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Setting up a podcast has never been easier. With professional broadcasting equipment available at a fraction of the price it once used to cost, anyone who wants to can host their own show.
But what is a show without listeners? Sure, your Mum, your girlfriend and your pet goldfish might tune in. But how do you grow from there?
In this post, we’ll show you what it takes to go from zero to hero as a podcaster. Follow our tips to the letter, and you’ll find an audience just springs up around you. Admittedly, growing a fan base takes time and effort, and at first it can seem daunting. But once you’ve reached the dizzy heights of podcasting fame, you’ll look back and wonder what you were worried about.
One thing before we begin. Your podcast is good enough to attract an audience, right? We’re assuming the reason you don’t have listeners is because your raving fans are out there waiting to discover you. Not because it’s more enjoyable listening to fingernails scrape a blackboard than the drone of your voice.
So you’ve got professional production values, decent equipment, and an engaging show.
Now that’s sorted, you’re ready for showtime. Let’s pull in a crowd, partner.
1. Get Listed on iTunes
iTunes is the home sweet home of podcasts. Only when iTunes launched its support for podcasts in 2005 did podcasting enter the mainstream. Within days of the launch, podcasters reported their downloads tripling.
iTunes provides its own step-by-step guide to submitting a podcast. It can take up to two weeks for iTunes to approve a podcast after it is submitted.
2. Create Arresting Cover Art
In our age of information overload, people make snap decisions. Attractive and engaging cover art can make the difference between a person ignoring you or becoming a subscriber. Getting professional cover art doesn’t have to be expensive. You can pick up a custom design for as little as five bucks.
Your cover art should grab attention even when it’s scaled down to 50×50 pixels.
3. Remember: Metadata Matters
To upload your podcast to iTunes you must create an XML feed using software such as podcast generator. When you create an XML feed, you’ll add information about the podcast’s author and title. You’ll also be asked for description tags. All this is metadata.
As iTunes says, “This metadata, along with your cover art, is your product packaging.” Your metadata influences how iTunes indexes your podcast. As such, it affects whether your podcast will show up in searches.
4. Describe Your Podcast in Dazzling Detail
When you’re creating your XML feed, you’ll also be asked for a description of your podcast. After you’ve attracted attention with your cover art, this is your key opportunity to convince potential listeners to hit the subscribe button.
In your description, include:
- What your podcast is about;
- How you help your listeners;
- How often you broadcast a new episode;
- What media format you use.
Essential to writing an eyeball grabbing description is to write like you speak. Show off your personality. Even more than blogs, podcasts are about your listeners connecting with you personally, and your description has the potential to kickstart this relationship.
5. Make Your Description Search Friendly
Your description has a big influence on whether people discover your podcast. Use words in your description that people search for when they’re looking for the information in your podcast. That improves your chances of people who are desperate to connect with you stumbling across your podcast through search.
Ask yourself: What might people search for when they need the information I’m sharing? Make a list of words and phrases, then run them through Google’s keyword tool to refine them to perfection.
6. Take Time Over Your Title
Choosing a good title takes time, but don’t get yourself in a tizzy making it overly complicated. The simpler the better.
Potential listeners should know exactly what they’ll get from your podcast just from the few words in your title. That means making your title no-nonsense and to the point. There’s no beating around the bush here.
Think along the lines of:
- The Self Publishing Podcast
- The Property Podcast
- Baseball America
- Irish History Podcast
All of these titles give you an immediate grasp of what the podcast will be about.
What about successful podcasts with obscure titles, such as the Motley Fool? Typically, these are well known names with an established following, and are often connected to national or international radio shows or other media. When you’re starting from scratch, keep it simple.
7. Submit to Other Podcast Directories
With over a billion podcast subscribers, iTunes is the major player when it comes to podcasts. Even so, to reach as many people as possible, you should list your podcast with other podcast directories. These include:
Additionally, if you use your podcast for teaching your listeners new things, you can add it to the Learn Out Loud directory.
8. App Yourself Up
Smartphone apps for podcasts are on the rise, and adding your podcast to an app’s directory helps you get discovered. For some apps, you must submit your XML feed by email.
Podcast apps include:
- Pocket Cast (submit by email to Hello@shiftjelly.com)
- Tunein Radio (submit by email to email@example.com)
- DoubleTwist (submit by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
9. Go Audio
Swithering between whether to create a video or audio podcast? Go audio. Overwhelming, popular podcasts are audio.
That flies in the face of the current trend towards video, but when it comes to podcasting, it’s the way to go.
As the Podcast Answer Man himself, Cliff Ravenscraft, points out, nearly 100 million Americans commute to work alone in their cars every day. The average commute to and from work is around 25 minutes.
