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There’s a question I get asked a lot, maybe more than any other question related to podcasting except, “Is the blue snowball mic ok?” No, it’s not. Don’t make me angry. The question is, “My podcast isn’t getting any traction. How long should I expect to wait before I start getting feedback? Should I quit if no one cares?”
If your podcast isn’t getting any traction or getting new listeners, I would take a long, hard look at a four things:
- How good is your content?
- Are you engaging with your audience?
- How good is your audio quality and delivery?
- Are you writing enough for your podcast episodes?
I don’t think “How can I get more listeners for my podcast?” is quite the right question. The question you should be asking yourself is, “How can I make my show better and more valuable for the audience I do have?” That’s what I’m going to share with you in this episode.
Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins:
- Be careful not to cover topics that are unrelated to the main topic of your show.
- You have to be a part of the conversation that is happening in your niche. This is how you know which content will resonate with your audience.
- Ask yourself why you’re making a podcast. Is it about you and what you get out of it, or is it about your audience and what they need and want?
- You have to be willing to dive deep into a topic and then share everything you’ve learned with your audience.
- Once you’ve got some good content published, ask your friends to help you promote the show.
- People don’t want mediocre. They don’t have time for anything but the greatest.
- Editing will make your podcast more enjoyable to listen to for your audience, which shows that you respect their time and attention.
- You’re putting on a show. Make it interesting. If you find something really interesting or exciting, put some fire into your voice!
- You will get more respect and more followers if you speak confidently. If you are going to build an audience, you need to be a leader, so learn how to talk like a leader.
- Stop thinking about yourself and your needs, and start thinking about ways that you can improve your podcast and make it a better experience for your audience.
1. How Good is Your Content?
- 3:31 Imagine your audience is asking you these questions:
- What am I going to know how to do better by the end of the episode?
- What problem is this episode going to solve for me?
- How is it going to make me better at x?
- 3:54 You should be able to answer these questions. I was joking around in the chat before the show. I said, “the way to grow your audience is to podcast about ways to grow your audience.” That’s pretty funny, right? But it totally works because I am trying to help people solve a legitimate problem that they are facing. I know my audience struggles with growing an audience because I pay attention to what people say online. So I want to ask you; do you know who your audience is? Do you know what they are struggling with? Are you making content that answers their questions?
- 4:36 How focused is your show? Are you talking about a single topic, or covering a bunch of different topics? I came across a podcast the other day that was about Star Wars comics. That’s freakin niche. Your show should be that focused. You need to be able to say, “this is who my audience is, and this show is for them.”
Be careful not to cover topics that are unrelated to the main topic of your show.
- 5:28 My show is about podcasting. If I were to talk a lot about podcasting but then also talk about my other passions (playing drums, or making a living as a musician), some people might still listen to it, but it wouldn’t be as effective and I would lose a lot of listeners who aren’t musicians or who aren’t interested in learning about how to make a living as a musician. Your show needs to be focused. If you really want to, make two different shows if you have two passions that you want to podcast about.
Is Your Content Unique?
- 6:04 Are you sharing your personal story, your voice? Do you have a unique perspective on your topics that you can share? I’m not saying you have to have experienced something that no one else has, but you need to be able to share your personal experience and knowledge, not just recite someone else’s.
Is your content educational or entertaining?
- 6:31 Hopefully it’s a little bit of both. Good delivery can make nearly any content interesting. If you can deliver something with passion and excitement (not fake), you can make otherwise boring content engaging to your audience. Think about how it is supposed to make people feel. How can you bring emotions into play? I’m going to talk more about delivery in a minute, but first I want to talk about why it’s important to talk with your audience regularly.
2. Are You Engaging with Your Audience?
- 7:20 If you haven’t heard it yet, go back and listen to episode 11: Three Ways to Create More Audience Engagement. The three things are:
- Make them feel like a part of the show.
- Talk with your audience regularly online.
- Make it easy for them to find you and get in touch.
- 7:58 If you aren’t having conversations with your audience and peers, you won’t have an understanding of what they’re struggling with or what they’re interested in hearing and learning about.
You have to be a part of the conversation that is happening in your niche. This is how you know which content will resonate with your audience.
- 8:17 If you don’t know who your audience is, you need to find out. If you try to reach everyone, you will reach no one. Narrow down your focus. Try to get 20,000 passionate fans in a very special niche rather than 2 million listeners who are only mildly interested in your show.
What is Your Motivation for Podcasting?
- 8:41 When you started your podcast, what were your motivations? Was it to build an audience? Why? What’s your end game? Was it sponsors? Are you just doing it to make money from selling ads?
