Updated: Nov 14
People all over are starting new podcasts everyday. The number one thing that people want to know is how to increase their audience. There are many answers to this very difficult task especially if you're not already famous and you're on a budget.
The notorious thing about podcasting is that there's no real discovery apparatus. On a site like YouTube the site will find videos for you to click on. It uses data from your devices like your location, contacts and search history to find videos that you might like, so even if your YouTube channel is relatively small, you have a great chance of being discovered if you just post consistently. The sight is looking for people who might be interested in your content, but there's no equivalent for podcasts.
Apple Podcasts, for example, only promotes podcasts that are already popular or gaining popularity. If you can gain one new listener a week, and do that consistently every week without loosing too many listeners over several weeks, then there is a very good chance that you'll crack through their Top 100 list rather quickly. The catch is that you have to do the legwork. Neither Apple, nor any other podcast app will do the work of getting listeners in front of your show. Apple even put out a statement clarifying that the ratings and reviews that you get from your listeners will not make your podcast more discoverable. Your podcast will not rank higher in their lists just because of the reviews. So what does work? Well, like most people I'm operating on a budget, so here are some tips that I can share with you and some of these things that I've heard have helped others grow their shows.
First up, don't waste your money "boosting" on social media. Boosting is a way of turning your social media posts into low cost ads. They allow you to add links directly to your posts, so that the user can go directly to your site from your post without having to go you your profile page. The boosted post will also look for people whom you've specified and post your ad on their timeline. I have not found this to be affective at all, and social media apps are designed to keep people on that app. When you post to social media about your podcast you are asking people to get off their doom scrolling to open up a whole other app to listen to your show. This is extremely hard to do and not worth the money. Truthfully, all the best ways of advertising costs lots of money.
The most effective way to advertise is though your wallet. Some services are more expensive than others. Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Cast, or a similar podcast app that allows a simple way to advertise, are what I have experience with. With my category, film & TV, I might expect to pay $200-$250 for one month on Overcast or Podcast Addict. The price varies according to the type of podcast that you have on those sites, and it's almost affordable. Pocket Cast is a different story. You can expect to pay at least $1200, and it goes up from there. There are other, third party, services as well, but I don't have any experience with any of them. In my experience: paid ads were the most effective way of spreading the word and growing my audience quickly. It's even more effective if you can advertise consistently which I cannot afford to do. Like most people I have to build an audience on the cheap.
Three main methods that I use for low cost growth are ad swaps, guest spots, and episode drops with podcasts similar to my own. This requires cooperation of your fellow 'casters and, ideally, you'd want to try to team up with a show that has a greater following than your own, but you also want to pay it forward for those who have a smaller following than your show. Here are short descriptions of these low cost techniques:
Ad swaps are just you cutting a 30-second promo that another pod agrees to play on their program for a specified period of time, and you, in turn, play theirs.
Guests spots, what I focus on, is you appearing on shows similar to yours and you having podcasters as guest co-hosts on your show.
Episode drops, the most controversial practice among podsters, is you dropping an episode of your show, in part or in whole, in somebody else's podcast. You, in turn, do the same for them. You'll want to let your listeners know that this is happening. Maybe record a short explanation before you start blasting a stranger's show into their earholes.
I must stress that it's important for you to collaborate with people who have a similar podcast to your own. Like, if you have a movie podcast it's ill advised to have an episode drop of a mechanics' podcast.
Some out-of-the-box thinking might help as well. Digital billboards might work; I don't know if they're effective, but they're cheap. I did one once and took a picture of it. I probably got more feedback from that picture on my socials than from the billboard. You could also visit trade shows or conventions that are relevant to your show. Then there's the old fashioned gimmick of just handing out business cards. I don't even bother to have them professionally printed; they're expensive enough to just print them at home and most people will just through them away anyway. Digital NFC business cards are pretty cool, but it can be a drag to teach people how they work. They can be expensive if you have one made by any of the NFC business card websites out there, but if you're interested there's an inexpensive way of making your own in this video:
Lastly, be sure to maintain your social media presence under your podcast handle. Using your social media accounts won't necessarily grow your show, but it's a great way to keep in touch with your audience and get listener feedback. It may not be great for growing your listener base, but it's great for strengthening your listener community. It also helps to maintain good vibes as much as is possible on social media, so praise the pods you like on your socials, participate in "follow Fridays," and avoid being publicly critical of any podcast.
Man, this was a lot, and the whole time, for some reason, Kris Kristofferson's voice was in my head while I was typing. I legit felt like he was dictating this entire article to me. Has he died? Is his ghost speaking to me right now? I'm too afraid to Google it.