Marketing January 9, 2018 32 Reads share

3 Ways to Understand and Engage Your Podcast Audience

If you’re looking to grow your audience, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to do it than through podcasts.

Think about it: There’s a low barrier to entry — a microphone is all that’s needed because nearly every operating system on the planet comes with free recording tools. It’s also a powerful and intimate storytelling medium.

While they don’t get as much attention as TV or public radio, podcasts are a popular platform. And according to Edison Research, roughly 67 million Americans listen monthly, and 40 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to at least one podcast in their lives.

These numbers are a lot more powerful than they sound on the surface. Eighty-five percent of listeners consume the entire podcast — quite impressive considering Cision found the average podcast is more than 30 minutes long.

Some listeners are even willing to help pay the podcaster’s bills. The podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” for example, has a paying subscriber base of 10 percent of its overall listeners.

This type of engagement is a business owner’s dream. If everyone who visited your website read the entire thing and you had a 10 percent conversion rate, you’d be among your industry’s elite.

Of course, just because you create a podcast doesn’t mean you’re entitled to an engaged and dedicated audience. As with any medium, it takes solid production values and content that appeals to listeners. The only way to accomplish this is through quantifiable data.

Tracking Success in Podcasting

Finding the right data to track your podcast listeners wasn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Although they’ve been around for more than a decade, very little information is available to show statistics like breakdowns of who’s listening to which parts of what episodes. Apple’s podcast app hosts most podcasts, and it’s historically been a black box, providing publishers with very little insight into its audiences.

This is all starting to change, as the company promised over the summer to provide more transparent reporting of podcast statistics. The change is causing a plethora of analytic platforms to surface.

Soon, not only will you see how many subscribers you have and how many times each episode was downloaded, but you can also dig deeper into what your audience is paying attention to (and ignoring). These analytics platforms are only going to continue evolving to provide more detailed information.

For the time being, however, one of the best things we can do is compare episodes against each other to learn who our core audience is. Often the demographics of an audience are directly related to the episode’s content, even within the same podcast channel. A recent podcast my company marketed for a client, for example, saw major demographic shifts season to season based on the podcast’s subject matter.

This type of insight isn’t always provided by the iTunes ranking system, which is based on spikes of interest, the platform people are using, and more. In fact, many podcasters are still in the dark when it comes to exact audience data.

3 Ways to Keep an Eye on Your Podcast

If you already have a podcast up or are in the process of starting one, you’re going to need data to quantify your efforts. Upper management, sponsors, and even potential guests will all want to know the size of your audience as well as any other relevant information.

Follow a few steps to gather and accurately report this information:

#1. Build a persona of your target audience

It’s important to understand who your brand’s target audience is so you can cater to it. For example, if your customer persona is a male in his 30s listening on Spotify during his commute to and from work, you’ll want to cater to a young professional like him.

Consider implementing a microsite or webpage to gather this information if you don’t already know it. By hosting podcast content on the internet and tracking through Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, and the like, you’ll leverage powerful data analytics to discover more about your audience and its affinities.

Of course, this sampling may not always be an accurate representation of your actual podcast audience. The data can also be misread. To alleviate this, you’ll need a measurement plan.

#2. Develop a measurement plan

Podcast marketing is disorderly at best, and even those who find ways to gather audience data aren’t necessarily acting on it. It’s not always easy to jump in to, and historical data won’t be available for you at the start. Make do with what you have by documenting current listeners, subscribers, and download counts.

This acts as a foundation for measuring the success (or lack thereof) of each individual podcast episode. Are the numbers up or down from last week?

It’s also important to have this information on hand when looking for avenues to promote your podcast. With a measurement plan in place, you can optimize ad spend to the platforms that provide the highest conversion rates. Every tweak made to your podcast should be measured, and resulting audiences should be compared.

#3. Implement an amplification strategy

The final step to building and engaging a podcast audience is to determine how to promote it on larger channels. Influencer marketing is a big part of doing this, and you’ll want to research interested audiences for every subject your podcast takes on.

Ask yourself: Are there specific market sectors that would be interested in the content of your series or even an episode?

After identifying possibly interested industries, track down relevant influencers and direct your podcast right to them. If these influencers like what they hear and see, they’ll recommend you to friends, colleagues, and clients, which is the most powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing you can find.

Although podcasts are more closely related to radio talk shows than websites, you won’t find much data about their ratings. This can make it very difficult to know whether you’re truly reaching and retaining the audiences you want. With a few workarounds, however, you can make some educated guesstimates.

How do you measure and engage your podcast’s audience?

Mike Kapetanovic

Mike Kapetanovic

Mike Kapetanovic is the agency president for LMO, an independent, full-service marketing communications firm. An entrepreneurial executive with more than 10 years of experience, Kapetanovic’s work with LMO involves launching the first and second season of the critically acclaimed podcast from Malcolm Gladwell, “Revisionist History,” which reached No. 1 on iTunes. LMO also recently launched “The Frontline Dispatch,” PBS’s latest podcast.

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