“Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” To the old cliché it might be worth adding “number of internet downloads” because working out just how many people are consuming your content is the source of countless applications, rules of thumb, and the occasional touch of snake oil (yes, I still get pitched with measured “hits” in 2011). It gets even more interesting with podcasting.
Nobody likes to produce to an empty room, so how do you know if people are engaging with you? While most podcasters are going to have a blog (even if it’s just to power the RSS feeds for your show), there are some great strategies and ideas to discover your listeners and interact with them. Here are three, and feel free to add your own.
One of the important areas you have to remember is that people listening to your podcast are not likely to be next to their computer when they do listen, and if they are out and about they might not be in the best place to use a smartphone or tablet to carry out the action. So you need to make any call to action memorable and simple.
If you want something, ask for it. That’s a rule you want to remember here, because you want to get that listener interaction. The time honoured way is to offer some sort of inducement, and that’s why competitions should be considered. It doesn’t need to be a fantastic prize (unless you’ve got a sponsor who’d like to help out with that). An Amazon digital voucher is always a good place to start.
You could always combine the competition with a survey. Asking your audience a “question of the month” is a great format, and as well as engaging with them and starting a two-way conversation, any survey should always ask the basic demographic details of those taking part. Why? Because when you start to approach advertisers, they’ll really appreciate that kind of information (so make sure you tell people why you’re asking for the demographic data, be honest).
Finally, your podcast is just a file on the internet, so tracking downloads is a valid method. There are various plug-ins for blogging platforms that will help you do this, and some of them are tailored for use with podcasts. Personally I’m a fan of Blubrry’s service that’s wrapped up in their Powerpress plug-in for WordPress, but there are others out there you can use.
The flaw in relying on a counter is that downloads don’t necessarily mean listeners – go and check your podcast queue to see how many podcasts you have unplayed and you’ll see what I mean. That’s why the call to actions in your podcast are important. They may be reinforced with links on the show notes, but fundamentally they are discovered when people listen. Keep them simple, make them easy to remember (consider using a custom bit.ly link such as bit.ly/blogworld), and make sure to keep your own records on what works and what doesn’t – it’ll be different for every podcast audience!
Image: TwiT at MacWorld 2008″ cc Macinate / Flickr