Podcast listening is on the rise – 67 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly, up 14 percent in just one year. However, this rise in popularity has also made it much harder for podcasts to be discovered and succeed. Marketing a podcast is unique; you must learn to integrate and balance several elements to have a successful marketing campaign. Since it is an audio-only medium, it requires a certain degree of innovation, finesse and experimentation to create a marketing strategy that will be immersive enough for audiences, without the aid of accompanying visuals –– at least initially.
Marketing a podcast may be daunting but having a sound digital marketing strategy (Haha, “sound” –– get it?), a deliberate and thoughtful launch strategy and a plan for retaining its momentum throughout (and following) the series will increase the likelihood of a podcast's success.
Last year, we partnered with Panoply and Malcolm Gladwell to launch Revisionist History, which held the No.1 position in iTunes for each week of its season. You can read our full case study here, but here are some of the key takeaways we learned from the podcast marketing process.
Rather than having iTunes be the sole touch point with our audience, we developed a small microsite for the podcast as we aimed to understand who our listeners were. (For those who aren’t familiar, iTunes is a black box that really limits the information podcast publishers can receive about the listeners. about the listeners). So we made the podcast available both on the website and via iTunes (among other players).
For those who didn’t listen through iTunes, we captured first party data on the listeners that allowed us to track user behavior beyond the click to optimize our paid media efforts and implement social retargeting. (In fact, during the campaign we were able to identify a twice as effective audience at half the cost-per-conversion!)
We also deployed a simple email sign-up to let users get notified by email of new episodes, which allowed us to focus our paid media efforts on acquiring new users and not waste money on users who are already repeat listeners. This audience was then also used for audience modeling to create new scaled lookalike audiences similar to our repeat listeners.
Many tend to shy away from social media as their advertising medium of choice for a podcast. After all, if these platforms are so rooted in visuals, it might seem difficult to have podcasts thrown in that mix. Yes, on the outset, that might be a challenge. However, to really grow your podcast audience, you need to be thinking outside the box. And remember, approximately 80% of time spent on social media is from mobile devices –– the same device a user is most likely to listen to a podcast on.
Leverage social media, whether it is Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (depending on your podcast and your audience) to market your podcast. This might include having graphics posted with snippets from the podcast, relevant articles and other ads that target your demographics. For example, we used Facebook ads with carousels to allow users to catch up on older episodes before the new ones were released.
A lot of podcast marketing campaigns tend to be haphazard. There might be some degree of use when it comes to analytics, or listener data, but many struggle with turning that data into actionable insights. The numbers may seem overwhelming, but if you learn to leverage them correctly, there is no better way to gauge success.
Before launching a digital marketing campaign for your podcast in earnest, establish your baselines first. Note how many listeners do you have, subscriptions, website traffic –– anything and everything. Once you launch your campaign, use these numbers as your yardstick for success. While you should be looking at numbers on a regular basis, some good intervals for in-depth measurements might be at the one-month, three-month and six-month marks. Are your numbers up or down at these points?
In either scenario, thoughtfully evaluate the resources you are using and how they can be improved. Are Facebook ads getting you decent traffic and more importantly, conversions? Is Twitter is a more effective channel? How can the data collected (see step one above) be leveraged to optimize the targeting, creative, bidding, etc.? This will help you continually tweak your campaigns in order to ensure you are getting maximum return on investment.
Podcast marketing is an exciting, yet challenging endeavor –– especially standing out in a crowded market. However, with consistent effort and thoughtful digital marketing, there is real potential to grow your audience organically and gain long-term success.
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