Modern marketing requires storytelling tactics and a cross-channel approach that they didn't teach us in school. When I was a newbie content marketer, mostly writing blog posts and e-books, I never would have guessed that a podcast would one day be part of my job.
But if one thing's certain in digital marketing, it's that nothing stays the same. Two years ago, I launched our first marketing podcast for Salesforce, the Marketing Cloudcast. Since then, I've become a big believer in the potential of podcasting as part of a balanced marketing breakfast.
As host and producer of the Marketing Cloudcast, one of the questions I get asked the most is: how do I start my own podcast for marketing? Today on the Cloudcast, we're going meta — with a podcasting chat within a podcast — to answer that question. I’m talking with Brian Peters, host of the Science of Social Media, about the strategy and tactical side of launching a podcast for your business.
Listen to a preview of our conversation with Brian here:
Below are our top 10 ways you can craft a podcast that's perfect for your marketing goals. For more articles on this topic, check out:
Weekly podcasts seem simple enough: get some equipment, record some audio, and publish for free across Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Stitcher, and everywhere else people listen. But for many podcasters, they quickly learn that podcasting is a longer game than they realized — and initial success only leads to long-term success with a lot of work.
Brian says, "When you first start a podcast, in the first two weeks, Apple usually puts you on the new and noteworthy section. You'll get a big spike in downloads, and you'll probably have some great new listeners. The scary part is, that spike quickly declines over the next few weeks. And you're going to see a huge drop-off in listeners."
"The hardest part is the time and dedication it takes to get from when you dropped off in listeners to two years later, when you're finally starting to see returns on podcasting," he shares.
I definitely agree with Brian. With the Marketing Cloudcast, it took us about a year to really hit our stride in growth. Podcasting is a marketing strategy that requires a long-term commitment to actually see results.
As a brand, will your podcast ever earn an audience the size of This American Life or Serial? Probably not, and it's important to set expectations early on about goals. An engaged audience in your niche is much more valuable than double the casual listeners who unsubscribe after one or two episodes. Monetization is probably an unlikely goal for your show, as well.
Brian says, "The people who are actually making money on podcasts get millions of downloads — which I don't think is reasonable for brands to expect. It's definitely not a monetization tool."
So if podcasting isn't great for monetization (see #3), what is it good for? That's where the real magic of the audio format comes into play, explains Brian: "Podcasting is the most personal form of marketing available today. You're literally talking into someone's ear, every single week, about the specific industry or topic that they're interested in. I I can't think of another way [to reach people] that's more personal than that."
Your podcast hosts or speakers become recognizable to your audience, week after week. A podcast can help make a nameless and faceless brand feel real and human.
Downloading a podcast episode should only be step one in the journey. Create a podcast landing page and email list to keep subscribers engaged (and fueled with more content) after the episode ends.
You can ask podcast listeners to subscribe to your email list in the episode itself, on your landing page, and wherever you promote your podcast. The key is to keep the journey going. Get our 7 tips for creating a new email marketing campaign for more ideas.
Content marketing and social media are like peanut butter and jelly. Your best content goes absolutely nowhere if it's not enjoyed by an audience, and social media is a great tool to aid in discovery of your content by new people.
A podcast shouldn't live in a vacuum. You probably have guests, podcast supporters internally at your company, and eventually podcast superfans who can all help you spread the word about new podcast episodes. Make sure asking for social promotion is baked into your process, not an afterthought.
Brian and his team have had huge success in marketing their podcast through Facebook ads. Here's their trick: "We like to use Facebook ads to increase our iTunes downloads. I'll look at our numbers from the last six months or so of episode releases. I'll pick an episode that I think has the best chance to perform on social."
Then Brian will promote that episode to Facebook users only on iOS so he's sure to target only those on mobile devices. He explains, "That way, I'm guaranteeing that people who click on this ad will be directly placed into iTunes. And if they subscribe, then they get downloads of all our episodes. It's a snowball effect: if you get one new subscriber and you have 75 episodes, that's 75 downloads."
For more ideas, read about 3 advanced strategies to supercharge your Facebook ads.
Weekly podcasts are still the gold standard; many of the most popular podcasts on iTunes come out every week, or even multiple times a week. But seasons are another option to consider if you'd like to explore audio storytelling but you're not sure if you have time for a weekly show. Majorly popular shows like Serial, S-Town, and Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History produce content in seasons.
Brian advises, "Season-focused podcasts are a huge opportunity. With the release of iOS 11, you can directly categorize episodes in different seasons to help you better rank in iTunes. Previously if a season ended, iTunes thought, 'They stopped publishing episodes; let's push them down.' Now, iTunes knows that a season has ended and won't penalize a show for that."
For marketing purposes, you could consider building a season around a specific topic or a story, publishing as many episodes as the subject matter requires, and releasing a new season six months later on a new topic. This is a great way to test the podcasting waters without committing to a never-ending weekly show.
For the Marketing Cloudcast, I initially started with episodes that were anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes long. Then I tightened the format to 30 minutes, and this summer, I've actually kept most episodes to 22 minutes or less!
I've personally found that a shorter time limit forces you to put your best content first and delete everything that's not top-notch. Brian agrees: "The first example that comes to mind is Mike Rowe's The Way I Heard It. His episodes are eight to ten minutes. Short stories can be so good." Don't worry about filling a huge time slot. Focus on the best content first.
On most popular podcasts, you'll hear a few — or maybe a lot — of ads from sponsors. But that's not the right approach to take when you're developing your own podcast for marketing. Brian explains, "Podcasts are not for directly selling a product, with a caveat if you're running a sponsored ad through a podcast. If you're a brand and you're starting a podcast, do not try and sell your product.
Indeed, a podcast is not the right place for a hard-sell, unless you're the podcast sponsor. Brian continues, "I'm constantly surprised by how many businesses think they're being useful or entertaining when it's just a product push." Don't be one of those brands.
In new research about the rise of podcasting, it's clear that podcasts are only becoming more popular. In 2013, 9% of American women had listened to a podcast in the past month, compared to 21% in 2017; for men, it's 15% and 27%, respectively. With the right strategy and a realistic approach about the commitment required, podcasting can be an incredible tool for marketing. And it's best to learn it now, because the medium continues to capture more listeners' imaginations.
Brian says podcasting is in a similar stage today that blogging was in 2011: "Finding a blog back in 2011 was not easy, but now there's a great surge. Finding a podcast in 2017 is not easy. But I promise you that tools, tactics, and iTunes updates will change the game on how people will search and find podcasts."
So if you're looking for a way to test a more interactive and engaging content strategy in 2018, podcasting may just be the ticket.
Brian offers much more insight for making the most of audio storytelling in the full episode of the Marketing Cloudcast. Join the thousands of smart marketers who are Cloudcast subscribers on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, or Overcast.