“How do I grow my podcast?”
This question, in some form or another, has been asked by almost every podcaster across the world. Everyone’s motivations are different – you can want to grow to further your message, or to monetize, or to get big enough to be invited as a guest to different events – but question remains the same. How do you grow a podcast?
What if we told you that instead of asking, “How do I grow my podcast?” you should be asking, “How do I retain the listeners that I already have?”
Welcome to Audience Retention 101, podcasters.
What is Audience Retention?
Like it says on the tin, audience retention is how much of your audience you’re retaining over the course of your podcast. For example, if you have 100 listeners during episode 1, and 75 of those listeners come back for episode 2, you have a 75% retention rate for your podcast.
We even have a nifty graph that shows this in your Podbean dashboard!
So think of audience retention as your core audience.
Wouldn’t gaining more listeners be better?
You’re not wrong! A key part of growing your podcast is discovery, where new listeners find your podcast. That’s where a good chunk of your promotion and marketing come into play – you want new listeners to find your podcast.
let’s look a little deeper. Let’s say that each week, you are discovered by 100 new listeners, who each listen to your latest episode 1 time. That’s 100 downloads/week right there, right?
But if you’re not retaining those new listeners – just getting 100 new listeners each week – then you’re essentially broadcasting to a new audience each week. You’re not building a community, you’re not forging any kind of connection with the people tuning in to a single episode, you’re not building any trust with your audience.
Let’s turn it around. Let’s say that you’re getting discovered each week by those same 100 listeners, and you’re retaining 50% of those listeners. That’s 50 listeners tuning in week after week from episode 1. They know your references, they know your podcasting style, and you’ve built up a level of trust with these listeners. This is your core audience, who you can forge connections with, and who will most likely spread your podcast to their friends and family.
Retained listeners are dedicated listeners! They’re the ones recommending podcasts on Twitter, and leaving reviews on Apple Podcasts, and buying your merchandise. These listeners are also the ones that are going to be promoting via word of mouth to friends, family, and anyone who asks them what they’re listening to lately. So by increasing your audience retention, you’re also creating new avenues of discoverability for your podcast.
3 Steps to Improve Audience Retention
1. The First 30 Seconds
The first 30 seconds of your podcast are the most important.
Seems like just a blip in time, doesn’t it? you know how long 30 seconds can be when you’re recording. if you don’t catch your listeners’ attention in that first 30 seconds, that’s when they’re more likely to click away than stick with the episode.
Think about all the shows that start with cold opens and dive right into the meat of everything instead of opening with their title sequence. That’s because if you can catch your audience in the first chunk of action, you’re more likely to keep their attention for the rest of the episode.
So go through your podcast. What do the first 30 seconds sound like? Do you dive right into your intro? Do you open with housekeeping things like news or updates from the previous episode?
Think about your favorite podcasts, and what type of hooks they use in the first 30 seconds of their podcast. See what you can apply to your podcast, and experiment with different styles.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some suggestions:
- Ask an in-depth question that gets answered later in the episode
- Share a quick clip of something funny or engaging that a guest says
- Open with a brief clip of your favorite part
2. Keep Up The Pace
We all know the phrase “slow and steady wins the race” right? Because it still rings true here. If you want to build further trust with your listeners, you know them to see that you’re true to the schedule that you set for yourself.
So if you’re going to upload weekly on Wednesdays? You need to make sure that you’re dedicated to posting every Wednesday. Do your listeners expect your episodes every other Monday? Stick to every other Monday!
When you’re making a schedule, take into consideration how long your episodes are in length, and how long they take to produce. There’s nothing wrong with starting with an extended work cycle and decreasing your turn around to post more often, but if you start slacking and break the schedule you’ve set up, your listeners will lose trust in you.
Build up your audience retention by building up the trust your listeners have in you. Build up the trust they have in you by sticking to a schedule that works best for your production cycle.
3. Cut The Fluff
Okay. I am speaking to you from across the interwebs. I am holding your hand. We are in this together.
This is the moment where you ask yourself, “How engaging is my podcast? Are there spots where the chat starts to straggle, or where my guest and I go off-topic? Are there spots that I think are boring if I listen back to them?”
If that’s the case, you may have to cut those parts bestie.
This is one of those tips where it’s very nebulous, because there’s no surefire method of cutting the sagging parts of a podcast episode. What’s a boring moment in one podcast could be the highlight of another podcast episode. But identifying those parts that might make a listener click off of your episode is one of the surefire ways to increase your audience retention.
So like above, go back to your favorite podcasts. Figure out how they pace their shows and how they edit their episodes, and mimic it in your own content. Ask some trusted podcasting fellows their opinion on it, and see what they think. It’s going to take some time to get going, but it’s definitely worth doing.
A final note: your mileage may vary
Improving your audience retention isn’t going to happen overnight. (Something something about the length of time it took to build Rome.) The tips above are starting points; considerations to take when it comes to your podcast and the ways it can improve. You’re not supposed to do everything at once, or do everything perfectly from the get-go. And if something doesn’t work? It’s quite fine to choose another path!
Curious about what other obstacles to avoid with your podcast? Check out our top 3 podcasting pitfalls!