Social media hates audio. All podcasters know this. It’s impossible to upload an audio file to any major social platform today. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. Not on LinkedIn. None of them will let you—or anyone—directly upload an audio file as media content to be shared.
But because podcasters also want to be on social sites, we’ve found a workaround. We make short videos, using clips of our audio blended with a static image, maybe a little motion graphic, maybe of a waveform bouncing up and down oscilloscope-style. Because that’s still culturally relevant? Anyhow...
And that’s how we’ve had to share audio content from our podcasts on social media. And so far, it's been pretty...meh, if I’m honest.
Coming Soon: Facebook, The Home Of Social Audio For Podcasters?
Soon, we’re told, Facebook will end its prohibition of audio stance, finally allowing podcasters—and anybody else, really—to share full episodes of podcasts as audio files in social posts, just as the podcasting gods intended.
Rumor has it they’re also going to let podcasters publish straight to a Facebook page, just like we publish to every other app, directory, and service, making Facebook another (if not gargantuan) publishing destination.
What we don’t know is how the shared episode will look on Facebook, either published by the podcaster to our podcasts’ pages, or when a regular listener does what we all hope they will do and shares our episode on their timeline.
Facebook has said they’re working with Spotify to power audio sharing, so it’s a safe bet to assume the share will be some sort of Spotify-branded embedded audio player. But will it also pull in and display the corresponding episode details? Will it display episode-level artwork? Will there be an option to subscribe/follow?
We can speculate all day long. We can share mockups that may or may not have any resemblance to what we finally get with the first release. Which may or may not look anything at all like the next release that addresses concerns that designers and developers at Facebook never thought about because they’ve largely ignored podcasting since inception.
And I don’t think podcasters should care too much about that. Because we won’t have any control, and stressing over things we can’t control just leads to frustration. (See my Twitter feed the last few weeks for an example of what not to do.)
Instead, podcasters should be thinking about what happens to our world when audio can finally “go viral”.
Virality That Actually Benefits The Podcast?
For all its flaws, and perhaps including this flaw, social media is pretty great at spreading viral content. That’s what makes viral content viral.
I’m hopeful that having the podcast episode as the thing that goes viral, viral spreading might actually boost the audience for the show, rather than just boosting the social metrics of the profile that did the sharing.
Cynical much, Evo?
Virality That Changes How Podcasters Think About Success?
If my hope becomes a reality and social media can actually start driving meaningful, socially boosted attention to a show in a way that the show actually sees real growth and not just vanity metrics… it’ll change how podcasters think about success.
And when podcasters start thinking about success differently, that will, in turn, change how podcasters optimize our podcast episodes to get more of that success.
Specifically, I think there will be three (or more) audiences for our shows, and each one of those audiences has different success metrics because each audience will react differently to the episodes we produce.
I'm going to start paying much more attention to this audience when Season Four starts in July. Paying members make up the smallest part of a podcast’s audience, but literally the most valuable part. If you have paying members, you’re motivated to make the kind of episodes—and possibly other content—that keep your paying members paying for their membership month after month. They decide if the content you’re making is worthy of their continued support, so you’re incentivized to keep them happy.
Your Listeners/General Public
The bulk of any podcast’s audience is likely to be people who listen to the show for free. There’s always the chance some of them will become paying members, but that requires you to make podcast episodes they can’t get enough of. That’s the best way for you to tell if you're keeping that audience happy. So you log into the podcasters portals—at least those that still work—and check your completion rates, learning where listeners drop off during your episodes and making adjustments to keep them coming back for more.
Keeping this new audience happy may be a lot different from the other two, and how you measure the success of your podcast with this group is also vastly different. Because here, it’s all about getting them to click that “share” button to help your episode spread. They may not find your episode worth paying for. Heck, they may not even listen to very much of your episode. And you don’t really care, just so long as they help it spread, because that grows your show.
Choosing Which Audience To Optimize For
Here’s where things get complicated. It’s not just three very different measurements of success we have to worry about. It’s that when we optimize for one group, it’s possible we’ll negatively impact the others.
If you notice your retention/completion rate is slipping, you may blame it on the length of your content or the frequency of your episodes. Reducing one or both may boost your completion rates, but it may also cause your paying members to see less value in your content, so they stop paying. But maybe those who appreciate the shorter/less frequent episodes decide to become a paying member, making up for the shortfall.
If you’ve optimized your episodes to get the most shares by saying dumb things just to get attention, you may alienate your most loyal listeners, causing your retention rate to plummet and your paying members to flee. But what if getting tons of shares makes your download counts skyrocket to the point where you can sell advertising against your inventory, exceeding your prior revenue milestones?
All of this is wild speculation on my part. We don’t know what's going to happen when podcast episodes are granted the power to be shared on social. We don’t know if any of them will “go viral”. But it's going to be a fun time as we once again see a redefinition of what it means to publish a podcast.
If you haven’t done so already, I recommend creating a Facebook page for your podcast. I also recommend chatting up the others in your podcasting peer group to make sure they know social media’s prohibition of audio content is coming to an end. Share this episode or article with them to get them thinking about the future.
And if my thoughts and speculations made you think about things differently, I would certainly appreciate it if you would go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and sign up for a membership. Not that I’ll reject your one-time purchase of a virtual coffee. I love those! But very soon I'm going to announce some member-only opportunities, and those who’ve signed up for a membership on BMAC will be grandfathered in.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.