Building Social Audio into your Podcast Strategy

by Sharon Taylor, SVP Podcast Strategy & Product Operations

Our Managing Director shares her thoughts on the medium and what it means for podcasting. 

How best to utilize this emerging medium and engage with your listeners in real-time. 

Within a year, Clubhouse, the exclusive social audio platform, has gone from being the darling of the app world with a valuation of $4B USD, to diminishing downloads and (seemingly) every other platform under the sun announcing a competitive offering. 

Spotify, for instance, has launched Greenroom (built off the back of the acquisition of sports-focused live audio app, Locker Room). Twitter launched Spaces back in May, Facebook is testing Audio Rooms in the US (along with a podcast offering with plans for expansion), and Reddit, LinkedIn and Discord have all signaled their intention to build out their own audio features — on apps and platforms that already have a strong and dedicated (read: not declining) daily active user base. 

Clubhouse certainly heralded the era of social audio. 

The question now for the podcast industry, is what do we do with it? 

Are we doomed? 

First up, let’s be clear that social audio does not mean the end of podcasting.  Far from it. In fact, social audio is furthering your ability to engage with your listeners in real-time. 

Steve Pratt made the argument for this better than our Managing Director, Sharon Taylor ever could, in his recent blog post. Podcasting has cemented its seat at the media table and whilst a handful of shows from hobbyist creators may end up finding a permanent home in this new environment, professional podcasters and enterprise publishers have little to fear. 

Some are saying that Clubhouse will become the YouTube of audio, which could disrupt podcasting. Well, to that we say there already is a YouTube for audio…. it’s called YouTube. And the people that want to watch or listen to podcasts (or other audio) on YouTube are doing that today. 

That’s the beauty of new social audio platforms and features, as well as more social media companies adding podcasts to their platforms — you aren’t cannibalizing your audience, you’re finding a new audience who may not have existed before. 

Expanding your podcast’s reach with social audio. 

Now that we’ve clarified that social audio isn’t going to bring about the demise of podcasting, how can you best utilize it to grow your audience and downloads? 

For us, first and foremost, social audio is about being able to engage with your listeners in real time. Think of it as an extension of the interactions you’re already (hopefully) having with your audience who happen to be fans or followers of you/your show on social media. The difference with social audio is that now you’re able to have a real-time, two-way dialogue with them. Want to get feedback on the show? Receive ideas for future topics or guests? Understand who your audience is? All possible with social audio. 

Not to mention the people who follow you on social media but aren’t podcast listeners today. Introduce them to your dulcet tones and teach them how to download your show on Apple, Spotify or wherever they want to get their podcasts (including Facebook as of this week. Who would have predicted that 5 years ago!). 

Ultimately, social audio will be a great tool for enhancing your existing podcast marketing strategy. Think about how you’re announcing show launches or promoting your podcast today. Now think about how that could change if you had a live audio channel available on platforms that reach almost 4 billion people worldwide! Radio Broadcasters have had an advantage in podcasting for a long time, because they have this huge megaphone with incredible reach. 

Is social audio podcasting’s megaphone? 

We’re loving the marketing tactics we’re seeing from some shows and networks already. Take Wondery, who are already starting to promote events on Clubhouse related to their core podcast offering. 

Starting up an “Ask Me Anything” style live audio room or a meet-and-greet with high-profile guests you’ve had on the show are two options to consider for either regular or ad-hoc social audio extensions for your show. You could also consider panel-style events and maybe even charge for them once that’s possible (side note: We’d  be shocked if this wasn’t something Spotify were already thinking about as part of a new subscription tier, or when negotiating those exclusive podcaster agreements with celebrities and prominent shows). The opportunities are vast and exciting. 

Real talk: this is going to be hard work. 

Excitement and opportunities aside, growing your audience and downloads is already hard work and realistically it’s going to keep being hard work despite these new tools being added to your toolbelt. 

It’s a misconception that an audience will simply stumble upon your podcast out of the 4 million available, and that’s the same for a social audio following. If you’re going to have a successful social audio strategy, you’ve got to put in the hard work. This is going to be more effort than simply running some Facebook ads or paying for promoted Tweets. But the payoff could be incredible. 

Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work straight away or if you see others with more success. All these platforms are going to be experimenting with what works for their users, follow their lead and don’t be scared to experiment either! 

And remember, people engage with each social media platform differently. Just like you need to tailor messaging promoting an episode differently today on Facebook vs LinkedIn vs Twitter etc, you should be thinking the same way when it comes to social audio. Engage with the right medium for the goal you’re trying to achieve and talk to them accordingly. 

The good news is that podcasters are already one step of the way there. Why? Because you’re great at talking. Leverage your skills as a conversationalist, lean on your marketing team and have fun! 

Happy podcasting, everyone!