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How to Grow Your Podcast Audience

Posted on 7.31.2008

By Marcelo Lewin

In the May issue of Website Magazine, we took a detailed approach to creating podcasts. Now we examine how to get your audience to listen in.

You took the very first step and created your podcast. It sounds professional, you have an RSS feed for it and posted it to your website.

But there’s a problem. You don’t have many (or any) subscribers. So how do you change that? You must start marketing to your intended audience.

It means little how great your podcast sounds (or looks) or the depth of your coverage – if you don’t market it, they will not come. So let’s look at some ways you can market your podcast to help grow your audience.


iTunes - The King of Podcast Directories

If your podcast is not listed in iTunes, you are missing a great opportunity to get hundreds (if not thousands) of new listeners or viewers.

To get started, you need to have an iTunes-friendly RSS feed. To do this, I highly recommend you “burn” your feed using FeedBurner.com. You also need to make sure your podcast has the appropriate keywords so that it can be found in the iTunes directory. Try searching for a similar podcasts to see what keywords people are using.

Submitting your podcast to iTunes is very simple. Start by logging in (or creating a new iTunes account), then navigate to the Podcast directory inside the iTunes Store (iTunes Store-->Podcasts).

In the center of the podcast store, you will see a big “Submit a Podcast” icon. Click on that icon, enter your podcast feed URL and then click continue. After a few seconds (and if the feed is valid) you will get a screen that lets you verify the information about your podcast. After verification, just click on Finish and you are set.

It usually takes around 24 to 48 hours to get approved, although sometimes it’s longer and sometimes it only takes a few minutes. Once approved, you will get an iTunes URL that you can post on your site so that people can subscribe. The big question that everyone wants to know is, “How do I get my podcast on the main page of the iTunes podcast store?” There is nothing you can do except create a really great podcast, make sure you have a strong podcast cover image (the icon that represents
your podcast), a great name and targeted keywords. The iTunes staff decides the podcasts to feature on the front page. And it’s not easy. I’ve tried everything – even sending them cookies, but that didn’t work. However, if you are lucky enough to get highlighted you will gain some serious traffic. Therefore, it’s essential to make your podcast near perfect before submitting to iTunes.


Other Podcast Directories

Many people submit their podcast to the iTunes store and think their marketing job is complete. But that’s just the beginning. There are many listeners and viewers that don’t go to iTunes for podcasts, so you need to submit yours to as many directories as possible. Below is a short list of some other major directories you may want to consider.

Podcast.com: http://www.podcast.com
Digg: http://www.digg.com/podcasts
Podcast Alley: http://podcastalley.com/add_a_podcast.php
Podcast Pickle: http://www.podcastpickle.com/cast/add/
Zen Cast: http://www.ZenCast.com/
Yahoo Audio: http://search.yahoo.com/mrss/submit?

There are hundreds of other directories you might consider, depending on the topic of your podcast and the demographic you are trying to target. To get a list of many more, just drop me an email and I will send you a document with many more directories.


Social Networks

Social networks are not just for teeny boppers. They are serious business development and marketing tools that you, as a podcaster and “media mogul” should immediately learn how to use. If you don’t already have accounts or profiles on any of the following social networks, you need to get started.

Facebook: http://www.FaceBook.com
My Space: http://www.MySpace.com
Bebo: http://www.Bebo.com
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com
Linked In: http://www.LinkedIn.com
Friend Feed: http://www.FriendFeed.com

The key to each of these social networks is to build up your list of friends or contacts. However, don’t just add any friends – the key is to become friends with your target audience. For example, the podcast shows of my website PixelHeadsNetwork.com are geared towards digital media creators, so I seek out and ask to be friends with people interested in Web design and development, eMarketing, video editing, motion graphics, flash development and digital photography, among others. You can
easily search by keywords that will return both matching content and people.

Like any social networking marketing, the key is to offer real value. Don’t just sell. Make sure you offer useful information so that people have a reason to accept your friendship.

Once you’ve built up your friends, in the case of Facebook, make sure you update your status with valuable information. While no one cares that you’re “drinking coffee now,” they may be interested when your next podcast is going to be available, or to read a quick industry tip.


Email Lists

Email remains a powerful marketing too. Try to grow a list, and whenever you have a new episode out, send an email to alert your audience. Will you have an important special guest in two weeks? Send out an email to your list to create the sense of anticipation. While it’s important to you keep your audience well informed, don’t overdo it or they will want to opt out of your list.

But before sending any emails, add your podcast name, a short description and a link to your podcast as your email signature. You probably send out hundreds (if not thousands) of emails per month – your signature acts as free advertising, not only with your contacts but to any recipients of forwarded emails.


Press Releases

Every time you release a new episode, make a story out of it and create a press release. Will you have an important guest on next week? Create a press release about it today and then next week when the episode is ready to go live. Press releases are read by not only the media, but also by thousands of people worldwide, so create them as often as possible.

Along with your own media contacts, there are several online press release outlets – some free, some pay per release and some subscription services. Take advantage of as many as you can.


Blogs

Hopefully you have a blog to promote your podcast. If not, create one immediately. Blogs are a perfect way to communicate information you are passionate about and love; therefore, it’s the perfect vehicle to promote your shows. Every time you release a new episode, post a blog entry with show notes – an important part of podcast marketing. This allows people to see what’s in the show without needing to play the entire episode and it works wonders with your SEO.

There are several free blog services out there, from the ultrasimplicity of Blogger, to more sophisticated (albeit slightly more labor-intensive) WordPress, TypePad and others.


Your Audience and Guests

Your audience can help spread the word about your podcast. Ask them to invite their friends. Throw a quick contest and give something away that’s valuable to the person who gets the most friends to sign up. It worked for AT&T with their friends and family campaign, why not for you?

Similarly, if you have guests on your shows, ask them to send out a press release or an email newsletter when they appeared in your show and to invite their friends to tune in. You might be surprised how many guests I’ve interviewed on Meet The Experts (http://www.MeetTheExpertsShow.com) who have emailed their list and posted it on their blog. This not only helps from as marketing perspective, but also with SEO efforts.


Start the Conversation!

Of course, this article briefly touched on a few ways to market your podcast. With a little imagination and lots of time in front of your computer, you will be able to come up with other great ways to market your podcast. If you do, please drop me a line at Marcelo@PixelHeadsNetwork.com. I’d love to hear what you are doing and share your ideas with everyone in a future article. ■

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