Some say we have entered a second golden age of radio: the age of the podcast. Even without the benefit of a live radio audience, podcasts have the potential to drive serious listener engagement. How does a lone podcaster inspire that kind of devotion? Although the creation of a podcast recording can seem like a solitary undertaking (you’ve got your script – now what?), there are a growing number of ways podcast creators can find and communicate with their audience members directly, helping to grow and expand their listenership exponentially. Here are a few of the very best ways to open up the lines of communication and fully engage with consumers during a podcast.
People love to get a shout out. Thank listeners for their comments by name during shows, or quote them directly. Invite listeners to call in while you’re recording. Ask them to contribute to a message board or to ask questions and give comments on social platforms. Popular podcast, Nerdist, reads messages from its community board during its intro segment. Other podcasts are built entirely around listener questions. In whatever way makes the most sense for you and your podcast, incorporate listener voices into your show to build trust, breed loyalty, and show you care about more than just hearing the sound of your own voice.
Social platforms can serve as a natural extension of your podcast. Dialogue with your community and start conversations—asking and answering questions directly. Once you’ve established a listenership, creating a space to engage on social will enable you to find out what’s landing and what’s not. It’s also a terrific way to source or mine topics for future shows. Share news frequently, keeping the community apprised of anything that’s relevant to your podcast, business or brand. Think about content that might supplement or support your podcast topic and then make it available on the social platforms that are the best vehicle for the message.
Your podcast download needn’t be the only shareable content you produce for your listeners. From sound bites to designed quotes, content that’s relevant, relatable, and easily consumed has the power to engage an audience and get passed along. Visual content, like video clips and infographics, can be especially powerful and are tailor-made for sharing across social channels. Think about ways you can support your podcast with supplemental content that feels relevant to your listeners.
Consider joining forces with another podcaster that you admire for a special show or series of shows on a topic that feels good to both parties. The right partnership can expose your podcast to a new audience and expand your community of listeners. It can also inject new life into a podcast, inspiring you to explore new themes or approaches to a show. Sometimes the right partner isn’t the most obvious choice. Inviting experts in areas outside of your comfort zone can provide a great learning opportunity for you and your listeners and can keep a show from growing stagnant. Brainstorm with potential partners and run through topics you might want to cover. Be aware of what you have the most to talk about and try to steer your podcast in that direction.
In addition to inviting on other podcasters to host a show, consider inviting your listeners. Whether you do a show dedicated to answering listener questions, or you’ve become aware of a listener with an interesting story to share, listeners-turned-guests are a fabulous way to stay connected with your audience. Don’t worry about proximity, either. Skype or even an old-fashioned telephone call broadcast on speaker can be used for the podcast recording. Since listeners may be a little green when it comes to podcasting or interviews, take some time to communicate with them about your process to reduce the possibility of awkward pauses or dead air. Send potential guests a list of questions you’ll want to ask them before the show, or even do a dry run of your interview or segment before recording.
Since podcasts are not broadcast live, hosts that want to engage an audience of listeners need to ask them to take clear actions. Whether you’re driving them to subscribe to your podcast, participate on a social network or message board, enter a contest, or drive to a point of purchase the best way to know that you’re reaching people is to give them a way to show their love. Use your podcast to direct listeners to take a clear call-to-action where content is concerned—point them to Instagram to participate in a promotion you’re running on the platform, or ask them to follow you on Snapchat or Twitter for a daily tip. Contests are tailor-made for social. Promote them on the podcast and let listeners know how and where they can participate.
Buying ad time on other podcasts might seem counterintuitive on the surface, but there’s research to back up the recommendation. 1 out of 3 podcast listeners is planning on increasing their podcast consumption over the next six months (the same research also shows podcast advertisements performing better than other digital ads). Listeners of podcasts feel energized and engaged by the medium itself and are more receptive to the advertisements they hear in that setting. They are also hungry for quality content. Be strategic about the ad placements you choose—look for natural overlap in content or demographics and let listeners know you’ve got the content they crave. Take the time to communicate with your audience across channels through listening, responding, thanking, reaching out, reacting and sharing. If you do it right, you might build a loyal podcast following.