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What if I told you that you could build an engaged audience who listens to your podcast every week, sends you email and feedback, gives you ideas for topics, and shares your show with their friends. You’d like that, right? Of course you would.

In this episode I’m sharing ways that you can increase the engagement you get from your audience. Real tips. By the end of the show, you’ll have some new ideas for what you can do to pull your silent admirers out of their shells.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins

  • Clearly define to your audience what your show is about and who it is for.
  • Let your listeners know that you want to address their problems. Ask them what they’re struggling with.
  • A consistent schedule is really important. If you are going to stream live, pick a time and stick to it.
  • Make it easy for your audience to find you online by having a consistent brand name across all platforms.
  • Remind your listeners every episode to send in questions and feedback.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your audience grows slowly. Sean McCabe likes to say show up everyday for two years. That’s how long it takes to start seeing results.
  • Don’t focus on the number of listeners you have now, think about creating for all the people who will find your show in the future.

Show Notes

  • 1:28 Robert asked: How do you measure engagement in a meaningful way?
  • 1:40 You’ll know when you see it. If people are responding to you on social media, sending you feedback, sharing your show with other people, and commenting publicly, that’s engagement. Engagement isn’t measured by a certain number of hits on your website or podcast downloads, it’s whether or not people are responding to what you’re putting out.

If You Want to Create More Engagement, Focus On Building a Community

  • 2:19 What is a community? A community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. In this case, your community will come together around your show if you clearly define who your show is for. Use language like this to describe your show:
    • This show is for people interested in making high quality furniture.
    • This show is for people who love the tv show Firefly.
    • This show is for people who want to learn more about psychology.

Clearly define to your audience what your show is about and who it is for.

  • 3:13 Share your passion! Talk about the things that you love. Share your values with your audience. Let them know what kind of people you want to be a part of your audience, and what kind of people you don’t.

Three Ways to Create More Audience Engagement

 

1. Make them feel like a part of the show.
  • 3:35 This is not something every podcaster does, but it’s one of the best ways to get your listeners to engage with your show. There are a few ways to make your listeners feel like they are a part of the show:
  • 3:45 Mention your listeners by name in your podcast. Give them shoutouts.
  • 3:51 Ask your listeners for questions. Listen, take notes, and answer the questions if you can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let them know that you are going to look into it and write up a solution. Write the questions down in your notebook or Omnifocus or to-do list and then create a blog post, podcast or video about it.

Let your listeners know that you want to address their problems. Ask them what they’re struggling with.

  • 4:28 Ask for your listener’s opinions. You don’t have to share every listener’s opinion publicly, but you’ll find that knowing what other people think about a topic will enrich the conversation and open your mind to new ideas.
  • 4:44 Talk about your audience members on the show. Make sure that the listeners that contribute value to the conversation are highlighted. Say nice things about them. If they are making cool things or writing blog posts that are relevant to your audience, talk about those things and share links in your show notes. Remember, it’s about building community, and you do that by giving back to your audience and introducing them to the other members.
  • 5:15 Read iTunes reviews at the end of your show. If someone sends you a nice review, read it at the end of one of your episodes. Thank them personally. This is a great way to show your audience that you value and appreciate them.
  • 5:37 Create a Slack Channel. If you’ve never heard of Slack, go check it out. Slack is a messaging app for Mac and iOS that was intended to be used by teams to collaborate with, but it’s really taken off as a general purpose chat system. A lot of podcasts are starting Slack channels to give their audience a place to hangout and chat.
Stream Your Podcast Live
  • 6:46 Streaming your podcast live is a great way to build audience engagement, but you should be comfortable with your recording setup and have a solid format for your show before you stream live.
  • 7:06 A good outline is essential for live streaming. Prepare an intro and an outro and know what you are going to talk about in the middle. If your audience shows up, you need to have quality content ready for them. They are not going to appreciate you stumbling your way through a poorly prepared episode.
  • 7:38 Your audience will probably tolerate some technical difficulties in your first few live streams but you should make every effort to make the stream as polished and professional as possible as soon as you can.
  • 7:51 Pick a time to stream and stick to it. If you have co-hosts, make sure you agree to a time that you’ll all be able to meet every week. Make a commitment to your audience and stick with it. They’ll appreciate it.

A consistent schedule is really important. If you are going to stream live, pick a time and stick to it.

