Heard mentality

Treating your listeners as a community rather than a simple statistic can help you grow your audience

The relationship between creator and listener has been brought into sharp focus with the recent moves by Apple and Spotify into subscription podcasting.

Although this brings clear upsides, one big downside is that neither company will give you, as the podcaster, the personal information of someone who subscribes through their platforms.

So why might this be a problem? One existing subscription podcast service, Supercast, compares the situation to the difference between Shopify and Amazon. Amazon acts as a middle-man between you and your customers, while Shopify lets you build a direct relationship with them.

But what has this got to do with you and your show?

Regardless of whether you ask people to pay for your podcast or not, it is helpful to consider the kind of relationship you have with your listeners. Are they simply download statistics, or are they a community you can nurture?

How you interact with them outside of your podcast – and the way in which you do this – can help to strengthen your bond with, and even grow, your audience. This could be achieved through your social media feeds, setting up a Facebook group for the show or maybe even a newsletter.

Building a relationship with your listeners doesn’t have to be intrusive, but definitely needs to follow data collection rules in your country (e.g. GDPR). If you follow the rules, then asking listeners to share with you their email addresses (for a clearly defined purpose) will allow you to do things such as contact them directly when a new episode of your show is available.

You might consider regularly emailing listeners to keep them up to date about upcoming themes or guests on your podcast. Equally, you might want to consider creating a ‘persona’ or ‘avatar’ of a typical listener to your show. In simple terms this means creating a fictional (but representative) audience member (or set of audience members) – their age, their interests, their wants and needs.

This sort of analysis will not only help you better focus your show on what resonates with your audience, but will also give you a better idea of how to best promote your show. For instance, if your ‘typical’ listener age is 55, a newsletter might suit them better than a tweet. If they are in their 20s, an Instagram post might be a better route.

Social media is an incredibly useful tool for anyone looking to get themselves heard. It offers a unique way to connect with your listeners on a personal level and to quickly – and potentially widely – spread the word about your podcast. Creating an account for you or your show will allow you to announce the release of new episodes, flag up guest appearances or share news about your podcast or the subjects it covers.

Once you have connected with listeners, you can go further by encouraging debate – asking for their opinions on topics brought up in your show, or perhaps asking for suggestions of subjects that can be covered in upcoming shows. But you should only start a social media account for your show if you are able to post content regularly, otherwise you’ll risk feeling pressured to deliver content in a way that could turn more people off than it turns on.

If you do go down the social media route, you might consider a variety of techniques – promotional campaigns using graphics, audiograms, competitions or giveaways. You could even try to enlist the help of ‘influencers’ with large followings to pay lip service to your podcast. Remember, though, that social media is a platform that should be treated with caution. Any information you put out in the public domain should be given the same consideration and scrutiny that you give to broadcasting your show.

Your aim should be to create a community around your podcast. This will help to keep current listeners coming back for more and also, as the buzz around your show grows, bring in new listeners who will grow the community further.

One further option to consider is writing a blog to accompany your show. You may find that you have so much to say on a topic that you struggle to fit it all into a single episode of your podcast. A written account – which you can prompt your listeners to read during your show – will allow you to emphasise important points, pass on extra information and allow them to delve deeper into whatever shared passion brought them to you in the first place. Encourage them to comment on what you have written or to write about their own experiences and to let you know where you can read it – perhaps it will lead to some great material for your next podcast.

These are just a taste of the many actions you can take to strengthen the bond you have with your listeners. If they like your show, it is likely they will appreciate more opportunities to get to know you or the subjects your show covers – and this extra interaction brings with it extra opportunities to promote it.