How do you grow a podcast and gain an audience? In this guide, Quill breaks down ten different podcast marketing strategies for you to try.
Before we begin, let’s define what podcast marketing is.
Podcast marketing is the act of building a strategy and using tactics that are all geared towards growing your audience and awareness.
We often get asked, how can I grow my podcast? And the first thing that we want to establish is that growth takes time. Podcasting is a long-term play, specifically podcast marketing. Don’t release a series and expect to be on the top charts with thousands of listeners flowing in and sales spiking the first week (unless you’re Oprah… which in that case, thank you for reading this guide).
Too often people expect amazing results right away and when they don’t see it, the motivation to continue their show pours out of them. This is actually so common that the industry has developed a term for it called “podfade” which is when podcasts start strong with releasing episodes and marketing efforts on a regular cadence, then subsequently realize the amount of effort and patience they need to get the results and… fade away.
When it comes to how to grow a podcast, it takes dedication, patience, and strategy. And when it comes to marketing your show it’s really no different. There are so many tactics you can explore to grow your series and below we’ve laid out 10 key areas to get you started.
You do not need to implement all of these tactics at once, but over time start testing them to see what works for your audience. If you find that one isn’t gaining traction after truly giving it the attention and time it needs, let it go and try another.
Let’s get started.
The first tactic we’re going to look at is social media. This one is accessible to all and free to use. Social media can be an extremely powerful tool when it comes to podcast marketing. Certain social media channels might work better than others depending on the content of your show but it doesn’t hurt to start with a few platforms to see which ones stick. You might be surprised to see where your audience lives.
When it comes to social media, engagement and consistency is key. If you don’t think you have the time or capacity to consistently share content with your followers and engage with your audiences then maybe this tactic isn’t for you.
Social media is great for sharing new episodes of your podcast, updates, content that relates to the series, learn more about your audience, etc. The content you share should spark conversations, interests, and be valuable for your followers.
Two types of content that are great to share on social media are:
Audiograms are a way to visually grab audio snippets from your podcast and share it with audiences. Discover the art of the audiogram here and how to make yours. Also check out some examples of audiograms from Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel and Motherhacker.
Quote graphics are static images of captivating quotes from your podcast episode that you design into a creative graphic. For both audiograms and quote graphics, ensure that the design matches the branding of your series. You can find some samples of quote graphics with The Trevor Noah Podcast and Under the Skin.
Community growth is great for podcast growth. Not only is creating a community an awesome podcast marketing tool, but finding other communities that you can join or that you are already involved in to share your series can be incredibly effective.
Spend some time making a list of communities you’re already involved in, this can be Facebook groups, Slack groups, in-person communities, etc. Highlight the ones that would potentially have your podcasts target audience living in it and then post in the communities about your series.
Something to keep in mind is that no community wants to have anything over sales-y posted. To avoid this, when sharing your podcast in a community, ask for their opinion or for some feedback on the series. This gives you the opportunity to grow your audience, get valuable feedback, and also message the community in an authentic way.
Guest networks is one area of podcast marketing that often gets overlooked. Maybe it’s because sometimes you have to encourage guests to share the podcast more than you would like to or it’s just not a tactic on your radar.
When your guest promotes their episode from your series with their network, it’s giving you the opportunity to tap into an entirely new audience (free of charge!). In addition to that value add, their network is more likely to listen to the episode since they follow your guest and clearly like the content that they put out. Maybe they’ll start by listening to the episode that features the guest they follow but from there you can get them hooked and next thing you know, you have a new dedicated listener!
Now, we understand that getting your guest to promote the episode can sometimes be challenging, especially if they’re busy. That’s why we always recommend providing your guests with media kits.
The goal of giving your guest all of this is just to make their lives as easy as possible to share the episode.
If you’re a medium to large size brand, you already have an audience right at your fingertips - your employees! Think about it, if you have 20,000 employees, that’s a huge audience to tap in to.
If you’re a larger brand we’re going to assume that you already have some sort of internal communications system. We’re here to encourage you to use that to spread the podcast and make every single employee aware that this series exists. A good way to go about it is to try to make your employees feel proud of the podcast, excited that they get to work with the brand that’s powering this type of content.
If you want to add more incentive you can always run an internal contest. This would encourage your employees to listen and subscribe to the series in order to win whatever prize you’re offering. We discuss contests more in-depth later on in this guide (section 10)!
Next up we have SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is the practice of using things like keywords, tags, and formatting to boost the visibility of your content and rank higher on search platforms. Why is SEO important for podcast marketing? Well by having awesome SEO around your podcast you increase the chances of people discovering your series or specific episodes when they search for relevant topics.
For example, you released a podcast episode about grooming small dogs. You put in the work to write a description and title that has the desired number of relevant keywords and formatted perfectly. And then someone searches into Google, “grooming for small dogs”, and voila, your series pops up! And in the best case scenario, this would happen: That person clicks on your podcast, becomes obsessed, is hooked for life, etc.
Because podcasts are an audio-first medium, many people forget about SEO. But we’re here to remind you that it’s an incredibly important element. When it comes to podcast SEO you want to focus on keywords, formatting, and meta tags (for web pages).
