Gaining listeners by marketing your podcast: a key ingredient in Radiotopia and RadioPublic’s recipe for success

Gaining listeners by marketing your podcast

If you are serious about your podcast’s continued growth, you need to be serious about podcast marketing. The primary goal of podcast marketing boils down to one thing: getting potential fans tuned into your show, loving what you’ve lovingly made.

The method most frequently recommended to increase your listener base is to advertise on other podcasts. While it is a proven tactic, this is a limited and costly approach and does not necessarily increase the total number of people listening to podcasts. Instead, we are looking to places where future listeners run wild and free, with time they didn’t know could be joyously filled with your podcast.

Lessons learned: digital and social media podcast marketing tips in partnership with Radiotopia

We ran a series of Facebook social media campaigns working across Radiotopia’s brand-new summer 2018 releases. The main takeaways are around goal-setting, targeting, budgeting, visuals, and writing.

Goals guide you.

Every marketing campaign begins with a set of questions.

  • What’s special that you want to draw attention to? Why is this the time to do it?
    • The start of a new miniseries or the launch of a new season is a natural opportunity because there’s a time span built in. Other opportunities could be a specific guest or a topic that fits into a broader national or international conversation.
  • Ideally, who should be paying attention? Where can you best reach them?
    • As much as you might want your answer to be “Everyone!”, specificity is your friend here. If your podcast hits all the right notes with your ideal listener, they’ll hear it and know it was for them. The “it was made for ME” feeling it inspires is a motivation for them to pass it on, as a piece of themselves and of their social footprint.
  • How will we know we succeeded in drawing attention to this? How will we measure it?
    • These could be quantitative (we had X number of listeners) or qualitative (we got feedback from X number of people and it aligned with what we wanted people to gain from listening). Whether you’re going for hard numbers or anecdotes, you need to know ahead of time to know where to seek out these results and how you’ll be collecting this information.
  • What is the budget? Where will you spend it?
    • It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be something. Even a hundred dollars can go a long way to bringing new listeners to your podcast.
  • What is the timespan of this campaign?
    • This depends on the breadth of your campaign. Generally, a rule of thirds is good here: whatever the span of the public-facing part of your campaign, give yourself that same amount of time on either side to plan and then, to collect and reflect.

The first two questions are best asked in the earliest part of your campaign planning: as you are making the episodes of your podcast you’ll be putting concentrated marketing energy (and money) toward. Creating your podcast with this ear toward what stands out makes you listen differently: what can stand on its own as a hook to entice someone to listen, that is representative of the story you’re telling or the conversation you’re sharing? An incredible quote or sequence of expository action can easily go from components of the overall story to pieces of your marketing campaign. The overarching reasons for making the episode are integral to answering why you’re doing this campaign now, for these episodes.

To run a successful ad campaign, you need to know know the goal of the ad, and by extension, your ad’s call to action. While running social media campaigns, Radiotopia’s calls to action are to encourage people to listen to the audiogram, or to have the largest reach, or to drive the most clicks.

Social media campaigns frequently focus on driving clicks. For the summer campaign, the calls to action focused on clicks that sent more people to the Radiotopia website to track engagement or to RadioPublic to track downloads in the app and on the web. Ultimately, the goal is to drive podcast downloads with these ads. Yes, listening to the clip on Facebook is an important form of engagement, but the desire was for new listeners to listen to the whole episode, and to subscribe to the show. New listeners are more likely to listen longer if driven to a place where they can listen longer–on our site, and more importantly, in a listening app.

Targeting makes or breaks a digital media marketing campaign.

We can’t stress enough the importance of social targeting for our social media marketing campaigns. Should your ad target podcast fans or new listeners? How big should the audience for an ad be? Should you target Android devices, iOS devices, or both? All of these targets help us hone in on a very specific audience, which hopefully means that the ads we run are likely to be the best fit for the new listeners we’re hoping to find.

For the Everything Is Alive campaign, we wanted to test which target audience would drive more downloads: people who were fans of improv comedy shows like Upright Citizens Brigade or people who were fans of entertaining TV shows and movies like Portlandia or Adult Swim.

For this specific test we targeted people who first identified as fans of podcasts, in addition to the custom inputs. Why? We previously ran tests to try to reach people outside of the existing podcast fandom, but have understandably received the most clicks and downloads when targeting people who already are familiar with podcasts. (For a new-to-podcasts download campaign, we’d be looking at a different goal, targeting, and creative.)

From this test, we were able to determine that the stronger target was the improv comedy target, which drove 62% of the downloads. Additionally, we learned that the improv comedy target continued downloading episodes weeks after the campaign was concluded, as opposed the Entertainment listeners who only downloaded episodes during the campaign.

Be smart about about your budget.

As with every budget, spending wisely is key. You don’t want spend too quickly, but you don’t a campaign running for too long. For Radiotopia, we tend to run campaigns for about the duration of a week (5-7 days) because we want to make sure each ad has a big enough daily budget to drive meaningful results. If the budget for the campaign overall is $100 total, then your daily budget would be close to $14.

How did we learn that a week is a good run for a campaign? For our Ear Hustle marketing campaign, we ran an ad for one week, and then ran it again for closer to two weeks using the same total budget. The results were clear: the one week ad performed better with three of our measurements: link clicks, on-site engagement, and podcast downloads.


One campaign that ran for one week at $100.

Two campaigns that ran for two weeks at $50 per campaign.

Ensure you have compelling creative.

A successful paid social post has a lot of components. In particular, eye-catching images or videos helps build intrigue and interest. Lately, Radiotopia has been using more audiograms which allow people to see an image and hear a clip of the show at the same time, and we’ve used photos and original art in the past, too.


This audiogram for Ear Hustle brings co-hosts Nigel and Earlonne into view as you listen to the clip.

Words are everything.

The words you use with your ads make a huge difference: they push a potential listener into actual listener territory. For the Everything Is Alive test, the copy was extremely important. The artwork was static throughout the audiogram, so what was said had to grab people instead. We described the show: “Hear tender, compelling, unscripted interviews with everyday objects” and then said it straight: “It’s totally weird and you’ll want to listen.” (Doesn’t that make you want to listen, too?)


This ad outperformed every Everything is Alive ad we ran with all forms of measurement, and the copy was the reason why.

Our biggest podcast marketing secret: look outside of podcast audio ads for other methods to grow your listenership. That means looking inward first, to find the inner strength (as well as time and money) to project your show into the world through other marketing outlets.

While it can difficult to take a step back and out from the production process to think about audience growth, especially when you’re occupied with the day-to-day making your show, it’s all part of the path of success. That’s why we propose thinking about marketing campaigns. Given the targeted and time-constrained nature of a campaign, it’s a good way to dive into marketing head-first in a focused way, especially because what’s going to make it great is the content of your show.

With a measurable goal, a target audience, and compelling creative, you’re well on your way to a sound marketing campaign. With Sonar Podcast Marketing™, now you, too, can learn from your promotional efforts. Get started today.

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