Top 5 ways to promote and grow your podcast

Producing your episodes should be the hard part, but in reality, that bit is simple compared to then getting people to listen.

Building an audience has become more and more challenging over time, with such a wide choice of shows for people to pick from.

That isn’t a reason to say ‘I’ll just not bother then’. But it does mean you have to be smart in how you promote your show in order to pull in those listeners. 

So what can you do to get yourself ahead? Well today I’d like to talk you through five key things you should be doing to promote your podcast.

You might already be doing some of them, and there’s a chance you’ve heard of or thought about some others. I’ll talk you through exactly why they’re worth doing, and how to go about them.

The givens

Before that, it’s important to lay down that this is all presented to you on the basis that you have the basics covered. There’s no point pumping time and effort into promoting your show if you don’t have these things sorted.

Given number 1: The content is as good as it can be.

Absolutely top of the list for every single podcast. It might not be perfect, but you need to be producing the very best content you can. You need to be putting time into planning and researching episodes.

If you’re at a ‘casual’ podcaster stage where you’re doing it for a bit of fun, maybe the time isn’t right for you to pumping time into promotion. That time could be better spent making on improving your content. It doesn’t matter how many people you put it in front of, if it ain’t good enough, they’re not going to become a listener

Given number 2: The quality is as good as it can be.

This isn’t quite at the same level of importance as content, but it’s still up there. Record on the best platform you can, invest in a decent microphone and other recording gear, spend some time on – or outsource – the production and editing. Do everything you can to maximise quality.

If it sounds like it’s been recorded on a tin can, you’re going to have a hard time building an audience.

Given number 3: You’re using social media

‘Using social media’ is not one of my top 5 ways to promote your podcast because, well, it’s a given. You should already be doing it.

If you’re one of those ‘oh I don’t really use social media’ types then fine, but appreciate that you’re putting a self-infected limit in place on how far you can spread the word about your show. And if you’re already hitting the first two basics on this list, why would you then sell yourself short in telling the world?

You don’t need to be on every single social media platform. It’s better to do a couple well than do an average job across all of them. Pick the right platforms for your style of show, and engage away.

Given number 4: You’re already using your existing audience

I don’t know who you are, but I can make an educated guess that you already have an audience. You might not realise it, but you do. That could range from already being on Facebook, to being in a few WhatsApp groups, to already having a hefty email list for your business.

Before you go off creating yourself new work in all these new ways to promote your show, take the easy win and tell your existing audience. Tell your family and friends. Tell your colleagues. Tell your peers. Tell the people in your networking circles. Shout about it on LinkedIn and all your other platforms.

It’s a gazillion times easier (scientifically proven) to convert someone you’re already engaged with into a podcast listener than to find a new one from scratch.

Right, so that’s the four big givens out of the way. Got all of those done and covered off? BRILLIANT. Now let’s get onto the juicy stuff.

Here are the ways I suggest you start promoting your podcast

1. Using guests and other podcasters

I’ve been a bit cheeky here by sliding two into one, but they’re very closely related so I make no apologies.

First let’s talk about guests. If you’re doing an interview or a panel podcast of some sort, this is child’s play for you. Every guest who appears on your podcast has their own existing audience. Go back up to the fourth ‘given’ point above – all that applies to them. So now you can piggyback onto their audience and convert them into your listeners. Yessss!

Here’s the important thing – you have to ASK. I don’t know if it’s human nature of not wanting to appear too self-indulgent, or something else, but for some strange reason, guests don’t always go hell-for-leather promoting the episode they’re on. But if you ask them to, they normally will.

Incorporate it into different parts of the process. When you first chat, when you record, in a follow-up email. And make it easy – send them links and any images or other material you have. Tag them in your own posts.

Explicitly ask if they have any company newsletters or email lists – would they stick a link on the next one? Usually the answer is yes, but they tend not to think of it if you don’t nudge them.

And remember it’s not JUST about when it’s released either. You could go back to them a couple of weeks or months later and ask them again. Maybe see how their episode is performing and say to them ‘you’re only X listens away from overtaking so-and-so, be great if we could give it another push’.