One quick warning about keywords, do not keyword stuff! This is when you cram as many keywords as humanly possible into a piece of content to the point where it just sounds robotic and unnatural. This does not improve your content's SEO, it does the exact opposite actually because no one wants to read that and Google will penalize you for it.
Where is SEO relevant in podcasts you might ask? There are plenty of ways you can optimize content for podcast SEO:
Cross promotion is a (usually) free way to promote your podcast on another podcast by promoting your partner’s show on yours as well. How it works is you build a relationship or partnership with a podcast that’s open to promoting your series on their show while you promote their series on your show. It’s basically a podcast ad swap.
We recommend using host-read promotions, meaning that as the host, you’d read the ad for the other podcast on your series and the other podcast’s host would read your promotion. The reason for this is that it’s been proven that host-read ads have a 50% increase in purchase intent compared to non-host read ads (Nielson).
If you’re going to use cross promotion as an audience growth tactic and you don’t already have connections to other podcasts, here are two things to consider when looking for potential partners:
Sponsorships are incredibly valuable for podcast marketing. It’s predicted that spend in podcast advertising will cross the $1 billion mark in 2021. It’s been proven to be an effective strategy for growing your podcast, products, or services with 60% of podcast listeners having bought something from a podcast ad.
Sponsored ad slots involve you purchasing an ad slot on another podcast. The host will then read the ad on their series or if you’re using platforms like Megaphone, your ad will be inserted into podcasts. Prices for sponsored ad slots can vary quite drastically, I’ve seen some podcasts charge in the hundreds and others charge in the tens of thousands. It really comes down to audience size and how niche and engaged the audience is.
When searching for a podcast to buy an ad slot on, you want to be focusing on:
Get a deep dive into Podcast Advertising 101.
This strategy is definitely most simple to execute when the podcasts are all under one umbrella. Episode swaps involve one podcast featuring an episode of another podcast on their series. It can be more challenging to find podcasters that are comfortable and open to doing this since it’s almost like your podcast is doing a “takeover” of their RSS feed.
You have to be very cautious to make sure that the content is still relevant for the listeners since you can potentially lose or make audiences angry if they don’t like the podcast episode that’s being played.
Now, if you’re a podcaster or brand with multiple series then it makes it much easier to swap episodes since you control all of the RSS feeds and have a grasp on the listeners. One brand that does this often is Wondery, a podcast creator that has many original series under their belt or Gimlet, another podcast creator that was acquired by Spotify in 2019.
With the rise of audio came the rise of different apps you can advertise your show on. There are two platforms that we’re going to cover:
Podcast Addict is Android’s podcasting app. We started using Podcast Addict for our clients in 2021 and have seen incredibly successful results. With Podcast Addict you purchase an ad within a category or genre or an ad on the main screen which covers the homepage of the app where users can search for a new podcast.
The ads are most similar to banner ads and the platform pulls your ad directly from your RSS feed so you don’t need to create any additional creative for promotion. Once you’ve purchased the ad it will run for the entire month that you purchased it, giving you a tracking link upon purchase.
While your ad is running you will receive information around the ads impressions, clicks, reach, and app subscriptions. You also get predicted results for the ad categories before you purchase so you have an idea around the success rate.
We definitely recommend giving Podcast Addict a try if you’re willing to spend a few hundred on podcast ads.
Spotify Advertising is another ad platform that we use for our podcasts. For this tactic, you need to create a Spotify Advertising account to get started. From here you can create your podcast graphic and 30-second ad (your ad can’t be longer than 30 seconds). You also have the option to let Spotify create the ad for you through their studio.
Unlike Podcast Addict, Spotify lets you set some targeting parameters around your ads.
Targeting Parameters Include:
You can also select the amount of time you’d like the ad to run and the budget that you put in (a minimum of $250 per campaign).
You can read more about launching your Spotify Ad.
The last podcast marketing tactic that we’re going to discuss is contests. Contests can be an effective way to boost your listeners quickly. We recommend running a contest close to launching your podcast but overall, you can run a contest at any point in your journey.
Some things that you might want to consider asking your participants to do are:
And some prizes can include:
If you want to verify any of the above you can always ask participants to take a screenshot once they’ve completed the task to prove that they actually did this. This sort of contest can be done either internally or externally, it all depends on your audience size and where you get the most engagement!
Throughout this guide we gave you 10 different podcast marketing tactics to consider. Some might work better than others but podcast marketing is all about testing. Each month or two, you can test out a different tactic to see how it performs and decide whether it’s working for your podcast marketing funnels or not
Podcast marketing is meant to be fun and experimental, so get creative with growing your audience and don’t be afraid to test new ideas.
Quill Inc. is your branded podcast marketing and production agency. From working with brands such as RBC, CIBC, TD, Axway, The Globe and Mail, and many more, Quill’s goal is to facilitate connections between brands and trusted resources to better inspire, educate, engage, and of course, entertain audiences everywhere.
If you’re looking for expert help for producing and growing your podcast, get in touch with our team!
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