That’s the time people listen to podcasts. They want to be entertained, and they can’t be watching a video while they’re driving. Podcasts are like radio, where you choose the show.
Audio podcasts are also ideal for people:
- Working out at the gym;
- Jogging in the park;
- Walking the dog;
- Working at repetitive or manual tasks;
- Commuting on public transportation.
10. Ask for Reviews
Unless you’ve been encamped on Mars for the past decade, you’ve probably read hundreds of online reviews. Everything from movies to books to hotels are reviewed online. We all love reviews because we trust the opinions of others. To put it in marketing speak, reviews are a form of social proof. When we see that other people enjoy something, we believe we’re more likely to enjoy it too.
Podcasts are no exception when it comes to reviews. The more reviews you get on iTunes, the more your listener count will skyrocket.
There’s no shame in asking your listeners to leave a review on iTunes if they enjoy your show.
11. Turn Listeners into Readers and Readers into Listeners
Do you have a blog or email list? Let your readers know about your podcast!
Conversely, let your podcasts listeners know about your email list. Podcasting is an intimate medium, and your listeners will feel as though they know you like a personal friend. That means they’ll want to hear from you as much as possible, including through email.
An email subscription option also broadens your audience beyond those who use iTunes or who subscribe to your RSS feed. This is particularly important if your listeners are more mature, as they’re more likely to be savvy with email than other technologies.
12. Set up a Website for Your Podcast
For just a few dollars you can set up a WordPress site for your podcast. This provides a place for you to interact with readers. More importantly, it gives more people the opportunity to discover your podcast. People who never use iTunes can find your website in a Google search.
The Self Publishing Podcast’s website is a perfect example of how a simple website creates a podcasting community. While you’re visiting the site, notice the option to sign up for email updates, and also look at how the hosts subtly promote their products (i.e. books).
13. Use a Dedicated Podcast Host
There are places online where you can upload your podcast for free. However, if you’re serious about making it big, you need to think like a pro. That means having sufficient bandwidth in case one of your episodes go viral. Otherwise, downloads will grind to a halt, you’ll lose listeners, and you’ll miss out on your plunge into the big time.
Going with a dedicated podcast host is the best way to keep the bandwidth flowing. We recommend libsyn, with prices starting at just $5 per month.
14. Interview Thought Leaders
Want an easy way to create awesome content and shine a light on your podcast? Then interview thought leaders in your niche. Strategically target those who have a big online following.
When they share with their tribe that they’ve been featured on your podcast, you’ll gain exposure and new subscribers.
15. Encourage Listener Interaction
Because podcasting is such a personal medium, your regular listeners will feel like they know you as a friend. That makes podcasts ideal for fostering engagement with your fans.
Set up an answering machine to take listener questions by telephone. Let your listeners ask questions on Twitter and Facebook.
Not only does this interaction strengthen the bond between you and your listeners. It also gives you a better understanding of what your audience wants, needs and expects from your podcast. Your listeners will give you the inside view on how to make your podcast awesome.
16. Be the Cool Kid – Hang Out
Podcasting is more than recording and mixing your broadcast. To grow your audience, you must engage as widely as possible.
Set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for your podcast. Spend time on social media every day simply hanging out with your fans.
Reach out to new fans too by spending time in online forums related to your niche. Be polite and helpful. When it comes to online marketing, blatant self promotion is a big no-no.
17. Enlist the Press
Believe it or not, old media is still alive and kicking, and they’re always on the look out for stories. With a bit of skill, any episode you create can be crafted into a press release. However, particular episodes are particularly newsworthy, such as:
- Interviewing a famous guest;
- Your first episode;
- Milestone episodes and anniversaries;
- Contests and promotions;
- Disagreements between you and your listeners;
- Episodes relevant to a local area.
Sites such as i-Newswire will distribute your press release for free. If your press release has any local relevancy, you should also email it in to the editor of your local newspaper.
Infographic courtesy of Learning in Hand with Tony Vincent.
Bonus Tip: Be Real
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Podcast listeners feel like the host is speaking to them personally. Audio is an intimate medium. The more real you allow yourself to be with your listeners, the more they’ll respect and love what you do. That doesn’t mean you have to pull open the curtains on every aspect of your private life. It is, after all, private.
But it does mean letting loose your natural charm and humor. Learn to relax when you’re talking into the microphone. Speak with a smile on your face, in a welcoming voice, as you would to a close friend.
Also, when it comes to being real, remember there’s a world out there! When you’ve grown your audience, you’ll be a celebrity in their minds. Why not give your listeners a chance to meet up, face to face?
Have you considered podcasting as a way of boosting engagement with your audience? If you’re already a podcaster, what’s your most successful marketing strategy?
[Tweet “"Content is fire. Social media is gasoline." – Jay Baer”]
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