Making a podcast is hard work... finding an audience for that podcast can be even harder!
The world of podcasting is a competitive space and no more so than in sport. A quick search of a simple term like "Football" in your favourite podcasting app will turn up a dizzying number of results and so finding the right ears in that crowded market can be tough.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to finding a podcast audience (unless you have very deep pockets) but there are some tips and tricks you can deploy to help along the way.
We asked some of the team behind Sports Social and the Sport Social Podcast Network for their advice on how to build and grow a podcast audience.
It takes time and commitment to create a great sports podcast but that effort is of no use if no one can hear you. If you put as much time and commitment into finding listeners and building your audience then you are giving yourself the best chance of success.
Neil Sloan - Content Director at Voiceworks.ai
Neil has worked in radio and audio for 20 years in a career spanning the BBC, commercial radio and independent production.
Find your niche... and be consistent.
Making sure your content is the best it can be is always going to be at the centre of any podcast's success. Interesting, well thought out and engaging audio is a must-have in any genre of podcasting. Sadly though, having a great show doesn't always mean you will have a successful show. However, from a content point of view, there are two key things to consider both before and after you launch your new sports show.
Firstly, does the world really need another podcast with 4 men talking about Manchester United with plenty of "banter" thrown in for good measure? Probably not. Even if you can deliver that content better than anyone else, unless you've got a headline-grabbing name (have you got Zlatan’s number?) involved you are unlikely to get much cut through. Here is where the power of the niche comes in. With podcasting, the more niche the product the more powerful the podcast can become. Whilst the appeal of a global fan base for “tennis" may seem appealing there can be real value in pinpointing who your audience is for and identifying an under-catered for the market. Not only will this help you find and market to a specific audience but it will help you shape your content and serve that audience in the best way possible. Having a very focused audience also helps you learn more about them, where they live, what they do, some platforms even tell you what other podcasts they listen to. This information can be really valuable when trying to monetise your show with a potential sponsor.
Post-launch, consistency is key! Releasing episodes in a scattergun, random way can not only be frustrating for an audience but it can also damage your podcast ranking. Even the most engaging, interesting podcast can get forgotten about by listeners if they are dropping two episodes one month and none the next. Building a routine into your publishing and listening habits can be key in building a regular and committed audience. Make your episode releases an "event" in your listeners lives rather than making them work to discover new episodes as and when you decide to drop them.
Sophie Hind - MD of Voiceworks
Sophie Hind has built a successful career working in strategic roles with some of the biggest media companies in the UK. Before joining Voiceworks, Sophie was the Regional Strategy Director at Global for nine years. Prior to this, Sophie also held roles at ITV, Jazz FM and Capital Radio Group.
Join a network!
There can be many benefits to joining a Podcast Network... and there are a few out there to choose from.
First off, if you are new to the world of Podcasting then having fellow content creators who have "been there and done that" can be a valuable sounding board for your ideas on everything from show features to new artwork.
It can also be a great way to market and grow individual shows under one umbrella, something we actively do on the Sport Social Podcast Network. Podcasting isn't as competitive as a media format as Radio and TV - shows rarely compete for ears so recommending and promoting what might be termed a "rival" show is very unlikely to impact your own audience figures.
By the same token, podcast networks can be a great way to source guests for your podcast and opportunities for you to guest on other shows. Inviting guests with good networks onto your show and appearing on other shows can both be great ways to grow your audience. The former means the guest is likely (and you can agree this first) to share their episode with their network of fans whilst the latter allows listeners to another podcast to sample a bit of you as a personality and may encourage them to find out more about your podcast... almost like a try before you buy!
Whilst guests can be friends, experts, or fellow network members. The golden egg is always going to be, particularly within sport, the athlete with the big, loyal following. If you are lucky enough to secure some time with the David Beckhams or LeBron James' or Brodie Retallick's of this world make sure you make the most of it. Not only do all you can to ensure they are willing to share the episode and any appropriate marketing material (maybe even create a mini-press kit) into their social media but also plan your own marketing using social media and episode teasers to maximise the impact your guest will have... there are some more tips on that from Marley later.
A good guest need not be a one-hit moment either. Keeping an eye on their activities can provide opportunities to re-post old episodes or even specific moments from those episodes, and benefit from the exposure all over again.
