How do you harness the power of your podcast community? | Podcasting | DW | 27.09.2023
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How do you harness the power of your podcast community?

Successful podcasters often have a devoted audience behind them. This listener community provides valuable input to a show and keeps producers’ motivation up. But communities don’t usually build themselves.

Think about what you want your podcast to accomplish. Should it change the world? Inform your community? Uncover wrongdoing? Explore a period of history? Nerd out about a superhero franchise? These can make great shows. But for any podcast to have real impact and staying power, you’ll need a community of listeners at your back. They provide input, motivation and can turn words spoken into a microphone into real action for good in the world. As history has shown, there’s real power in community, especially in the podcasting world.

This community can be a strong and loyal group that supports you both psychologically ("Hey, I loved that last show!" or "you guys are great!"), and perhaps even financially. Members might even take inspiration from your show and go out to take positive action where they live.

But how do you harness that power? There are a few things to think about, such as what makes someone feel invested in a particular show and what the reasons are that they’re willing to give it a regular slot in their busy schedules. Of course, the quality of your content is paramount, that goes without saying. But producers also have to put thought and effort into engaging their listeners.

Community engagement means using your podcast to develop a relationship with listeners that stirs up their minds, emotions and behaviors. It often doesn’t happen on its own, and below are a few tips to help you get started. You’ll see, once you’ve harnessed the power of community, you can do good, or even great, things.

Get to know your audience and what they want

Remember again that to build an audience, you need to ask what need or want your podcast is satisfying. To know that, you have to know who your audience is. What sort of topics interest them? What questions do they have about them? What problems could your show help them solve? Then think about your niche and be specific. It’s pretty rare that a podcast made for everyone garners a huge audience. Once your podcast is up and running, you can also test your assumptions by running surveys, holding meet-ups and just getting the audience’s take on things on social media.

Stay in close touch with your listeners

Work on building an engaged community by seeking out and valuing listener feedback. Get your audience to actively participate in your show. You can do this through social media, email, or voicemail. Point listeners to a Facebook post about that episode to answer a question, discuss the topic, or share feedback. Ask listeners to send voice messages. Find out what they liked, what they weren’t so crazy about, and what kind of content they’re interested in going forward.

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PumaPodcast brought listeners of its guitar podcast together for a jam session

Involve listeners in content creation and planning

So, you’re getting feedback, now is the time to incorporate those listener questions, comments, and suggestions into your episodes. Pose the questions they ask your guests or play them their recorded questions and let your guests answer directly. The audience can even help guide what topics you cover and what guests you invite. In this way, you create a sense of collaboration—your listeners feel they’ve got a real link to the show. They get invested. Of course, it’s still your podcast and you have final creative control, but your audience becomes "consultants" in a way.

Create emotional involvement and commitment

Our favorite shows become our favorites often because they make us feel connected to a larger group of like-minded people. Think of Carl Javier from PumaPodcast and his show for guitar players during the pandemic. Through that, his listeners were able to join a community of listeners who also share a love of the guitar. They shared a common set of interests, built up a history together by listening to the podcasts (they got the in-jokes), and even got together and made friends with other listeners. These people are in it for the long haul.

Inspire the audience to take action

Calls to action are always important and getting listeners to do something in the real world after they’ve listened to your show strengthens connections. That action may involve leaving a review on a platform or writing you directly telling them what their take is on something you talked about. It might be something bigger. Say you have a show on climate change, and you ask your listeners to share something they’ve done to help the environment. If they do, you’ve created positive change, which is probably one of your biggest goals.

Reward core communities with extra benefits

If your podcast has a good-sized audience, you can start looking at ways to take your show to them in new ways, outside the download. Maybe you create a private community for your audience, especially for those who support you financially. For example, you may create a social media group for selected listeners to join to talk about your podcast topics, ask questions, and engage with other listeners or maybe even guests. Just make sure that the group is aimed at helping members, not just promoting your business or podcast. Many podcasts offer additional content for paying listeners or offer ad-free podcasts to them.

Schedule live events

You can also take your show on the road or in the local community space. Live events are often very popular. Seeing your favorite podcast hosts do a show in person and even talking to them one-on-one before or after it can create a lasting bond. PumaPodcast does live events, including concerts, and these have resulted in friendships forming among listeners who didn’t know each other before. That’s a good thing. Think about how you can turn event attendees into active participants. Let attendees ask questions or even get on stage behind the mic.

These require some organization and perhaps resources (venue rental, equipment, etc.), but try teaming up with other podcasts in your area and have a small festival, sharing the costs.

Stay consistent

You’ve heard about podfading, the dwindling and eventually dying of a podcast, and you want to avoid that. Even if motivation wanes, remember that it takes time to build up an audience and create bonds. Engagement starts happening when listeners come to anticipate your content, so that means you’ve got to show up! Your goal is to become part of someone’s routine. For example, maybe they go for a run every morning and especially look forward to Fridays because they know your podcast will be waiting in their feed. Consistency promotes engagement. Stay with it!

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