Podcasting is no longer this hot new thing that only a handful of geeks are taking part in on the weekends. It’s become a distribution method of choice for hundreds of thousands of shows produced by a variety of sources including home hobbyists and multinational corporations. Even old media is starting come around to podcasting as an acceptable platform for content distribution. So how do you stand out from the crowd? What sets your podcast apart from the dozens of others out there?
It’s hard for a podcast about technology to stand out because there are thousands of shows on the Web right now covering that very topic. Just do an iTunes podcast search for the phrase “Windows” or “MMO” and you’ll see what I mean. Broad niches are a tough sell these days. If you wanted to get ahead in that market, you needed a lot of money and a very early start.
There is still room for podcasts that tackle smaller niches. These small topics can range from specific games like Guild Wars 2 or Spore to specific technologies like robotics or headphones. Being specific means establishing yourself as an expert in your field and grabbing a larger portion of a smaller audience. Even podcasts about something like He-Man will still enable you to grab an audience of tens of thousands (or even millions) of He-Man fans around the world. Think about specifics and your podcast will stand out. The broader you are, the more competition you have.
Your show is a lot like a street entertainer in Times Square. If you’re standing in a spot with five other entertainers at arm’s length, you’re almost guaranteed to walk away at the end if the day with few (if any) tips. If you move over to a spot where you and maybe one other person is standing, you can grab more attention. Even if fewer people are walking past that particular area, you’re still making a better connection with your potential audience than you would in a crowded environment.
Gimmicks are a double-edged sword. If your show is too full of gimmicks, you may come across as campy. If you have a few features or quirks that only your show can boast, it’ll be more memorable and perhaps more appealing to the often jaded audience.
Remember, the world is full of content today. More content is being put online every 48 hours than in the entire history of mankind leading up to the 1990s. That’s a huge amount of information, and sometimes having that one minor detail can make all the difference.
Chris Pirillo, LockerGnome’s founder, has established a name for himself through his distinctive home office and sense of humor. It could be said that the clocks behind him in most of his videos are part of an overall gimmick. His occasional excited outbursts can also be considered a gimmick, even though they are really an extension of his own personality.
Personality is absolutely vital, and a memorable presence will make all the difference in the world for your show.
Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but it could also hurt your chances of standing out. If you use other shows to describe your show, you’re failing to be original. The first question I ask anyone that expresses their interest in making a podcast is what their show is about. If their answer starts with, “Well, it’s like Diggnation and TWiT combined with…” they’ve already lost me, and may very well have lost their potential audience.
Be original. Your show should borrow from basic broadcasting techniques, but when you start asking yourself what Chris Pirillo or Patrick Norton would do, you’re giving more of your originality away. The host’s personality should be the center point by which the entire show is designed. If you nail that, you stand a much better chance of success.
Does your audience know who you are? Do you connect with them individually through social media? That’s important, and it’s becoming part of a larger theme among businesses. Customer service isn’t just for services or product companies, it’s for media too.
Old media is about building fourth walls. New media thrives on breaking that fourth wall down and extending a hand to the audience. Just by reaching out and leaving a comment or answering a few questions with a personal touch, you stand to convert a passive audience member into an active advocate for you and your show.
Felicia Day, a creative force behind hit Web series like The Guild has built a business out of not only creating quality content, but taking an active role in audience interaction. This was accomplished by doing more than pushing notifications and announcements through social media. It meant a lot of retweets, Google+ Shares, and back-and-forth in comment threads across the Web. Felicia Day has recurring roles on a number of hit TV shows, and an entire network of Web shows featuring celebrities and newcomers in the media industry alike. That empire wasn’t built in a day, but it was built through simple audience interaction tools that everyone has access to.
Call to Actions
Sometimes, it isn’t what you say but what your audience says that makes the biggest difference in your numbers. A call to action at the beginning, middle, or end of your show can keep your audience engaged well after the episode has ended. Even old media has caught up with this tip by featuring clever hashtags in the lower-left corner of the screen during the broadcast. This encourages audience members to share their excitement over whatever it is, and connect with other fans of the series. This type of call to action is easy to do, and it works in pre-recorded and live situations alike.
Keep in mind that calls to action intended for giant audiences should be different from the ones that you use when you have an audience of a dozen. If you have a large audience, it’s easy for them to find one-another and spread the word about your show. If you have a dozen people in the audience, a lack of response or action from the other 11 members can be discouraging. When you’re just starting out, the previous tip about being personal is the best call to action you can have.
Ask folks to join you for a chat after the show. Answer questions and encourage feedback in an open forum where the public can see your responses. This allows you to keep your small seed followers and encourage their followers to tune in. The result, a pyramid of growth that you can manage and scale.
Contests and giveaways are great, but you shouldn’t expect quality followers out of it. Typically, giveaways do little more than bring in hordes of people who care only about the giveaway and will forget your show after applying. If you do giveaways, make it something that would really appeal to a fan of the show. Perhaps a prop or item that was used in the making of the podcast.
With these tips, you should be able to help bring your podcast out of the shadows and into the light. Some of these tips are easy to implement, while others might require a rethinking of your show. Keep in mind that gradual change is recommended if you already have an established audience, but ultimately change is important to any podcast’s continued success.
What about you? Do you podcast? Tell us about your show and what you do to help it stand out from the masses.
Woman Singing Along by Petr Kratochvil