Let’s get straight to the point: nobody truly becomes successful on their own. Behind every person who has achieved their goals is a supportive community that followed them along the way, cheering on their ups and comforting them on their lows.
The world of podcasting is no different. A good podcast isn’t determined by how charming its hosts are, but rather how they connect with their listeners. If you want to grow your podcast audience with content that stands out, knowing how to build a community around your podcast is essential.
Why Do You Need a Community?
Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth as a tool to drive traffic to your podcast. You can pay for as many social media ads as you want. But having a real person recommend your podcast to a friend is a more reliable way to bring in new subscribers. In fact, it’s much easier than attempting to reach them yourself. Your content could be great on its own.
But, creating a space for your audience to interact with you and each other will allow them to feel more valued. This will increase the overall value of your show and consequently your chances of being referred to their friends.
If you want to grow a podcast audience, you need positive engagement from your listeners. It’s one thing to have x amount of downloads on your episodes, and it’s another to generate buzz around the content you are working on.
By offering a community for your podcast audience, you are transforming the passive experience of listening into an active one. Your podcast brand becomes a hub for activity, rather than just something to be streamed or downloaded one time. And that is how you grow your podcast audience.
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Before Building Your Podcast Audience & CommunityThe secret behind how to grow a podcast audience starts with putting your listeners first Click To Tweet
While you might want to begin your episodes by saying hey everyone! and really mean it, throwing the net wide is not a sustainable way to build your podcast following. Defining your target listener, otherwise known as your podcast avatar, will allow you to increase your podcast listeners exponentially based on what appeals to them.
Rather than a cute photo for your social media profile, a podcast avatar is an ideal listener that represents your entire audience. Think of your avatar as a real person with a personality and background story. Approach your podcast as if you are speaking directly to them. Ask yourself what your avatar’s hopes and dreams are, and how your podcast can fulfill them. Do they listen to your podcast to be entertained during a mundane job that they hate? Are they setting aside half-hour every morning to learn from you?
For example, if you are a travel podcast, it is crucial to know if your audience is composed of wealthy British retirees looking to settle down in the Algarve, or careless and broke American college students looking to backpack across Europe.
Defining these personality quirks will allow you to understand in what ways they would help build a community around your podcast and grow your podcast audience. Adventurous travelers might spring for in-person meetups or Google Hangouts. But if your avatar is an introverted bookworm, an anonymous online platform like Tumblr might be easier to use to connect with them.
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How to Choose a Platform
A successful community allows your audience to connect not only with you but with each other. In order to foster this space, think about where your podcast avatar likes to spend their time. If your avatar is an avid travel photographer, then Instagram might be a good start. If your avatar wants to engage in intelligent discussion, a platform like Slack might be better suited for you.
Choose a platform that your subscribers feel comfortable interacting on. This will allow you to grow your podcast audience and maximize its engagement.
Option 1: Facebook Groups
The ease of a Facebook group is that your listeners likely already have an account that they check somewhat regularly. This is an advantage over building your group on a less-popular platform. However, Facebook algorithms can change unexpectedly at any time, meaning your post reach is not guaranteed.
If you decide to build your podcast community on Facebook, consider making the group private to prevent spammers from entering and dress it up with membership questions to sound more “exclusive.”
Consider the direction that you want the group to go in. Is it an informal hangout space, where listeners can hang out and share memes? Is it to debate ideas brought up on weekly episodes or a practical place to share documents using the Files option? Growing your podcast audience will come from strong connections between listeners, not just yourself.
Option 2: Discord or Slack
Platforms like Discord or Slack are great places to start a variety of conversations, giving you the option to categorize topics into different channels. Users also have the ability to engage in private chats with other users, allowing personal connections to thrive. Not everyone might have the same reflex to check Discord or Slack daily as they might for a social media giant, so you must be able to entice your audience to stay active.
For example, if you are a Spanish language learning podcast, creating breakout study groups for your listeners to get actual Spanish practice would be a big draw to build a community around your podcast. Your audience can practice listening skills with your audio, but also start a book club or share recommendations for movies.
If your listeners are particularly motivated learners, Discord has a video chat feature that could be used to organize language exchanges or record a podcast. With screen-sharing tools, you could also host film screenings for your entire community. Having these connections both on and off-line strengthens the sense of community your listeners will feel, thus allowing you to steadily build value in what you are offering.
Option 3: Twitter
Using Twitter to build a community around your podcast is a great way to have one-on-one interactions with your audience. You can answer questions, follow other podcasters, and talk about trending industry topics. Seek out hashtags for community discussions that are relevant to your niche, and participate in them every week.
You don’t want to overdo the self-promotion here and come off as spammy, as Twitter is a lighter platform. Visual content works wonders, including memes, gifs, and infographics. This platform allows you to have a bit more fun, so don’t be afraid to get creative with it. Not only are you creating shareable content, but your personality will shine through, bringing the potential of snagging new subscribers.
Twitter is also a great place to connect with other podcasters who might be in a similar niche as yourself. You can have chats on community topics or even work on a collaboration together. Twitter Live has the option for live video or live audio, the latter being of particular interest to you. Create an easy-to-remember hashtag for your podcast that will allow listeners to join in on the conversation, and have fun!
Option 4: Blog
If we offered you the choice of listening to a 60-minute podcast you had never heard of before or reading a three-minute blog based around similar topics, which would you choose? It’s easier to share a blog post than it is a full audio clip, but the two can also be combined. Start off a post with a strong hook and teasers of a topic to capture reader interest. Then link the full podcast episode or little snippets if readers want more in-depth discussion.
