Once you’ve started a podcast, how do you build your audience?
To answer this question, we asked 5 successful podcasters in the Patreon community. Some of them earn over $1,000 per episode; others have listeners in the tens of thousands.
So… where did all that support come from?
As you’ll see below, for these podcasters, their #1 strategy for bringing in listeners was finding influential, entertaining guests to be on their show.
They also shared with us how they used other strategies to grow their audiences.
Each of these strategies led to larger audiences, better funding, and higher engagement for the creators we interviewed.
Read on to see their best tips…
(Note: If you’re looking to monetize your podcast, sign up for Patreon.)
Daily Tech News is a wildly successful podcast that rakes in just shy of $20,000/mo from Patreon supporters. Its fans tune in for the insightful, unbiased commentary on new tech.
The show’s host, Tom Merritt, has produced over 3,000 episodes.
Tom said, “One of the best ways I’ve found to build a podcast is to have guests and to be a guest.”
When you’re a guest on another podcast, you help the host by giving them additional content to engage their audience. Do a good job and you’ll attract their fans to your show.
Likewise, guests—will promote their appearance on your show to their audience—bringing them straight to your podcast.
“Have guests and be a guest.” – Tom Merritt of Daily Tech News
Ultimately, “that will expose you to new audiences and add cool perspectives to your show,” he added.
Look for people who are influencers in the eyes of your audience. This guide can help you get up to a 60% response rate from your outreach efforts, even from the biggest names in your market.
Tom also recommends asking for reviews on iTunes. “The star rating will boost your discoverability,” he explained, making your podcast more attractive to mobile listeners.
Take action**:** Research 4-5 potential guests for your podcast and invite them to be featured on an episode.
Jonathan Oakes, host of The Trivial Warfare Podcast, has a highly engaged community for his entertaining topic: pub trivia showdowns. But his audience didn’t spring forth ready to engage—Jonathan put in the time to nurture real connections with people who would enjoy his podcast.
He believes that you have to “get involved in the communities that are related to your topic, both online and in person.”
But, he warns, there’s a difference between honest engagement and spamming. Don’t just post a link to your podcast in dozens of Facebook groups. Spend some time getting to know the people there. When the time is right, introduce your podcast naturally.
“If you earn your stripes,” he said, “the folks you’re talking to will be much more likely to accept and share your message.”
“Get involved in the communities that are related to your topic, both online and in person.” – Jonathan Oakes of The Trivial Warfare Podcast
When he started his podcast, asking for audience participation was “like shouting in a soundproof room.”
Then, he decided to create a fan club. When fans could be featured as “fan of the week,” they were motivated to start interacting.
Once you’ve established an engaged community, no matter how large, don’t wait to start a Facebook group. Jonathan’s Facebook group is one of the many reasons his community stays engaged and loyal, and it’s a great place to learn what his fans want.
Overall, he says that facilitating a “connection to other people with similar interests” is a powerful motivator that fans can’t get anywhere else.
Take action: Identify 2-3 communities, online or otherwise, where your target audience spends time. Get to know them and nurture a relationship before sharing your podcast with them.
Veronica Belmont co-hosts Sword & Laser, a podcast for science fiction and fantasy fans, with Tom Merritt of Tech News Daily. It’s a book club on steroids, with podcasts featuring new work, fun facts, and occasional silliness for Patreon rewards.
Thanks to their loyal audience, they pull in over $1,000 per episode.
While one of their main promotional strategies is to go on other shows, they also have plenty of options for guests: authors love to be featured on the podcast to talk about their work. Both activities drive high view counts and bring in new fans.
Veronica found that an active forum** is a great way to keep fans coming back**. “It keeps the conversations going long after the episode has aired,” she said.
Fans enjoy chatting about each episode and other topics on the forum. By engaging in the forum themselves, Veronica and Tom bring extra value for fans who stick around.
“Having an active forum really builds a great community and keeps the conversations going long after each episode has aired.” – Veronica Belmont of Sword & Laser.
In addition, they feature a different audience-generated segment in each episode. It gives Sword & Laser more content while giving fans some ownership over the material.
Veronica says that “it makes the audience feel like they’re an important part of the show, which is absolutely true.”
By keeping their fans well engaged, Sword & Laser ensures continued listenership.
Take action: Start an online forum where fans can discuss your podcasts and offer ideas for future episodes.
It’s Super Effective is a Pokémon centered podcast that pulls in over $1,500/month on Patreon and has reached the #1 spot on Apple’s list of most downloaded video game podcasts more than once.
Steve Black, Jr., (SBJ) says they also regularly bring guests on the show. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match with your whole audience—just some part of it.
“For example, we had a very big, family-friendly YouTuber on our show who was a friend of a friend that enjoyed our content,” he explained. Their respective audiences had enough overlap that the episode was a success.
“It’s very important to stick to a consistent schedule, especially when you’re just starting.” – SBJ of It’s Super Effective
Something SBJ emphasized was that it’s easier to promote and grow a podcast when you take your time to do it the right way.
“It’s very important to stick to a consistent schedule,” he said. That increases your respectability and allows fans to make listening to your podcast a habit.
In addition, he says that you should edit your show to respect your audience and their time. Raw audio files won’t attract the attention and respect that edited podcasts can and do.
Upgrading from ‘good enough’ to ‘really something’ will help you hook new visitors.
Take action: If you do one episode a week, release the episode on the same day and time every week so that fans know when to expect your work.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a podcast run by David Bar Kirtley, who uses science fiction as a backdrop for exploring interesting theories and important ideas. The show has been running since 2010 and has an audience of over 10,000 listeners.
Much of the show’s** traction came from partnerships with websites that already had an audience**. “We partnered with Tor.com, then io9.com, and then Wired.com,” he said.
They scored those partnerships by emailing people they knew until something stuck. It also helped them score guest appearances from famous names in the science and science fiction community, like George R. R. Martin (of ‘Game of Thrones’) and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“I think it’s a good idea in the beginning to score interviews with some big-name guests, which gives the show credibility and can help to hook people’s interest,” he explained.
“Though after a while, I think that you start to reach a point of diminishing returns with big-name guests. After that, it’s just about trying to create a show that people will want to share with their friends.”
David thinks you should “treat your show like it’s the most important thing in the world” if you want people to take it seriously. He thinks many podcasters sell themselves short when asked about their work.
“Partnerships definitely helped expose us to a new, large audience.” – David Bar Kirtley of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
If you make it clear you’re dedicated and serious about making an amazing podcast, the fans will follow.
Take action: Find established websites with an audience that would care about your work, and pitch a partnership with your podcast.
(Note: If you’re looking to monetize your podcast, sign up for Patreon.)