Jim Salveson - Head of Sport Social
Jim heads up the Sport Social project. He has spent 20 years making audio for a number of high profile brands including the BBC, Communicorp UK, Global Radio and Bauer Media and has been making podcasts since the early days of the iPod.
Learn the Dark Arts of Podcast SEO!
The magic formula to podcast discoverability is shrouded in mystery. The likes of Apple and Spotify remain the prominent way that listeners discover podcasts and it can feel like that without cracking the chart code or having a superstar host you are fighting a losing battle.
Whilst both those things do no doubt help discoverability there are a few tips and tricks you can also employ to give your show the best chance to reach a listener's ears.
Listen, Follow, Review: You will hear this on every podcast you listen to... guaranteed. Whilst these three simple instructions do help your podcast ranking (each one impacts your position on the charts by different extents AND helps you retain audience) the phrase has become so commonplace it has lost all meaning. Whilst offering incentives and prizes for reviews is forbidden by Apple Podcast's rules there are other things you can do to encourage people to take those actions. Think about how you can treat the topic creatively... Is there something you can do on the podcast that makes the reviews an interactive part of the show? Can you give people a specific reason to hit follow by teasing some brilliant content coming next week? Before just churning out "don't forget to subscribe" on your next show ask yourself what's in it for the listener?
Podcast SEO: You will have no doubt heard about Search Engine Optimisation. We are all familiar with how Google works and how it finds the best solution to your query - well podcasting works the same way. There is no way to cheat the system - you need to put in the hard yards - but you can give yourself the best chance of being found. Loading keywords into your podcast title and description can really help discoverability. If you have a show about horse racing but you call your podcast "The Track" you are missing a trick. The best approach with podcast titles is a Ronseal "Does what it says on the tin" tactic. Be explicit about what your show is and it'll make it much easier to be found (ie. The Track: A Horse Racing Podcast). The same goes for episode titles and descriptions. If your series is about a specific event in the sporting calendar make sure you are mentioning it in EVER show title on that topic and including it (and variations of it) in your podcast description and remember; the higher up the page the term the more important it is considered. If you want to take your podcast SEO seriously there are a few tools available that help you analyze and improve your SEO score.
Build a Webpage: In an ideal world, your podcast should have its own website and each episode of your podcast should have its own page with detailed descriptions, show notes and maybe even a transcript of that episode but in truth... who has the time?
There is no doubt that this approach helps people to discover your show via regular web search (again it's about SEO) and may even play a really important part in how search works in the future with the growth of "Voice First" but the effort and money involved in doing so can be prohibitive.
Some podcast networks (such as ours - The Sport Social Podcast Network) offer their podcasters a bespoke landing page where they can add show information, photos and help build that online presence. It won't have the same impact as building your own site but it does give you a searchable footprint on the world wide web!
Marley Anderson - Head of Social at Sport Social
Marley is our chief meme maker, podcast regular, and resident Newcastle fan. He’s been a social media manager for over five years, working for one of the world’s biggest social media companies before joining us as head of social media.
Social media can be a great tool when building a podcast audience - but I guess I would say that.
Just because you've made a new episode and stuck it on the usual channels doesn't mean that listeners are going to find you. Social media can be a great and effective tool in not only finding new fans but also reminding old ones that you are still active.
My most important piece of advice here is to make sure what you post is engaging. A simple tweet announcing a new episode and its content is fine but is unlikely to have much impact, especially in terms of engaging new listeners. At Sport Social, we use Audiograms (a short video enhanced audio clips) on a regular basis to give social media users browsing their timeline a taste of what our shows sound and feel like - it's a great way of enticing people to click "Listen".
Make sure you mix it up too. Social Media can be a tiring place if you are constantly being "Sold" things. Whilst it can be a really effective tool in driving listeners it can also be a great way to reinforce your own brand identity. Post about the world around your podcast, not just the world within it. This is particularly important in Sport podcasting where there is a constant dialogue around matches, events and games. Think about what you can do and how you can react to major news stories and think how you can position yourself as an important (and entertaining) voice in that market.
Remember, Social Media should be just that...social. It's not a one-way broadcast. Don't treat your channels as ONLY a way to shout about your latest show. Have a conversation with your followers, ask questions, get involved in debates. All these things will help generate a community amongst your followers/listeners and deepen their engagement. This will help lead to a loyal and passionate following - something that is massively appealing to potential sponsors.