OK, now, I said this was child’s play if you’re doing a podcast which features guests. But what if you’re not? It doesn’t mean this is null and void for you.

Why don’t you go about it from the other side? Put yourself forward as a guest on as many other people’s podcasts as you can. That way you can promote yourself (and your show) to their existing audience. Plus, the double-win of also getting shout outs on their socials… and something you can push out to your followers too.

And you know what? I’ve barely even scratched the surface here of how you can utilise guests / guesting. Once you get deep into thinking about it, you’ll come up with a ton of other ideas. Why not strategically approach guests based on their audience, or time certain episodes with a specific guest to match ‘international such-and-such’ day when there’s a load of extra online interest?

Honestly, it’s almost limitless.

The other part of this point was using other podcasters. We’ve touched a little on this with the idea to guest on other shows, but that’s not all.

A scaled down version of that, and one which is super easy to arrange, is a promo-swap. Quite simply, this a reciprocal arrangement where shows play a promo or trailer for each other in an episode.

Find other podcasts in a similar space to yours – it can be quite vague – and ask. I promise you’ll be surprised how many are up for it.

It isn’t complicated either. You could use your existing show trailer, or reframe a really short highlight clip from a recent episode, or record something specific, maybe even referencing the reciprocal podcast by name and talking directly to its listeners.

Me and a couple of fellow producers are in the process of exploring a sort of indie-network which makes it even easier for shows to do this sort of thing – watch this space!

2. Audiograms

I wondered whether this should have gone in the ‘givens’ column, but considering the number of conversations I have with podcasters who aren’t doing it, I realised it really needs highlighting.

An audiogram is basically a video file made up of a static image with the audio of a clip from your podcast, and a waveform or something similar wiggling away.

They aren’t new, they’ve been around for ages now. They tend to be square, partly because they were originally born to be used on Instagram, and partly because podcast cover art is square.

That’s important as the joy of audiograms is they are simple. You don’t need a graphic designer on hand because you can use what you already have – your cover art. Stick a sound wave over the top of it and suddenly you have a whole new way to expose people to your show.

So, all you really need is your cover art image and a clip from your show. Up to 60 seconds tends to work best as some platforms have a one minute limit on video.

Subtitles are entirely optional, but there’s a fairly big argument in their favour with most social platforms now auto-playing videos on mute.

Audiograms are the simplest way to get clips of your podcasts onto social media. This is a bit of an obvious point, but it’s easily forgotten so worth mentioning – you can’t just upload an MP3 onto Twitter, or Insta, or Facebook, or anywhere, really. Social platforms have never played nice with audio.

So we have to find other ways of doing it, and this is where audiograms come in. They allow every single podcaster to get clips of their actual content onto people’s newsfeeds. Not text posts telling them what’s in the episode, not a lovely image with a quote from the guest, but an exact chunk of the show.

At this point, you might be nodding away thinking this is all well and good, but you just wouldn’t know where to start creating something like that, even though you have the bits you need.

The great news is you don’t need any fancy tech knowledge and there are platforms which do all the hard work for you.

Headliner is a great option. It’s so easy to use – step by step you upload the audio, add the image, pick the right style and colour of waveform, add/check subtitles if you want them, and export it. It’s also free for the first five. After that, you can carry on making them for free with a Headliner watermark, or upgrade to the pro package.

Another top-rated alternative is Wavve which works in a similar way and also has a free option.

3. Build a tribe

So what is your podcast tribe? Well, your tribe is made of those listeners who are the full-on cheerleaders for your show. They’re not the passive listeners who tune in to every episode you do – although they’re equally valuable. They’re the ones who interact, who spread the word, whose name you see popping up on social media and email all the time. They make up your tribe.

There’s the old saying in business about how much easier it is to get an existing customer to spend more than to attract a new customer from scratch.

This isn’t quite the same, but the logic kind of is. Using your existing audience to help grow your show is a lot easier than just doing it by yourself, but it needs a bit of planning and some order to it all. And that’s where building a tribe comes in.

So how do you do it? First up, you need to find them. If you’ve been podcasting for a while, there’s a chance you already have one. You may well know some of the people in it – and some of them might even know each other. There’s nothing to formally bring them together, but the foundations might already be in place.

