Why has your podcast stopped growing? You’ve hit a plateau. Why did that happen? And what can you do about it?
The answer—and the focus of all episodes of Podcast Pontifications this week—is that people have stopped recommending your show. One reason for that might be that it’s not all that easy for them to recommend your podcast.
But before you start googling, How do I make it easy to recommend my podcasts?, lets first talk about who it is we’re talking about. Who is it you want to recommend your podcast to others?
Loyal Listeners vs Chance Visitors
While you’d of course take a recommendation from anyone, it’s your loyal listeners who are most likely to recommend your show to others in their lives. Those who keep downloading and listening to your podcast episodes every day or week. The hard-core fans who eagerly await your next season to drop are the ones most likely to breathlessly talk about your show with their friends.
How likely is it that someone who discovered a single episode of your podcast because it was returned as a search result will recommend your show to the people around them? Or a person who happens upon a shared clip of your episode but has no more context than that? Or someone who hit “like” because you used a clever/cute animated gif when you shared a link to your episode?
Not very. And trying to get a recommendation from them at this point in their journey with your content is kinda silly, right? They just got here. If they got “here” at all. They aren’t ready to make a big leap and recommend your podcast sight-unseen or sight-barely-seen.
(So yes, you have my permission to uninstall that social share plugin from your website that’s just cluttering things up.)
By focusing on your loyal listeners, you can discount—if not outright discard—any tips and tricks for getting more recommendations and shares that aren’t specifically focused on your loyal listening audience.
The Challenge of Getting Recommendations When Loyal Listeners Are Listening
You could argue that your loyal listeners are getting the most value from your show when they are actively listening to your episodes. I would not be able to argue against that. I agree.
I would, however, argue that asking your loyal listeners to recommend your show when they are actively listening to your show isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the podcast listening apps themselves are not great at sharing content with or recommending content to others. Yes, all podcast listening apps have build-in share functionality. Some even make it super simple for listeners to make a clip of just the most valuable parts of your episode that can then be shared widely.
But none of the shares and recommendations provided by podcast apps are universal. All of them are specific to that app and that app only. Every time someone shares one of your episodes from Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or even new podcast apps like Podverse, they’re sharing a link to and for that specific app. Unless the person receiving the recommendation uses that very same app, it’s a sub-optimal experience. Though it’s a great growth tactic for the apps, I’ll grant you.
The second problem with recommending-while-listening has nothing to do with tech and everything to do with human nature. People listen to podcasts with their phone—the device that has the listening app on it—in their back pocket, in the cup holder, or on the counter while their hands are filled with suds as they do the dishes. Generally speaking, people do not listen to podcasts with their phone in hand. And voice assistants aren’t lightyears from where they need to be. Fingers are still required to make recommendations.
So yes, by all means; ask for recommendations in your episodes’ audio. Repetition matters and some of that may be retained by your loyal listeners when the topic of recommendations comes up with their circle of friends. But don’t rely exclusively on asking for recommendations in your episodes. You need to make it easier for people to recommend your show to others.
Getting Social To Benefit From Social
Social apps, however, are a different beast. They still have the same specific-to-this-app limitations, but at least these apps are designed to share content! Sharing is not an add-on feature. For social apps, sharing and recommending is the feature. And the benefit!
Yet many podcasters struggle with social media. A good part of that is social media sites and apps hate audio-only content. Or at least posting previously recorded audio-only content. As of this writing, no social network will let you upload an .mp3 file to their servers. Boo.
But posting isolated audio files without any other context isn’t all that helpful for anyone. So maybe we need to get over that and embrace social for what it’s good at; fostering and sharing communications with others.
Sharing is key to social media success. Not just posting. People share and reshare content all the time on social media. It’s what social media was meant to do. Social sites reward people who continue to foster that sharing and assign lower priority to accounts that just post and never share or engage.
You need look no further than select podcast brands and how they behave on social for proof. Some brands have really become part of the social fabric by engaging fully with the social aspects of social media platforms. Look at the engagement Podchaser and Buzzsprout get on their Twitter accounts. And while I’ll be the first one to say that engagement does not equal more listeners, I know that high engagement does mean that those brands—and possibly your brand—will stay top of mind for many. That’s what smart podcasters stay deeply engaged on social media: to improve their chances of being in the consideration set the next time one of their loyal listeners replies to a friend of theirs asking for podcast recommendations.
Do you know which social platforms are used by your loyal listeners? A good podcast listener survey will help answer that question. (Shout out to yesterday’s episode.) Find out, and then be there. Follow your most loyal listeners. Engage with the posts your most loyal listeners make on that platform. Share the content they produce. And sure, post your episodes on that platform so they can in turn recommend your episodes to others.
FWD: You Gotta Listen To This Podcast!
Yes, I’m going to talk about the benefits of emails for podcasters. Yes, again. Email remains the killer app, and it’s an often underutilized tool to get your listeners to make recommendations to others.
Thinking about this: How many times this week did you forward an email or copy someone on an email thread? And how many times this week did you receive a forwarded email or found yourself added to an email thread.
It’s a lot, right? That’s because email, unlike snail-mail, makes it dead simple to reply and add people to the conversation. And you can tap that inherent behavior to get your loyal listeners to recommend your podcast to others by using email.
But you have to actually use email. A lot of podcasters—some of which are my customers—are reticent to fully embrace email. I hear them when they say that they want people to listen to their podcast episodes, not read a text-based version. Lots of nuance and richness are stripped out when audio is distilled down to text.
Don’t look at it as “distilling down to text”. That sounds like a transcript. That’s an important feature to add for accessibility, but it makes for a less-than-engaging email.
Speaking of less-than-engaging email, don’t make these common mistakes:
- Sending updates that are nothing more than “new episode is published!” with a link to listen
- Copy/pasting/sending your hastily assembled and short episode notes, teasing a click to listen
- Blending your “new episode!” announcement in with your regularly scheduled newsletter
Instead, make the emails you send related to your podcast highly valuable and worthy of passing along. Things like infographics, key quotes with additional context in ready-to-share form, or making a handy resource guide for the episode in question. Craft those emails to be valuable in and of themselves first, and then include a link to the show/episode.
Taking this approach continues to provide value to your most loyal listeners in a medium that is incredibly easy for them to pass along to others in their contact list. So before you write your next email, ask yourself if the contents are valuable enough as-is that a loyal listener of yours would want to pass it along so someone else could get the value out of that email itself.
And if not; don’t send it until it is.
You Can Never Make It Too Easy To Recommend Your Podcast
There's a lot more to cover on this topic. Custom domains, making sure that your content looks great when it's shared, creating rewards programs for those who do recommend your show… and maybe I’ll cover some of those on future episodes. But for now, take this advice to heart and see how you can improve the recommendability of your podcast by making it easier for people to recommend your podcast. Implement some of these ideas this week if you can.
As mentioned, I managed to get the listener survey in place yesterday. You can find it at PodcastPontifications.com/survey. Eventually, I’ll port it over to a native page on my site, so please forgive the Google Form for now. A few folks from the Advancing Podcasting community have helped me work out the bugs (all of which were my fault), and I think it’s ready for prime-time. I’d appreciate it if you would take five minutes out of your busy schedule and respond to the survey.
If you're a loyal listener of Podcast Pontifications; I appreciate you. You can return some of the value that you get from the show by visiting BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and setting up a recurring monthly virtual coffee for me. I would appreciate that.
On Thursday's episode, I’ll talk about how mastering your craft can ensure your loyal fans keep on recommending your podcast. With that…
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.