- 9:01 I’m going to share my end game with you right now. Here’s a peek behind the curtain. Here’s what I wanted before I started:
- I wanted to learn more about podcasting. Podcasting about something is a great way to learn more about it.
- I wanted to become known as an expert, especially as it relates to podcasting and audio quality.
- I wanted to build an audience so eventually I could launch a successful online course(s).
- 9:51 Here are some things I discovered along the way:
- I really like writing and preparing for shows. The more I write, the more I like it.
- I’m getting better at speaking. This is affecting my life in unexpected ways. I feel more confident speaking in public.
- I’m enjoying being able to help people with my podcast and my writing. I’m building personal relationships with my audience.
- 10:25 People can smell motivation. I know that’s not how audio works, but I’m trying to make a point. If they sense that your heart isn’t in it, if you don’t have the right motivation, they’ll pick up on that and tune out.
Ask yourself why you’re making a podcast. Is it about you and what you get out of it, or is it about your audience and what they need and want?
- 10:53 If you are doing a show for your audience, they should know it. You should acknowledge them at the beginning of every show, and thank them at the end for listening. Focus on giving back. Be appreciative. Tell your listeners that you want to hear from them, ask them for feedback and questions. Mention them by name on your podcast. Tell their stories.
Are You Talking with Your Audience on Twitter or Instagram?
- 11:17 Talk with your audience online. Contribute meaningfully to the conversations in your niche. Go out and give people valuable information and answers even if they haven’t asked you directly. Show your appreciation for your audience publicly.
Are You Willing to Put in the Time to Become an Expert in Your Community?
- 11:48 I’m not talking about the seanwes community, although you should be a part of it (it’s a great place). I’m talking about YOUR community. Maybe you’re a part of the community of people who love playing DOTA 2. Maybe you’re a part of the community of people who are intensely passionate about Half Life, VR and Oculus. Maybe you’re a part of the web design community, or the hand-lettering community.
- 12:37 Who are the people who are well known in these communities? The people who speak up, teach what they know, and deliver value. They are the ones that are willing to talk about their passion any time day or night and they know more than most people because they nerd out on it constantly.
- 13:01 If you aren’t one of those people in your niche, you need to think long and hard about whether or not you really want to be. If you aren’t willing to put in the time to know more than 90% of your audience, people aren’t going to pay attention to you because you don’t know as much as someone else. You have to be willing to nerd out hard on a subject.
You have to be willing to dive deep into a topic and then share everything you’ve learned with your audience.
- 13:26 This doesn’t mean that you can’t have other hobbies or talk about other things. Dan Benjamin from 5by5 has a large audience because he has been running his podcast network since 2010 and has talked about it constantly. He loves podcasting. He loves everything related to podcasts. He nerds out about it, but he also talks about his past work as a programmer because those were jobs where he learned the skills that allowed him to build the content management system for 5by5.
Work Hard to Create Personal Connections With Your Audience
- 13:26 As a podcast host, you should have two goals. The first is providing value to your audience. The second is telling your story. You can tell your story over a long range of time, but you need to have some idea of what your story is. Telling your story gives your audience a chance to relate to you on a personal level, but there are two extremes here that you need to be careful to avoid.
- 15:02 The first extreme is sharing WAY too much about yourself. I’m a personal believer in being open, honest, and transparent, but it has to be in the right context. You have to share things that are relevant to the larger topic of your episode and your podcast in general. Just like you wouldn’t go up to a stranger and tell them about your money problems, you shouldn’t talk about your money problems when the topic of the show is How to Build a WordPress Site. However; if the topic of the show is How to Survive and Make Money as a Freelance Web Designer, it’s a great idea to talk about how you handle your finances.
- 15:48 Another example: if you’re talking about how to communicate with a client, you should share a story of a time when communication with a client went really, really wrong. You could also share a story about the time you had a funny exchange with your spouse, or a friend. Anything that relates to communication.
- 16:10 There’s a writer that I really like (Bob Lefsetz) who wrote this about sharing your personality with other people: Be yourself. We’re all individuals. That’s what attracts others to us, our uniqueness. Don’t try to imitate someone else, focus on your strengths and heighten them. Everyone can’t do everything. Don’t try to fit your square peg in a round hole. But your trapezoid will appeal, if you just let it shine.
- 17:04 The second extreme that you need to avoid is not sharing anything about yourself at all. The danger here is never telling any personal stories at all or giving your audience a sense of who you are as a person. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to tell your audience a 30-second version of your story at the beginning of every episode. Who are you? Why are you doing this podcast? What are your values? What do you stand for?
