Podcasts are an incredible platform when it comes to sharing your message with the world. With a few clicks of your mouse you can distribute content you’re passionate about to every corner of the world instantaneously. Many podcasters stop there though, and they’re making a huge mistake. In order for your podcast to grow exponentially and get a steady-stream of new listeners, you have to build a community around your message.
When you’re able to create a thriving community around your podcast, you’ll have passionate fans that spread your message like wildfire. They’ll rave about you every opportunity they get and help you reach new listeners. You’ll also feel more confident that you’re making the difference you set out to make in the first place. When you first started your podcast, chances are you had a vision for how you wanted to impact people’s lives (I know I did). It’s inside of a thriving community that you get to have conversations with your listeners and hear first-hand how you’ve helped them, and that’s an incredible feeling.
However, if you aren’t able to build a strong community around your podcast, your listeners will remain passive and unengaged. They may continue to listen to your show, but unless you give them a reason to stay they’ll move on when they find other podcasts to listen to. Also, unless you’re able to communicate with the people that consume your podcast on a regular basis, you can’t be sure that you’re making a difference in their lives. It’s possible you are, but unless you can talk to your listeners there’s no way to know for sure.
So now that you’re convinced of the importance of building a community, how do you do it? Let’s jump into four powerful strategies that will turn your casual listeners into raving fans.
1. Have a water cooler
In traditional office jobs, the water cooler represents the place you could go to talk about the latest news or office gossip. It’s a place where you can interact with your coworkers without talking about work and chat about whatever it is you want to chat about. In order to build a community around your podcast, you’ll need to establish a place online where people can gather to talk about your podcast.
Your online water cooler should consist of the following:
- 2-way communication
- Easy to find and get access to
- You’re able to moderate the conversation
There are many ways you can do this, but the one place that checks all the boxes is starting a public Facebook group. Groups are different than Pages because anyone can make a post, increasing the odds that your listeners will begin engaging in conversations with each other. Think about your Facebook page like a billboard along the highway – great for blasting out headlines and information, poor at stimulating dialogue.
Everyone and their mom has a Facebook page (even their grandmothers at this point). Most of your listeners spend time every day on social media, so it’s not a huge inconvenience for them to hop into your group on a consistent basis. This checks the ease of access box.
When you create your Facebook group you have the ability to designate different roles in the group. As a group Administrator (and as the creator of the podcast) you get to set the house rules. Will you allow profanity? Will you permit self-promotion posts? Do you encourage spirited debates or not? The group is your house, make the house rules you think are appropriate for your audience. It doesn’t have to be the Wild West inside your group, and indeed that often backfires when one group member hijacks the conversation in a negative way.
2. Turn your fans into podcast celebrities
“Mom! I’m on TV!” This slogan captures the feeling of exhilaration and validation someone feels when they become famous. People dream about having their moment to shine, their opportunity to receive recognition from the world around them.
I recently had a friend go on the show “Family Feud” hosted by Steve Harvey. How did I know? He wouldn’t stop talking about it. His Facebook feed was a never-ending stream of posts detailing his experience, when the show would air, and how you could watch his appearance on television. Believe it or not, you can have this same effect on your listeners when you include them in your podcast.
One way to incorporate fans into your episodes is by reading reviews that people leave in Apple Podcasts. It says “Thank You” to everyone who takes the time to leave a review and is an easy way to encourage others to leave reviews as well. Apple is still the behemoth of podcast listening, and the more reviews your podcast receives the more likely someone browsing the app will decide to give you a listen.
The other way to incorporate fans into your episodes is by answering their questions. “Fan Friday” episodes, where you devote the entire episode to including and answering questions from your fans, lets your listeners become a part of the show. It lets them know that you care about them and want them to be a part of making the podcast better.
Give shout-outs to specific listeners on your podcast and watch as those people become evangelists for you.
3. Name your tribe
Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Country boy or city slicker? Apple or Android? We’re always looking for ways to express who we are to the rest of the world. We choose clothes that send a message about what’s important to us. We eat at restaurants that sustainably source their food to communicate that we care about the environment. We even drive fancy cars so people know we’ve made it.
By creating a unique identity for people that listen to your podcast, you’re giving them another way of expressing themselves to the world around them. Are you a part of Team Flynn? Chances are you listen to Pat Flynn’s podcast and identify with the things he espouses, being able to generate passive income and live a life that you love. Are you a member of Vayner Nation? There’s good chance you watch Gary Vaynerchuk and aspire to be an entrepreneur like he is.
Think about something fun, aspirational, and inspiring that you can call your listeners. Give them something to rally around and provide a sense of belonging to the people who follow you.
4. The Make-a-Wish experience
The Make-a-Wish foundation is a non-profit group that gives children with terminal illnesses a life changing experience at no cost to them. Always wanted to go to Disney World but can’t afford it? Make-a-wish will send you and your family to meet Mickey Mouse and the gang.
A very popular option is to hang out with your favorite celebrity for the day. Recently I watched a YouTube video where a boy with cancer spent the entire day with Casey Neistat, an extremely popular YouTuber. To this boy, that day was the equivalent of winning the lottery.
When you spend quality time with your fans on a one-on-one basis you can achieve a similar effect. Use a video conferencing tool like Skype or Zoom.us to talk with them face to face and hear their stories. Ask them how they found your podcast, what they like and don’t like about it, and what problems they are currently facing in their lives that relate to your podcast. These conversations will give you insight into how your podcast can better serve your listeners and make the other person feel like a million bucks.
Why do people ask to take pictures with celebrities they see out on the street? It’s exciting to meet someone famous in person. You are a celebrity to your listeners. They listen to you week in and week out and think you’re a really big deal. Taking the time to talk to them makes them feel like they just met Brad Pitt and inspires them to share their experience with their friends and family.
As you review each of these strategies and decide which ones you want to implement, commit to implementing them long term. Sustainable growth and engagement takes time, but the payoff is well worth it.
Imagine how you’ll feel engaging with your podcast listeners on a daily basis. Imagine the gratification of hearing how you’ve impacted their lives and discover new ways to serve them with your content. Build a thriving community around your podcast and watch as people begin to spread your message like wildfire, helping you reach people you never could have reached on your own.
Travis Albritton is the host of “The Practical Christian Podcast” and creator of unlockyourgifts.org, a website that provides every day Christians with practical ministry training. Subscribe to his podcast and join his podcast Facebook group to see how he implements these strategies for his audience.