But here’s a really key point – you probably won’t know a big chunk of them. Some of your biggest cheerleaders might never interact with you on social media; in fact they might not even be on social media.

If you’ve tried doing a Patreon or other ‘donation’ link on your show, you’ll probably already know that names pop up you’ve never heard of. Some of your big fans might never have interacted with you. So, first up, you have to find them.

Then, bring them together. You might use something like Patreon or an email list. You might just set up a Facebook group, or a Slack channel, or some kind of forum. You might get them together for drinks in person, or host an event.

Once you have them together, be it virtually or physically, the next step is to use your tribe effectively.

Remember, they’re your cheerleaders and they can help you grow the show. Not just in terms of listeners either – you now have a market research panel who you can turn to for help developing the podcast or running feature ideas past.

Your tribe should never become a static club – it should always be growing and developing. 

Read – and hear – more about building a tribe here

4. SEO

SEO when you’re writing a blog is fairly straight forward, isn’t it? Keywords and picking the right headline, all that kind of stuff.

Podcasting in SEO is a bit of a stranger beast. Of course, our content is spoken. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore.

Firstly, there is quite basic level SEO. Let’s say your podcast is about baking. So if someone goes onto Apple Podcasts and searches for ‘baking’ you want your show to come up. You need to make sure your title / subtitle / show description are all optimised to include the right phrases so they match search queries.

Then, there’s the same with episodes. Make sure titles and show notes feature the key things.

Show notes are particularly important – if you’re dead serious about this, put time aside to do them well, or outsource them. I’ll go into more depth on this in a moment.

Then there is actual episode content. Some apps and – to some extent – Google are now auto transcribing podcast episodes and matching search results to the content. It isn’t perfect but in time, this will become really significant. There’ll be a point where a Google search will display podcast and ‘text’ results together. In fact it’s already happening – try doing a Google search now and you might find it displays some podcast results (not every time, it’s all a bit hit and miss). I wonder how long before we have a ‘Podcast’ tab alongside ‘Images’ ‘Shopping’ and ‘News’ etc.

You might want to consider a full transcription of your episode within your show notes. Fewer podcasters do this than used to, probably because it’s quite time consuming. But it really maximises your SEO potential, and it’s also great for accessibility. Sadly podcasting isn’t very welcoming to people who are deaf or with other hearing problems. Running a full transcription opens your content up to a wider audience.

I mentioned the importance of show notes, and to elaborate, I need to stray into a different subject area – that of having a website for your podcast. In short, you should have one. And one of the reasons why is for SEO. With your own site, your show notes become web content just like other pages, and you’re maximising your chances of showing up a result for someone’s web search.

That leads us nicely onto the final point…

5. Repurposing

We mentioned earlier about revisiting old episodes and giving them a fresh push, but that’s not really what I’m talking about with repurposing.

Repurposing is about squeezing every single bit of value out of your content that you can. And it’s just as relevant in podcasting.

During 2021, I’ve launched two new podcasts. Both of them were strategised to include several opportunities for me to repurpose the content and get the most from it.

They’re both monthly shows, and in the week after each is published, I also write a blog related to the same subject. The blog isn’t repeating what’s said in the podcast, rather elaborating on it, but always cross-references the episode (with a player embedded onto the page)

I also do a video follow-up delving into a separate issue which came up in the episode.

I’ll usually pull one or two audiograms to give me some visual content to promote.

Then maybe an image with a quote from the episode, and maybe even a ‘slider’ for LinkedIn if there’s something suitable.

Some people organise a Facebook Live or discussion on Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces about the main points from the episode.

What I’m getting at here is the amount of different things you can create from just one podcast episode. There’s tons. Some people are drawn to video content, some are fans of written content, some like to interact. The more different types of content you can put out, the more people you engage. Once they’re engaged, you’ve got a much better chance of converting them into a podcast listener.

There you have it – our top 5 ways to promote and grow your podcast. Some of them are easy, some a bit more tricky, but all things that are within grasp for every podcaster. Need some help figuring out any of them? Give us a shout and we’ll give you a hand.