- 17:33 You might worry that sharing this information with people might turn some of them off, and you’re right. You’ll lose the wrong people. The right people will stay and be more engaged with your podcast.
How to Promote Your Podcast: Ask Your Friends for Help
- 17:54 The time may come when you need to ask your friends for a favor. This is why it’s important to always be giving and helping people; they’ll reciprocate when you have a genuine need.
Once you’ve got some good content published, ask your friends to help you promote the show.
- 18:17 After I had a few episodes published, I reached out to some of my friends (the ones with large audiences) over email and said, “Hey, I just started a new podcast about podcasting. If you know anyone who’d be interested, I’d greatly appreciate it if you shared it with them! Thanks!” This got me a mention on a podcast with almost 20,000 weekly listeners. I got a lot of traffic from that show.
- 19:00 Even if the people you ask don’t choose to share your show with their listeners, they may share your podcast the next time they come across someone who might benefit from listening to your show.
How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Like a Loser
- 19:22 Sean McCabe wrote a great blog post last week that he ended up turning into a podcast episode. He shared exactly how you can promote your thing without it feeling like promoting: Share something that’s actually valuable, and have that thing point to what you actually want people to see. Step 1: give value. Step 2: Ask. You must do things in the above order.
- Cory Miller said: You have to harness self-promotion correctly. If you say, “I did a thing”, nobody cares. If you say, “I made this for you, and this is what you can get out of it”, people will care and pay attention.
Above All, Be Nice
- 20:40 Be nice to people. They notice. I mentioned Bob Lefsetz earlier; he wrote something else I want to share with you here: Niceness triumphs. Although no one can be nice all the time. And sometimes you have to push back. But if you’ve got the option, be nice, people appreciate it. You can’t please everybody. It’s a phony concept that flames out. Be thankful you’ve got your group, your friends, your family, your fans. There are those who would appreciate you whom you’ve never met. Focus on meeting them, not those who don’t care.
3. How Good is Your Audio Quality and Delivery?
- 21:29 I’m going to make a bold statement here: the majority of podcast listeners no longer accept poor audio quality. Even if you don’t realize it, the audio quality of your show reflects on who you are as a person. If someone hears your show and it sounds poorly recorded and unedited, they are going to assume that you pay that same amount of attention and care to all the work you do. So remember; the quality of your show reflects on you.
People don’t want mediocre. They don’t have time for anything but the greatest.
- 22:22 The good news is that you don’t have to be the greatest at everything. Focus first on making your content great. If you have solid content, start looking at ways to improve your audio quality. Buy that nice mic or pre-processor. If you have a lot of room echo in your recordings because you have blank walls and hardwood floors in the room you record in, invest in some sound absorption panels.
- 22:54 If you have a nice mic – I define nice as the Shure SM7B or the Heil PR-40 – and you have your input gain levels set correctly (so you aren’t peaking) and you still aren’t happy with your sound, it’s time to get a nice preprocessor and learn about post-production, EQ, compression, and limiting. Check out my Youtube channel for tutorials about those things. You could also hire a podcast editor who knows all that stuff, if you’re busy too busy to invest the time to learn.
- 23:50 I found a great article by Casey Liss (from the Accidental Tech Podcast) about how they produce their show and why it’s so successful. It helps that two of the hosts were already famous from their previous work and podcasts, but in the article, Casey made a point that I want to highlight here. He said, “People ask what the magic is. The magic is giving a crap.”
- 24:53 Editing shows listeners that you care about their listening experience. Cut out where people talk over each other. Remove the background noises. Cut sections that are completely off topic, or have nothing to do with the focus of the show. Remove any super long pauses.
Editing will make your podcast more enjoyable to listen to for your audience, which shows that you respect their time and attention.
Delivery is Important
- 25:20 How good are you at talking? Talking is a skill. It’s not like the genes you got from your parents. You can change the way you talk. You could even teach yourself to mimic some of the great speakers. That might not be such a bad exercise, actually. Delivery is important. You need to be dynamic. You need to be engaging and even exciting if you can pull that off. It depends on your subject matter, of course. Depending on what you’re talking about, you could be intense. Passionate.
You’re putting on a show. Make it interesting. If you find something really interesting or exciting, put some fire into your voice!
- 26:21 Sounding bored is the fastest way to make your audience tune out. Why would they want to listen to someone who isn’t interested in what they’re podcasting about? They won’t. They’re going to go listen to someone else’s podcast. So be dynamic. Get fired up.
