Word of mouth is the best way to grow your podcast. Here's how you can inspire and equip your audience to share your podcast.
Make a great podcast
Nothing else you can do to your podcast matters as much as making a great podcast. If your podcast is horrible, then no one will want to share it, regardless of how easy you make the process.
When people consume content, they're looking for one or both of these two things:
- They want to be helped—inspired, educated, motivated, informed, encouraged, etc.
- They want to be entertained—humored, amused, provoked, engaged, etc.
If your podcast doesn't do at least one of those things, then you have some important work to do.
Liken your podcast to a restaurant. It doesn't matter how good their branding and marketing are, if the food and service are horrible, no one will want to eat there, let alone recommend it to others.
Your audience might already be telling you how good your podcast is (or isn't) in their feedback or podcast reviews.
Is your podcast actually good?
Ask for shares
This may seem obvious, but it's often forgotten. If you want your audience to do something, you have to ask them to do it!
The first thing to do is make sure you always give value before you ask for value in return.
I think many podcasters can easily fall into giving too many calls to action: subscribe, rate and review, comment, share, donate, support the sponsor, follow some recommendation, and more. So the second thing to do is stop asking your audience for so much. Reduce and simplify the things you want you audience to do.
Of all the things your audience could do for you, telling others about your podcast is usually the best. That will help your podcast grow far more than ratings and reviews.
How you ask is also important. Focus on the benefits your audience can give to others by sharing your podcast. Don't focus on the benefits you get.
- Bad: “Please share the podcast so we can get more subscribers.” This focuses on what you gain.
- Better: “Please share the podcast so our community can grow.” This focuses more on growing the community your audience is in.
- Best: “If you liked this episode and think someone else would, too, please share it!” This focuses on helping your audience help others.
Write descriptive, shareable titles
As I teach in my SEO for Podcasters course, titles are the most important text on the Internet. By default, titles are what display in and most-affect search results, what show in podcast apps, what display largest on your website, and what share in social networks.
A good title will be three things:
- Descriptive—making it clear what the episode (or overall podcast) is about
- Compelling—inspiring curiosity to relevant people
- Shareable—short and written without first-person pronouns
For example, imagine an episode that seeks to share and review the best vanilla cream sodas.
- “Bottle Fights” is cute, but wouldn't describe the episode's contents.
- “Vanilla Cream Sodas” is more descriptive, but it wouldn't compel people to click on it.
- “My Favorite Vanilla Cream Sodas” is descriptive and a little more compelling, but it's not shareable because the “My” becomes the voice of the sharer.
- “The 10 Vanilla Cream Sodas You Should Try” now incorporates all three principles.
Enhance the website experience
A frequently asked question in podcasting is about which link you should use when promoting your podcast.
The most common options are:
- Your main website
- Your Apple Podcasts / iTunes URL
- Your Android subscription URL
- Your episode's web page
- Your “how to subscribe” page
I think the best strategy is for you to promote all of these with some rotation and in relevant contexts.
But for your audience, the best and easiest thing for them to promote is either your episode directly from their podcast app, or your episode's web page.
You need to make it a positive experience when people visit your episode's web page. There are several ways to do this:
- Embed a big, obvious player near the top of the page
- Provide a written summary of the episode (no more than a paragraph)
- Provide more thorough show notes (such as an outline or article)
- Link to the top subscription options
- Offer social-sharing buttons
Your primary goal should be to make your podcast's website as easy as “visit website; press play.”
Add the right social-sharing buttons
Social-sharing buttons are now standard for website content. And if you want your audience to share your content, adding social-sharing buttons is the simplest way to make that possible.
But offering more choices for sharing makes the decision harder, and even reduces the chances of someone's sharing your content. Thus, you don't want to litter your site with every social-sharing button a plugin offers, but you need to look at your website analytics to see what social networks are most popular, and include only those buttons.
At the least, I recommend Twitter and Facebook buttons, as those are usually two most common ways for people to share and engage. Then, other buttons will depend on what fits your content and audience the best.
For example, if you have a creativity-focused site with a lot of attractive images, Pinterest will be really important for you and your audience.
Social Warfare is my favorite plugin for adding social-sharing buttons to a WordPress website, and it has great options built in.
Optimize the social metadata
Don't stop with merely enabling the social-sharing of your content. By default, social-sharing tools will use the web page title, first or featured image, and an excerpt (if written) or the first words of your post. That may not be the best experience for your current and potential audience.
There are plenty of ways to make your content stand out and thus be even more shareable. Using Social Warfare for example, you can do all the following for each post on your site:
- Add a custom wide image that will be embedded with your link on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks
- Add a custom tall image that will share to Pinterest, since tall images work best on Pinterest
- Write a custom title and description for when your episode is embedded on different social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+)
- Write an optimized message, with possible hashtags and @mentions, for sharing your content on Twitter and Pinterest—a separate message for each!
There are other plugins, such as Yoast SEO and some other social-sharing plugins, that will allow you to set this custom metadata, but I like the way Social Warfare does it best.
Look for other ways to simplify sharing
Whether integrating social-sharing on your site, automating sharing on your own social profiles, or even following up with guests, make the process as easy as possible and appropriate for the context.
For example, if I'm a guest on your podcast, you could send me some suggested messages and link I could share on my own social accounts. Such messages would be best if they are short, written from my perspective, and communicate the reason I think my audience should listen to your episode.
- Bad: “Listen to @theDanielJLewis on the How to Be Awesome podcast! [link]”—This is bad because I would never need to @mention myself in my own message, and it doesn't tell my audience why they should listen.
- Better: “I had a great time on @JohnDoe's podcast. Listen at [link].”—This is better because it's in my voice, but it still doesn't tell my audience why they should listen.
- Best: “Do you know what the best cream soda is? Listen to us talk about sodas, podcasting, and more on @JohnDoe's podcast: [link]”—This is personal, descriptive, and compelling.
You can offer these as text someone can copy and paste, or get fancy with your own links that will prefill a message from their account.
Within your post, you can also simplify sharing of content from your episode, instead of merely sharing the episode. This could be pull-quotes, images, “audiograms” (short, animated videos with an audio excerpt, such as from Wavve or Audiogram), or other kinds of excerpts.
Whatever you do, remember to keep it simple, relevant, useful, and to not overwhelm your audience with too many options.
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
- Paul C., from the United Kingdom, wrote, “I keep pretty much all Daniel's episodes loaded on my iPod in my car and routinely listen to them over and over again. I'm currently on episode 13 of my own show and still learning new things to consider and incorporate. Daniel has a very patient, clear style which suits me and I rather wish I'd listened to his show earlier! But plenty of stuff to take on board for the more accomplished podcaster too. I now look forward to each new release.”
- Steve Higdon (“Katinrok”), from the USA and host of The Insider Threat Podcast, wrote, “Thank you so much for the fantastic tips and strategies that you provide for people trying to improve their podcasts. Without your show, there is no way that The Insider Threat Podcast would have even gotten off the ground, much less experienced the unexpected success that we have had so quickly.”
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.