One Hidden Gem to Increase Podcast Engagement with ZERO Budget
When I started Feisworld Podcast in 2014, I knew very little about audio production, but I did know a thing or two about growing an audience (thanks to 12 years of working as a digital producer).
In recent conversations with other podcasters, I casually unveiled a tactic I’ve been using since the inception of Feisworld to increase my podcast awareness and engagement.
Most people have not heard of me, and I love interviewing unsung heroes, "getting the word out" isn't trivial.
I hate gimmicks, and growing downloads alone didn't appeal to me. This approach below is for those who of you who want to grow your podcast in the long run. There's no quick fix.
The one pre-requisite is that you need to have guests on the show to maximize impacts.
Alternatively, if you are a one-man show but you discuss other people and topics, I can see some methods work in the same manner. Give them a shot and please let me know your feedback below in the comments area.
What’s the one hidden gem? Simple:
You need to proactively reach out to organizations, schools, groups, people and TELL them about the episode when it comes out.
What’s uniquely awesome about this approach? You have full control over how you want to execute each and every step, and you have a good chance to significantly increase engagement for your show.
This is also different than relying on your podcast guests' network. Sure, if your guest has a large audience and offers to share your episode with them, always say yes (and thank you). However, in cases where they don’t have much leverage, this article will help you signal your content and build an audience that didn't exist before.
1. Organizations your guests are associated/affiliated with
One of our guests, Ajit George, is the Director of Operations at Shanti Bhawan. Ajit has his own Facebook and Twitter account (@ajitgeorgeSB 1,326 followers) but he’s also affiliated with Shanti Bhawan (@ShantiBhavan, 3,539 followers). Simply by tagging both accounts when I shared my episode on Twitter, it was re-tweeted and shared a combined 5,000 people.
Shanti Bhawan is a not-for-profit organization. Though it doesn’t have a massive following on social media, the engagements I’ve witnessed have been intimate and authentic.
Another example is from an interview we conducted with Dr. Vicki Jackson, Chief of Palliative Care and Dr. David Ryan, Chief of Oncology at Mass General Hospital (MGH).
On the day our episode was released, I sent a tweet tagging MGH General News (@MassGeneralNews), the official Twitter handle for the hospital with nearly 40,000 followers. I didn’t expect MGH to share the episode with their audience but they did! In addition, MGH Cancer Center (@MGHCancerCenter, 3,430 followers) also retweeted our episode.
Official Twitter handles and Facebook pages for established organizations often will not share your episode directly. But it’s still worth a try! Even if they don’t share your episode, there’s a good chance that they will Like or Comment on your Tweet, which helps increase awareness for your show.
Don’t forget those hashtags either!
In addition to your episode’s URL, Twitter handles, don't forget to include hashtags which connect people with common interests.
Worried about too many characters for a single tweet? Good news - Twitter officially expanded its character count to 280 as of November 2017.
Prior to this change, I struggled quite a bit trying to fit everything in. Don't be like me! You aren’t constrained to write only a single tweet per episode. In fact, if you could construct several variations of the same tweet. That is yet another tactic to increase engagement.
For example, if somehow I’m unable to include both @MassGeneralNews and @MGHCancerCenter in the same tweet, I’ll break them up into two tweets.
Though with the character increase, I don’t see much difficulty in having multiple Twitter handles, additional text and hashtags. With that said, keeping your tweets relatively short and digestible is recommended.
Booster #1: Tweet template?!@#%
I learned this trick from Dorie Clark. When Dorie launched her books, she sent out a simple word doc to all the podcasters, bloggers who interviewed her and it included a series of well-written tweets. It was a no-brainer! I could use them directly and construct multiple tweets. Brilliant!
Booster #2: Share your episode more than once
This is a trivial method, yet many podcasters overlook.
After I interviewed Jonathan Bingham, the CEO of Janeiro Digital, they continued to tweet our episode over a period of several months. Although their followers are quite limited, the engagement was off the chart. Jonathan’s episode remained to be a popular episode for a quite some time.
2. Other Organizations and People Who May Be Interested In Your Guest Or Your Content
Instead of only limiting your outreach to organizations your guests are associated/affiliated with, you can take it to another level by connecting with those who you think may be interested in listening.
Tagging and reaching out to people you are already connected with will yield a high engagement. For example, after I interviewed Helen Chong about being a working mom after giving births to three young children, so many young mothers I’m friends with listened to the episode and share invaluable feedback. Several of them became "ambassadors" of the episode and enthusiastically shared with their connections.
If you decide to reach out a Third Party organization, you’ll need to curate a message (can be short and sweet) and let them know why they should listen and how they can benefit from the content. Sounds like work? No doubt. But you can build relationships in the process and connect with a wider audience. Those I choose to connect with as a result of Feisworld Podcast remain to be my active LinkedIn contacts, even if they aren’t subscribers to the show.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups are fantastic tools to connect people with similar interests, root for same causes, graduated from the same schools.
I interviewed a few people from my altMBA cohorts in 2017, including Gustavo Serafini and Angela Akinyemi. I decided to post those episodes in the altMBA’s alumni Facebook group of just about 1,600 people. The members engaged with the posts right away because my guests' names are relevant and recognizable.
Another example is with Lisa Leffert, whom I interviewed on a much earlier episode. Lisa is a physician at Mass General Hospital and a graduate from Newton North High School many years ago. After posting her episode in the rather big NNHS Facebook Group (5,000 members), several of her classmates commented right away and they were thrilled to learn her whereabouts.
If you were to share your episode inside a much larger group (5,000, 10,000 or more), chances are that engagement will likely decrease, unless you give people a clear reason and purpose to listen to the episode.
4. Discover and Comment on Already-Popularized Content Related to Your Content
BJ Miller’s episode is still one of my favorites of all time on Feisworld. Long before BJ was invited to join me, he had already appeared on Ted Talk, Oprah, and other major channels. His Ted Talk has 6.5M views (as of Dec 2017). So I decided to leave a comment on YouTube and engaged with several people there. I also found the official Ted Talk page where BJ’s recording was hosted and left a comment to inform others that BJ had just appeared on a new podcast.
These simple acts drove significant engagement. I'm not sure why this was successful, but I assume it was because Ted Talk and most TV interviews are short, BJ’s followers were eager to learn more about him via the format of a podcast and long-form conversations.
Not all popular/influential people will necessarily drive engagement
The challenge with people who are well-know is that they already appeared on too many shows and podcasts. I call them "over-exposed".
BJ Miller, for instance, has appeared on a dozen other incredibly popular shows such as Tim Ferriss and On Being before he was interviewed on Feisworld. If you search for "BJ Miller interview" on Google, Feisworld appears in #4, right after Tim Ferriss’ content, followed by NPR and On Being. Not bad! However, in most other cases, my episode could easily be pushed way down on Google search (if you don't include "feisworld" and [guest name] as keywords).
I have practiced these methods detailed above with zero budget since the launch of Feisworld. Have I always been disciplined enough to go after every potential audience for every episode? Of course not. But it helps tremendously to have these tricks in the bag and use them appropriately to grow your engagement.
Podcasting is emotional labor and really hard work. Once an episode is launched, don't hide it! You must do everything you can with the time you have to celebrate and share with others. There's no shame in that.
What are your thoughts? Do you find this article helpful? If you have found other ways to grow your show steadily and effectively, please share them in the comments.