- 26:40 Stop using filler words. You guys know what I’m talking about. “Ummm….” and “you know”, and “ahhhhh”. There are a couple ways you can reduce the number of filler words you use. First, know your subject. Speak passionately about it. Writing can really help about this. The fact that I write a lot for my podcast is probably not a secret to most of you. I try to prepare at least 1500 words for each episode. Why? Because it makes me feel confident that I have good stuff to share. That doesn’t mean I never go off script. I just always have the detailed outline in front of me to help me with the structure of the show and to keep me moving forward if I get off track or lose my train of thought.
Practice speaking confidently.
- 27:42 You have to let go of that inner voice that tells you that you aren’t interesting and that no one cares what you have to say. Tell yourself this; I am smart, good looking, and people care about what I have to say. Say it to yourself until you start to believe it, because you will start to believe it. If you believe it, so will most other people. That’s how people are wired. If you speak confidently about something, most people will believe it’s true just because of the way you say it.
- 28:40 Start practicing speaking confidently. It will change the way you podcast but it will also change your life. People respond differently to confident people than they do to timid people.
You will get more respect and more followers if you speak confidently. If you are going to build an audience, you need to be a leader, so learn how to talk like a leader.
- 29:10 You can always be improving the way that you talk. Go back and listen to episode 9 if you’d like to hear me talk more about this subject.
4. Are You Writing Enough for Your Podcast Episodes?
- 29:23 I’m not just talking about preparing your show. I think everyone can benefit from writing in preparation for shows, but in this case, I’m talking about writing show notes (like this post, for example). Show notes can be huge for SEO. People will be able to share your written content with others. You’ll start showing up in search engine results if you have good headlines and titles. You can share the best takeaways from your show on social media which will help you get new listeners. If you can create graphics or video for your takeaways, that’s even better. People love visual content.
Cross Promoting Through Other Podcasts and Guests
- 31:34 Ryan Magner asked: How would you approach another (maybe more successful) podcast about some cross promotion? What about recording an episode to go on both podcast feeds?
- 31:55 Cross promotion like this can be really powerful, especially if this podcast has a similar community. Having guests on your show can get you in front of a new audience. I would just ask them. Send them an email and tell them why you’d like to have them on your show, and what you’d like to talk to them about. If they ask you questions about your show (audience size or download numbers), answer honestly. They may not be willing to come on your show right now, but at least now you’re on their radar. If you’re putting in the work to grow an audience, eventually you’ll have the reach that will convince other successful podcasters to come on your show. Just remember, it never hurts to ask.
The Long Game Mindset
- 33:55 This podcast you’re creating can be content you can point people to for a long time if you invest in it. Take the time to learn how make something that is really good. It’s going to take time to grow your audience, just like it takes time to develop skills. It’ll take years and years, so don’t quit in the first 50 episodes just because you aren’t as successful as some other podcaster.
Stop thinking about yourself and your needs, and start thinking about ways that you can improve your podcast and make it a better experience for your audience.
- 34:40 Stop thinking about the sponsor money that you would have if you could only make it to 10,000 weekly downloads. If you are focusing on the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. You should be podcasting because you love your topic and you want have a community around it. It should be something you are passionate about. The reward should be the doing and the relationships, not the money or the listener numbers.
- 35:08 Cory Miller asked: How do you develop your listeners into ambassadors? Serve your audience. Serve your community. Good things will start to happen if you do. That’s the rule of reciprocity. If you haven’t heard of the rule of reciprocity before, I highly recommend checking out Influence by Robert Cialdini . It’s a great book.
- 35:44 If you do the things I shared on today’s show and you show up for two years and you still aren’t getting any traction or growth, let’s talk. I’m serious. I want to hear from you if you have been podcasting consistently for two years and you still aren’t seeing any growth. Send me an email. I want to help.
- 39:05 Garrett asked: Have you done any offline promoting and if so what did/didn’t work? We talked a little more about this, and he’s asking about giving out t-shirts, stickers, flyers, and things like that. I haven’t ever done this, but I think it can be really effective if (for example) you go to a conference where your community is. If you do a podcast about drawing comics, go to Comic Con and talk with the artists there and tell them about your show.
- 41:35 Kyle Adams asked: How do you gauge the difference between sounding interesting or fake when it comes to speaking? It’s just something you have to practice a lot. Practice speaking confidently and projecting your voice. I wouldn’t worry too much about sounding fake, just focus on being dynamic.
- 43:44 Brookes Eggleston asked: What if the first 3 episodes of my Star Wars Podcast are terrible but the next 3 are classic and amazing? It takes time to get good at podcasting. Your show should improve over time. You may do episodes that you feel aren’t very good, and that’s ok. Learn from your mistakes and focus on doing it better next time.