook make a significant commitment to on-platform listening only to creep away shortly after - and this may not even be something that TikTok’s users want from the app.

Promote your show’s vibe, not your show

Which brings us to the main mindset-positioning bit you need to understand when marketing your podcast on TikTok. It’s likely your first thought is to take clips from the show and use them as teasers. This is perfectly valid, especially if you record video – in-person or using a virtual studio platform like Riverside or Zencastr. (If you’re doing audio only, try to get creative with the visuals; it’s unlikely an audiogram’s gonna cut it here.)

The trick, though, is to think about making content that’s just for TikTok which promotes your show’s vibe rather than necessarily the show itself. Now, that’s a suggestion rather than a rule, and if there are especially juicy, funny, silly, insightful moments in the podcast proper, you should definitely try clipping them and using them on TikTok. However, making original meme-y content, posing questions, making something designed to lure folks into creating TikTok Stitches (where they expand on your original content), and generally making short-form content about the topic of your podcast is probably going to fare better. 

You should make sure that your content is branded up with the podcast logo and that you put calls to action in the description directing people to listen to the show, but the main job here is to find audiences who are into that topic, and show yourself to be a like-minded person they want to spend time with. 

You might be able to correlate successful TikToks with spikes in downloads, but this is more an exercise in general brand-building than in specifically pushing people to download an episode; it might take the algorithm surfacing your clips a dozen times or more to someone before they think to manually search for your podcast.

Whatever you do, of course, try to monitor performance, and try to define and synthesise what success looks like for your show. Remember that the algorithm for TikTok will change, and indeed, inevitably, people will ultimately move onto something else, so working out what works for you now is vital.

Often, the stuff that cuts through on TikTok isn’t polished stuff, but it’s moments where things go wrong, where there’s controversy, or from when something unexpected happens off-air that can resonate. If you’re unused to creating short-form content, challenge yourself to create a 30-second clip, then a 10-second clip, then a 5-second clip, and remember that people are only ever a tiny thumb-twitch away from swiping you imperiously away. Ensure you grab in the first few seconds, however long your video actually is.

Ultimately, tease upcoming stuff, show off the best bits of your published show proper, and make content just for TikTok, but try to do it all in the mindset of creating content that feels natural on-platform rather than being too thirsty about luring people out of TikTok and into their podcast app. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Sometimes it’s not even content you make at all; fans (and trolls) can create stuff around your podcast too, and that can be rewarding as well as sometimes challenging. It’s also important to remember that you can reuse content created for TikTok; Instagram and YouTube both have their own short-form video offerings, and TikTok clips can easily be posted across all three platforms with minimal tweaking for improved value.

Get the basics right

There are a few basic hygiene things to nail. TikTok loves hashtags, so be sure to research and add appropriate ones. Using popular music beds under your videos can really help bring it to people’s attention, especially if they’re trending. It’s not a silver bullet, and don’t do it cynically, but as you’re uploading videos to TikTok, have a browse under the Add Sound button for viral or hot tracks, and if they add to your video, or at least don’t detract from it, that’s another way users can discover it. Just remember to adjust the balance so that important speech isn’t drowned out.

You can also hope people will Stitch your videos – adding their own commentary and video to what your video shows, and showing that to their followers. You can try being explicit here – “What’s the right order to watch the Star Wars movies? Stitch this and tell us!” – but be aware that TikTok users are a pretty subversive bunch; they may push back at being co-opted into your marketing efforts, or they may undermine your prompt – “Don’t; they’re all crap.” Yet if you’re considered and ready for things to get out of your hands a bit, this can be amazing amplification.

Of course, the other option when it comes to promoting your podcast on TikTok is to run paid ads. There’s not much established best practice here for podcasts specifically; spend some time figuring out what kind of content resonates for your show before promoting something, and remember the demographic skew on TikTok. You will likely be better targeting Facebook for paid spend rather than TikTok if your show is designed to appeal to over-40s, for example.

TikTok can take a lot of creative energy to use as a marketing vehicle, but if the business of promoting something is being where the eyeballs are, you should take some time to figure out what a presence on TikTok for your show would look like. There’s more than a billion people there every month; you should probably be one of them.