  • 8:12 People will plan to show up if they know you broadcast live every week, but you can’t expect them to keep up if you change the schedule from week to week.
  • 8:29 When is the best time to stream live? Depending on your audience, the right time to stream might be in the late morning or the early evening. Many people still work 9-5 jobs, although I think it’s becoming less and less common. Ask your audience what works best for them (you should get responses from your most loyal members). Keep time zones in mind as well. If you are on the east coast, you are three hours ahead of your listeners on the west coast.
Three Options for Live Streaming Your Podcast
  • 9:09 1. Google Hangouts. One easy way to stream live is Google Hangouts. You can do video or audio only; video is really nice but you’ll need to set up a nice backdrop and lighting.
  • 9:45 2. Nicecast. Nicecast is what we use to stream live to the seanwes community. Our developer – Justin Michael – wrote a custom live chat application that has a live stream audio player embedded in it. It’s super sweet.
  • 10:14 3. Mixlr. Mixlr is an easy to set up cross-platform desktop broadcasting application. The service itself is free and you get a built-in chatroom for listener feedback. Check it out.
Tips for Live Streaming:
  • 10:49 If you are going to stream live, you’ll need good gear and a quiet room to record in. If your audience is going to show up to listen to you live, make it a pleasant listening experience for them. If you want to stream video, consider investing in a nice webcam. You can get the Logitech HD Webcam C310 for $30 or the slightly nicer Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. Just be careful because both of those webcams have built in microphones and Google Hangouts will probably want to use them for your audio source. Always check your audio input source in preferences before streaming.
  • 11:52 Do everything you can to prevent or eliminate potential stream interruptions: kids, pets, family members, or internet drops. Speaking of internet, you’ll need a solid connection to live stream. If you plan on streaming regularly every week, I would suggest upgrading your internet to the fastest speed available. If you can, use a hard line (ethernet) instead of wifi. Turn off all cloud services and backups before you stream. This will help prevent connection and quality issues.
2. Talk with Your Audience Regularly Online
  • 13:16 Where is your audience? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Go where they are and talk with them. Respond to their questions. Comment on their posts.
  • 14:32 Something I’ve started doing recently is following the big players in my field (podcasting) and engaging with their audience on Twitter (and in forums). Some of these big players in podcasting have a huge audience and they don’t make time to engage with every single person in their audience. So I jump into the conversations, answer questions and provide value, which shows them that I’m someone worth checking out.
  • 15:07 You can do the same thing if you’re hungry to build an audience. Go find the people in your niche who have the big audience, get in there and make a name for yourself. Befriend those big players and talk to them as if you were on their level. Your goal should be to be seen as a peer, not a fanboy. Hopefully you can connect with those influencers and develop a friendship based on your common interest, which will cause their audience to become aware of you as an expert and another person they should follow.
  • 16:11 Answer every single email or message you get. Even if it’s just to agree or say thank you, it’s important to acknowledge someone as quickly as possible. If they invest time in you and your show, make sure you thank them for doing so.
3. Make it Easy for Your Audience to Engage with You
  • 17:13 One of the most important things is having consistency between your podcast name, website, and social media accounts. For example, I am the Podcast Dude. I am at thepodcastdude.com. My email address is aaron@thepodcastdude.com. I am @thepodcastdude on Twitter and Instagram. My Youtube channel is The Podcast Dude.

Make it easy for your audience to find you online by having a consistent brand name across all platforms.

  • 17:54 Have an email address specifically for feedback. If you haven’t set up an email account for your podcast yet, there are a few ways to do that. I use Hover, but you can also get a custom email address with your Gmail account through Google Apps ($5/month).
  • 18:11 Create a call-in phone line. You can get a free number from Google Voice. Read out the number on your show and make sure it’s in plain sight on your podcast website (or wherever else you want people to see it).

Remind your listeners every episode to send in questions and feedback.

  • 19:42 Create content that is tailored for sharing. There’s a great post about viral content by Scott Adams that you should go read. I’m not suggesting your goal for everything you create should be for it to go viral, but these are interesting points to keep in mind when creating.
  • 23:21 Offer incentives for engagement. Create coffee mugs, stickers and tshirts and give them away when a listeners calls in or sends you a good question. It’s a nice thank you gesture (not cheap, though).
Building an Audience Takes Time
  • 23:44 Robert asked: If you’re listening to your audience to focus on topics that provide them value and you’re applying the four keys to building your audience, but you’re seeing a steady decline in page-views (for a blog) or downloads (for a podcast), what are some ideas for turning things around?
  • 24:33 Identify where your audience is spending most of their time. Are they on Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? Youtube? That’s where you need to be. You need to be listening to them and talking with them. Building an audience and creating a community is a two way street. You can’t just put something out there and wait for people to send you praise. You have to invest time in them, too.
  • 24:59 Also, are you sharing personal stories? There’s a fine line here; you should be open and vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean sharing every little detail about your life. Share details as they become relevant to your audience. Share them if they will be useful to your audience.
  • 25:19 Many people make a mistake by keeping their content too “business professional” and dry. It’s very stale and doesn’t have much life. Your podcast and content should be a little raw. It should feel real. You should imagine your audience as your friends. Open up to them. Be honest about the way you feel. Listen to their struggles and share yours.

Don’t get discouraged if your audience grows slowly. Sean McCabe likes to say show up everyday for two years. That’s how long it takes to start seeing results.

  • 26:25 You have to think about the long game. Are you creating a podcast that people will be able to listen to and enjoy years from now? That’s one of the keys to growing an audience.
  • 26:46 If you are creating content that is focused on latest news, you’re going to have a much harder time because there are so many other people already covering the same news (especially in tech). If you are wondering why your tech news podcast isn’t getting traction, it’s because there are podcasters out there who have been doing it better and longer than you have. Many of them were already internet-famous for something else they did (a blog, most likely). I’m not saying it’s impossible to build an audience around a news podcast, but it’s definitely an uphill climb, and one that defeats many people.
Podcasting is Still a Relatively New Medium – Get Started Now
  • 27:28 So many people haven’t discovered podcasts yet, but the number of people listening has been steadily rising over the past few years. When people find a show that they like, they often go back to the beginning and binge-listen to the whole catalog. If you get started now and produce great content, you will be in a great position in a couple of years.

Don’t focus on the number of listeners you have now, think about creating for all the people who will find your show in the future.

Q&A

  • 32:14 Sean Doran asked: If my podcast audience doesn’t give much feedback (even if we request it), how do I encourage more conversation?
  • 32:27 I think a lot of people are getting used to seeing questions like, “What do you think?” Getting a little more personal with your audience can help. Engage with them one-on-one. It’s more time consuming, but you’ll see better engagement if you talk to them directly. I really like talking to people on Twitter. I’ll share links to episodes I’ve created that can help solve a problem they’re having, or I’ll just have an organic conversation with them about things we have in common.