So, you’re ready to launch your podcast. Congratulations! Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned professional, it takes guts to put yourself out there. In fact, “putting yourself out there,” is often the greatest challenge. But you’re about to realize there’s an even larger challenge in front of you.
There are over 2 million podcasts, with a whopping 48 million episodes. Yes, many are shows that are dormant shows and episodes, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands of active podcasts. Earning a listener, let alone a repeat listener is an uphill battle and you’re going to need a plan of attack to ensure your podcast gains the audience you believe it should.
The good news is you don’t have to spend a small fortune on social media advertising or other paid promotions. In fact, unless you’re already famous, paid promotions can be a waste of money.
We’re here to help though. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of ways to promote your podcast more effectively, without spending a dime. That’s right…promote your podcast for free with these strategies.
Email Your Rolodex
It’s simple, but if your closest friends and family don’t know your podcst even exists, can you really expect others to listen? Start by telling everyone you know about your show.
But don’t overthink this. Start with a simple email explanation, some links, and a brief ask to listen, share, leave a Apple Podcast review or, just ignore the email and go along with their day. No need to be pushy. No need to follow up. Just give people a heads up and they’re likely to surprise you with their willingness to support.
But don’t stop with email!
Some contacts might just be Facebook friends. Some might be LinkedIn connections. The point is, before you start attracting strangers, exhaust all of your own personal resources. The average person has 150 family members, friends, and acquaintances. This might not seem like much, but if you’re getting 150 downloads per episode, you’re already in the top 50 percent of podcasts. Leverage your personal relationships!
Create Sharable Clips
The vast majority of podcasts are structured with an interview format. You, the host, has a chat with a friend, industry expert, celebrity, comedian, etc… or you simply rant with a co-host or two. An intro and outro is added to the ends of the conversation and viola, you’ve published a new episode.
But there are a few problems with this podcast format.
- A common trait of an interview is banter, unintelligible chatter, fluff and rapport building conversation that a listener may not be interested in hearing.
- Long-form interviews don’t lend themselves to the sharable virality that short-form video and audio tends to attract.
Put short, long audio interviews rarely attract new audiences.
The good news is that snack sized audio segments can help grow your audience on multiple platforms, giving your podcast a fighting chance in attracting more listeners.
Take the time to cut out short segments of your podcast to share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc…. Showcase the best bits of your episodes and show what listeners are missing and can expect from your podcast episodes.
This is a huge opportunity to both engage existing listeners and attract additional ones.
By giving new listeners the ability to discover other episodes they may like, you can earn multiple downloads or listens from the same person.
By creating playlists that can attract new listeners based on their affinity for a specific topic or recurring guest, you give them reason to stick around for your future episodes.
Here are a few playlists ideas to get you started;
- Top 10 Episodes
- Top 10 Guests
- Recurring Guests
- Recurring Topics
- Craziest Episodes
- 10 Episodes For New Listeners
Activate Your Listeners
So, now you have listeners. But family, friends, and hardcore podcast junkies will only get you so far. It’s time to activate the listeners you’ve worked hard to earn and those that have turned into true fans.
But don’t just go in for the “share this episode” ask, right away. You have to give listeners a reason to help you out and you have to make it incredibly easy.
Start by identifying the one action that will legitimately move the needle for your podcast. More often than not it’s going to be Apple Podcast reviews or social shares, but you need to take the time to identify your real goals first.
When you’re ready, seed your episodes, social posts and promotional efforts with a very specific call to action, i.e. “Go here and leave a review.”
And if you want to really increase the success rate of your call to action, give people an incentive like a shout out on the next episode, 1 on 1 phone call, a beer on you the next time you’re in town…it could be anything.
Test this a few times, iterate on the call-to-action and incentive and you’ll likely see some solid audience growth progress.
Pro Tip: Use your listeners as a way to attract targeted guests to your show. Ask them to @mention a specific individual on Twitter or comment on that individual’s LinkedIn posts, saying they should take a listen to, or be a guest on your show. When this is done right, It should only take a handful of listeners to get the attention of your target guest.
Transcribe Your Episodes
Okay, this one may not be entirely free because you need a website to put the audio transcription on, but it’s worth the mention here for one specific reason;
Episode transcripts make it easier for search engines to index your show.
Suppose you have an episode on a specific topic, wouldn’t you want search engines to rank your episode for the topical keywords you talked about within that episode? It could contribute to ongoing traffic and listener growth that’s relatively passive, i.e. you don’t have to do anything to keep that traffic coming in.
The caveat here is that although Google’s search engine technology is powerful, they still have yet to utilize technology that understands audio conversations, let alone rank that audio in search results. So this is where transcriptions come into play.
A written transcript of your episode will provide Google with text that their search algorithm’s are, in fact, very good at ranking.
Pro Tip: Skip Transcription Altogether & Turn Each Episode Into A Blog Post
This may not work for all podcasts but if your podcast provides deep insight or education on specific topics, try converting this audio content into robust blog posts that dive deep into those topics.
With a well written blog post or industry article that includes a few short audio embeds of your episodes discussion, you’ll have no trouble ranking on Google search results for targeted keywords.
Activate Your Guests
The best audience for your podcast is going to be people who listen to other, similar podcasts. You already know they’re comfortable with podcasting as a format, and they’re interested in your subject matter. So why not partner with a guest to grow your audience?
When someone appears on your show, both of you can benefit. Your guest benefits, because they’re getting their name in front of your audience. But you can also benefit, by asking your guest to share a link to your show and shout out the interview to their social, website or personal podcast audience. Most guests are happy to do this. After all, they want people to hear their interview!
By “riding the coattails” of your guest’s personal audiences, you can insert yourself into their tribe and become recognized for your interview with said guest.
Make Sure You Can Be Heard Everywhere
When Joe Rogan signed an exclusive deal with Spotify for over $100 million, millions of people signed up for Spotify. Clearly, this demonstrates that people will go wherever your content is!
But you’re not Joe Rogan, or Barack Obama, or Bruce Springsteen. For us normies, the only way to reach an audience is to go where the people are. At a bare minimum, this means listing your show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
But there’s no reason to stop there. Vurbl, Player FM, iHeart Radio, Pocket Casts, and other services also draw their own audiences. These smaller directories won’t have the same massive pull as the big players but most of their users are podcast lovers all-the-same.
Be everywhere, so you can be found anywhere.
Hunt For Distribution Opportunities
A great podcast is fantastic but if no one is around to hear it, is it really a great podcast?
Distribution is the name of the game and sometimes you just have to hunt for new opportunities wherever you can find them. But where exactly do these opportunities exist?
Here are a few ideas to consider;
- Niche / Industry Newsletters
Reach out to small to medium-sized newsletter publishers to discuss a partnership. Offer the newsletter free ad reads on your episodes to subscribe in return for episode placement in their newsletter.
- Niche / Industry Websites and Blogs
Same concept here. Offer the website publisher free ad reads on your episodes in return for placement on their site. Audio can help engage, retain and drive new traffic to websites so make it appealing for the publisher and you’ll both find success
- Ad Read Trades With Similar Podcasts
There’s no reason why you can’t partner with likeminded podcasters. Connect with them, trade advice, offer help, even give them a free ad read in your next episode to get their attention and earn their good will. When you’re both ready, exchange ad reads in corresponding episodes or offer to guest host each others podcasts.
A Word of Advice
If you take anything away from this article, it should be that the work doesn’t stop when you press publish on your next podcast episode. It’s only just begun.
There are countless ways to grow an audience, it’s up to you to put in the work to make your podcasting dreams come true.