Word of Mouth Is Not The Best Way To Get Your Podcast Off The Ground And Succeed in 2021 and Beyond

Word of Mouth Is Not The Best Way To Get Your Podcast Off The Ground And Succeed in 2021 and Beyond

Things New Podcasters Should of Taken Away From Podcast Movement 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee and Things They Should've Left Behind at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

I got to attend Podcast Movement 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee last week.  I sat in on many sessions which were helpful while others I had some issues with the information being shared.

I often say just because someone is on stage doesn't mean they're an expert.  Nor does it mean they are telling every side of the story.  This is just a general statement, as most people that presented at Podcast Movement have been in the industry for a while.

Podcast Movement has many new podcasters and those looking to start. I believe not telling them the full story will set them up to fail.

Partially True But More Of A Half Truth

One of the things that was mentioned and was reiterated was that the best way for a show to succeed and be discovered in 2021 was word of mouth.  Tom Webster SVP at Edison Research dropped this "knowledge bomb".  He presented a slide where many ways to get your show found were on a list like social, organic search, etc. and then put a big X through the slide.  Then said that word of mouth was the only was to succeed as a new podcaster, and would be really the main factor to have your podcast make it. Webster went on to say, "Why have my downloads hit a plateau? Because people stopped recommending your podcast." And spoke about how to make your show more recommendable. The downloads stopped because you stopped putting your show in front of your target audience.  Your show isn't going to put itself in front of your target audience. You have to go out there and do it through many different ways, and continuously be testing.

The following day Rob Walch VP of Podcaster Relations of Libsyn echoed this advice as well as basically trashing Anchor as being the graveyard of podcasts and reiterating several times that Anchor was a sort of wicked step child of the industry. 

Which I have a huge problem with being involved in the digital marketing space for 13 years and in the podcast space for 4 years.

If you are going to mention word of mouth, be actionable. Mention word of mouth marketing as well.

Word of mouth has a high conversion but it also needs an origin point.

Is word of mouth and having your podcast be recommended from one person to another a way out of the many ways to grow your show? Yes it is.  Is it the quickest or even the best way in doing so? I don't believe so.

Let Me Tell You Why That Doesn't Work

Word of mouth to me is you having people tell others about your podcast.

Word of mouth is word of mouth.  We're not making a fuzzy definition here. It's people telling other people about your show.  Defined as face-to-face communication between consumers regarding any product, brand or service (Arndt, 1967).

I do agree that being recommended by family or friends adds a higher degree of trust and buy in.

My argument is in most cases for word of mouth to work you need a trigger point.  A marketing channel or campaign that introduces a listener to your show.  They become hooked and rave to their immediate network of friends and family about it. The fastest way to set up word of mouth is to get people to find your show. Then if your show connects, they go out there and word of mouth is in play.

Organic Word of Mouth vs. Amplified Word of Mouth

So if you are going to tell people about word of mouth in the traditional sense you need to differentiate between amplified word of mouth as well. People use word of mouth when they are happy listeners and then become advocates for your show. Amplified word of mouth is when campaigns are launched to encourage and amplify word of mouth in existing or new audience segments.  As I mentioned amplified word of mouth in 2021 will speed up growth of your podcast.  That is what I think the speakers meant to say, but that has an origin point. And like I said there're more effective ways to get a net new listening audience. Once you do get them then they are likely to use word of mouth, but the first layer of attracting and hooking that listener is most times not initially word of mouth.

The Other Ways You Can Grow A Podcast Audience

Search Engine Optimization

Being found organically through search engines is one of the greatest ways to control your own destiny as a podcaster.

I always recommend having a dedicated website to cast a wider net.  With a website you can create a unique experience for listeners more so than any listener would get on any podcast player.  

Have an embedded player on the website, have a dedicated page per episode, add bonus content to supplement episodes like blogs, add a transcript, embed video, use imagery, provide bonuses for listeners, and much more.  

Creating organic traffic over time will keep casting a wider net, and have people interested in what your show is about be able to find your podcast.

If you don't have a website conduct keyword research to make your titles as searchable as possible and make use of show notes.

SEO takes time to build and their are 200-300 ranking factors in terms of onsite, offsite, and technical SEO.

Organic Social

Share your show in image and video format on social platforms where your audiences spend their time online. Social media is a great way to brand your show and engage with your audience. Use related and branded hashtags to amplify reach.  Test platforms with uncapped organic reach like TikTok and features like Instagram Reels.

Paid Social

If you have a budget, paid social can be a great way to grow your audience quickly. Some social platforms are more pricy than others. LinkedIn is great for b2b audiences and if you're targeting specific roles. Facebook and Instagram you can run via the same ad account.  With Facebook and the right targeting you can get significant growth for as little as $5 a day. Tanner Campbell does a good job explaining his $5 dollar of day Facebook strategy

Being a Guest On Other Podcasts

The other problem a podcast has many times is convincing a non podcast listener to become one, and to do so by your show being the first show they listen to.

That is why being a guest on other shows enables you to brand yourself as a personal brand, promote your podcast, and cross pollinating already existing podcast listeners.  By going on 80 shows in 2020 I attribute a lot of the growth I've seen in 2020 to being a guest.

At the end of the day every podcaster should first figure out who they're trying to reach.  Once people start listening look at your analytics to paint personas of who actually is listening. And once you figure that out, you reach those personas where they spend the majority of their time online.  Growing your audience is hard work.  Always test and always prioritize what works for your show best.