Having written content as an accompaniment to your audio is a great way to use SEO to widen a podcast’s audience reach. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a digital marketing tool used to increase your website’s visibility in search engine results. Including specific keywords related to your podcast topic on your website will increase the likelihood of new people stumbling across your page when they are searching for something. Having a website for your podcast will boost listenership and visibility, which we go into more detail about here.
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Podcast websites and blogs can support community discussion in the comments, so long as you take the time to respond to your audience. You can also feature weekly guest writers on the blog. Or allow people to submit work to be published alongside your own, amplifying their voices in the community as well.
Option 5: In-Person Events
Nothing makes a lasting impression like meeting people at a live event. You can organize this on social media or using a website like Meetup, but don’t worry about making anything complicated. Starting small with a coffee or picnic can set the foundations for bigger events in the future, like live speaking or recording events. Besides, the point is for your audience to form connections with you and each other. As your community grows, so will the event turn out. Many people are reluctant to attend in-person events from the internet alone. As a result, chances are they might grow your podcast audience by bringing a friend.
Option 6: Email Marketing
If you want to build a community around your podcast, email marketing is a great cost-effective option. Practically everyone using the internet has an email. This gives you easy access to grow your podcast audience. You can also create a funnel to all the different platforms your content is available on. Sending out a regular newsletter to your listeners will allow them to stay up to date with community topics, check out new content, and see teasers for upcoming episodes. You could include links to related articles or videos that you think your audience might enjoy. This can inspire conversation on your Facebook group or Twitter.
Building your email list might take time. But you can speed up the process by handing out freebies on your blog. For example, if you are an investing podcast, offer your audience a free budgeting workbook that will be emailed to them. Different email marketing software like Mailchimp, Sendinblue, and Constant Contact are available to help you organize and beautify your efforts. Otherwise, your audience can always opt-in to receive emails via your website.
Free VS Paid Communities
Something you might want to consider down the road is whether or not you want to privatize your community. Adding a paywall can ensure that you attract people who really want to engage and learn, preventing spammers from ruining your groups. Not to mention, it’s a great way to monetize your podcast.
Whether or not you charge for access to your community depends on who your audience is and what they want from the experience. Someone like a 40-something aspiring screenwriter is more likely to pay for access to a community that can increase chances of networking in the industry versus a college student who watches Netflix to relax.
Given the level of accessibility, a fully paid community may not drive the same traffic to your podcast that a free one will. Ultimately, it depends on how well you know your audience, and how much effort you want to put into community management. If someone is paying to be part of your community, you may feel pressured to create better content on a more frequent basis. If you don’t have the bandwidth for this kind of consistency, a free community might be a better option.
However, you could go with a mix of both: provide some premium content behind a paywall to reward your most die-hard fans and earn income through your podcast. Subscription-based tools such as Patreon allow podcasters to build community among their audience and connect with their most loyal listeners. Listeners can unlock exclusive content with paid membership tiers, which could include bonus episodes, behind-the-scenes info, live chats, merchandise, community hangouts, and more. Patreon charges subscribers on a monthly basis, allowing your podcast to make a set income per month.
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Increasing Community Engagement
Even with a solid platform, growing a podcast audience and community won’t happen overnight. Your subscribers might join your platform, but it’s up to you to ensure that they begin engaging in meaningful ways with each other and with the content you put out there. It might seem discouraging at first to put in so much work to build a community around your podcast when you don’t have a substantial following. But it will pay off in the long run if you are consistent about generating quality interactions.
No matter your follower count, you need to show your listeners that you care about them.
This can be as simple as shouting out a follower who left you a great review or sent you a kind message, which can show appreciation for your audience. Giving your listeners the opportunity to take part in the show will allow them to be more engaged, in turn increasing their loyalty to you.
Having listeners send in submissions to your social media accounts is another way to build a podcast following. Retweeting, reblogging, and reposting requires little effort on your end. But can be an exciting way for your followers to feel noticed and appreciated. Consider hosting an Instagram Q&A for your audience to get to know you better, or go Live for a behind-the-scenes experience. Don’t forget to connect with other podcaster communities to see what others are up to.
Grow Your Podcast Audience & Community
You want to post and generate discussion often, but not so much that your community feels overwhelmed. Varying your content is a good way to avoid community fatigue. Try alternating conversation-starting questions with infographics, quizzes, polls, fun facts, or photos, even if they’re not about you. You’re in this for the long haul, so space out your content in a way that is sustainable.
Online communities typically consist of a smaller core of active members and others who like to sit back and read. Draw out these lurkers in your groups by occasionally posting fun low-stakes questions that anyone can participate in. Asking about your audience’s favorite childhood TV shows or Friday night comfort meals can get even the quietest members chatting. You could also consider a contest or giveaway, keeping in mind the cost and logistics on your end.
Managing Community Spam
Spam in your community can become a problem, particularly for people looking to self-promote. Having a list of group rules when members join will help discourage any unwanted behavior. Also, don’t hesitate to keep them visible in a pinned post. If members are eager to share their own projects, create a weekly self-promo thread. This keeps everything all in one place.
There is no single best practice to know how to build a community around your podcast. It will take time and effort. Your audience is unique, and only you know what they will enjoy the most. Engage with care and consistency, and you will see growth in the hopefully not-so-distant future.
And that’s all our tips on how to grow your podcast audience. Do you have any other ideas or thoughts to share? Tell us in the comments.