What makes a successful podcast

We’re working with companies and helping them either with podcasts that they are currently doing or don’t have a podcast yet want to start one. Here are some tips that I’d give somebody on what makes a successful podcast.

I love to geek out on numbers. Late last year, I looked at what I call branded podcasts; it’s a company that is doing a podcast, not like Tim Ferriss, not like This American Life. It’s literally: this company is producing a podcast, ostensibly to make money in some way. I looked at their most successful podcasts over a year and then came up with a couple of trends that I’ll share with you. 

But before I do that, the first thing that we always talk about with our clients is: There’s a world in which you produce a podcast that gets trivial listens, and yet it spawns this content marketing empire that makes 1000 times more valuable content than what you pay for it. If you produce a podcast and follow the script that we’re teaching people, maybe you find out that your Instagram videos are the massive thing attracting customers. Maybe the blog posts that result are really what wins. More often, we find that each of these adds value. You get Likes and Views on YouTube and Twitter, and – in aggregate – there’s this massive thing. 

When we looked at their stats, one of our clients said that the podcast listeners represented only 5% of the community engagement. The other 95% came from all the micro-content. So the first thing that we always teach people is: It is a podcast but don’t focus too much on the podcast. Realize all of this stuff that comes along with it. And that’s not even including the qualitative stuff, like building relationships. So there’s a way of expanding a network through this. 

Back to the trends, the first thing is consistency. On average, the top podcasts have 189 episodes produced, which translates weekly to 4.2 times a month. So they’re very consistent, and it’s similar to investing. Compound interest is what makes investing powerful. It’s the same thing of producing content week-in and week-out that grows an audience over time. There are graveyards full of brands that started a podcast and did it for 10 episodes, and then they moved on to the next thing. So you have to be in it for the long haul.

The second thing is that it has to be tangential. By that, I mean that a lot of the companies we work with, they’re like, “this is what our company does; we want to do a show about that.” Again, it’s rewinding to the ideal customer persona. But, I guarantee that no matter what you’re selling to them, they don’t care. You can’t just sell them directly. The average top branded podcast produces 44 minutes of content, of which they talked about the company for 11 seconds. You have to think about how crazy that is all the time and energy building this. But it would be – for me: “this is this podcast brought to you by Captivate.ai, we turn your webinar into three months of social media content.” Back to adding value. However, it’s always the opposite. Companies want to really focus on the brand, but it’s a light touch. It gives value, builds a relationship over time. 

The third one is that it has to be an interview format. One of the two reasons why you have to do an interview format – which all of these top branded podcasts do, by the way – it’s impossible to do otherwise. If you’re producing content week-in and week-out, and you have to come up with content, you’re not going to get past five or 10 episodes. That’s why I started with Beyond the Uniform interviewing people because I don’t have this knowledge. I can’t come up with it. But I can ask questions. That’s pretty easy. 

The second thing of why you have to do an interview format, which really leads to growth, is: if you have a guest on the show 20% chance – it’s not too high – but 20% chance they will share your content with their audience, and that’s where growth comes. For Captivate.ai, the content is about the guest. We want to make the guest feel like a rockstar. Part of the reason is, they’re going to be more likely to share that video snippet or image quote or whatever because I’ve just made them look like they’re a celebrity.

The last thing that I’d say is that if you go back to my first 50 episodes, they’re garbage. It’s like anything. But, you get better over time. Podcasting is a great medium that’s very forgiving to try and start. Just like investing in your Roth IRA, you want to start as soon as possible to get those reps, to get those episodes in, and to get that content library behind you. 

Podcasts have so much gold here. You can turn them into video snippets and images and all sorts of things if you want to do one step further. For most of our clients, we advise them to start now with something live. If your audience is on Instagram, do Instagram Live, turn it into a podcast, and then micro-content. Because again, you’re getting more touchpoints. You might get a couple of 100 people who watched Instagram Live or LinkedIn live or Facebook Live or whatever else. If you’re doing it already, rack up the view counts, rack up the interaction. Some people will watch it live and never listen to the podcast, and vice versa, but you want to maximize that impact.

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