Creating a podcast is simple. Just record on your iPhone and upload it to one of the many podcast aggregator apps and you’re done. Boom! You have a live podcast episode.
However, anyone who has created a podcast also knows that creating a quality podcast is time consuming and a labor of love. Editing your podcast episodes is tedious work. You have to listen to your entire episode multiple times to understand where the breaks are, where you want to add voice over or when you need to edit out the “ums and ahhs” of your natural speech. It’s taken me almost eight hours to record, edit, and publish a 45-minute episode. It’s likely longer for a serious professional.
If you’re going to take great lengths to record and edit a podcast, you should want to spend a reasonable amount of time promoting your podcast too. If you build it, they will come, only applies to Hollywood movies. For everyone else, you need to roll up your sleeves and work on getting new listeners.
In a previous post, I discussed “Six free tactics to get your first 100 podcast subscribers.” Today we’re going to review whether or not you should invest in paid ads to build your podcast audience.
Five Considerations Before Starting Paid Advertising
For the purpose of this article, I’m talking about paid, self-service channels like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I’m leaving out podcast ad reads, sponsored articles, and any influencer related posts.
Like any financial investment, it’s not wise to jump inl without doing the necessary research. Would you buy a stock without knowing anything about the company? No. Nor should you invest money into paid advertising without proper research. Here are five basic questions you should be asking yourself before pulling the trigger with paid advertising.
What’s Your Paid Acquisition Strategy?
Everything you do needs a strategy. There needs to be a reason why you do anything. The format, length, audience, content of your podcast all has strategy behind it, whether you explicitly wrote it out or not.
For paid advertising, you should be more deliberate with your strategy. Are you trying to drive awareness with people who have never heard of your podcast? Are you trying to get existing listeners or website visitors to sign up for your newsletter? What your goal is will help dictate your strategy, which will impact which channels you want to invest in.
What’s Your Budget?
One of the more critical questions you’ll need to ask yourself. Everyone Googles a variation of “How much money should I invest in paid ads?” hoping to get a magic bullet answer. That’s never the case. Even at big media agencies, there is no magic number. But what they do consider is the budget and how can the best maximize the budget based on client goals.
Ask yourself how much you want to spend? Or how much are you comfortable spending. You can always do a quick test for $20, but what is that really going to tell you? If you really want to get serious about paid advertising, you need to pre-set a budget and work backwards. Make sure your budget is large enough for one month (minimum).
One month will give you enough time to get reasonable results to build learnings from. A three day experiment won’t be long enough unless you have a massive budget and get tens of thousands of results in a short amount of time. But the reality is that all outcomes of your advertising won’t show impact within one month of going live. If you can give yourself three months, you’ll be more successful.
What Are Your Desired/Expected Outcomes?
This goes back to your overall strategy. What are you trying to accomplish? Your strategy will dictate your key performance indicators (KPIs) and whether or not your ads are successful. If you’re looking at building your audience base with people who have never heard of your podcast, website traffic and listens are a good first step. If you want to build loyalty tracking the number of email subscribers or reviews on your podcast are good KPIs.
Whatever you may be looking for, state it clearly. You’ll need to take this into consideration when you’re setting up your ads on the different platforms. Different ad channels and ad formats will help you achieve different KPIs.
What Channel Are You Going to Use?
There are a handful of channels that are easy to get up and running within a few minutes. But each channel has different purposes. Again, this will go back to your overall strategy.
Facebook/Instagram – These are really good for top funnel awareness. Their greatest asset is helping you reach as many people as possible for a relatively low cost. Yes, you can use these channels for remarketing and conversions, but in general awareness is one of their strongest attributes.
Pinterest – Pinterest might be overlooked for its paid advertising capabilities, but since they’ve gone public, they’re doubling their efforts in this area. Pinterest is definitely a great discovery channel organically. You should consider it as one of your paid channels as well. It’s great for awareness and will only get better as Pinterest’s ad products become more robust.
Google Adwords – Google ads are best for specific intent. When people are making searches, they’re looking for answers. Your ads should be answering specific questions that compel the user to click. If not, your ads will be viewed as less valuable in the eyes of Google’s algorithm and your ads won’t appear in searches. Google Adwords can also be used for retargeting purposes, like after someone visits your site and you want them to sign up for your newsletter.
YouTube Ads – YouTube ads can be extremely effective at building your brand and driving top level traffic. You can also use them as part of your consideration phase as people become familiar with you. But YouTube ads have more investment when it comes to creating the content. If you are complementing your podcast with YouTube clips or uploading the entire interview on YouTube, then you should strongly consider using YouTube in your marketing mix.
Twitter Ads – The best part about Twitter ads is that they’re pay for performance. If you get no clicks, you don’t get charged. This will help keep your costs down. But Twitter’s targeting isn’t as robust as Facebook or Google and depending on where you live, they might not be as widely used. You should consider Twitter, but I would not prioritize them unless you have pre-existing data showing you get a lot of interest from Twitter.
What’s Your Hypothesis and How Are You Going To Test it?
Lastly, you’ll need a hypothesis whenever you start investing in paid ads. Your hypothesis will dictate what kind of ad creative and targeting you come up with.
Unlike TV commercials, digital ads can be quickly edited. You can pause or stop advertising anytime you want. This gives you the power to test your creatives and targeting in a fluid manner. So when you start your ads, you need a hypothesis and pre-determine what you’re testing and what will make it a success.
Your ad creative can be anything but it will be useless if it doesn’t connect with the audience you’re targeting, the channel you’re on, and how it connects to your podcast messaging. If you’re trying to build awareness with people who have never heard of your podcast, a simple ad with your logo and podcast name aren’t detailed enough. You need to give the audience a reason to click and listen.
You could test something like the basic premise of the podcast as ad copy and you could test it against a single guest’s quote with a call to action to listen for more insights. Maybe you want to test your basic podcast premise with different audiences to see who the messaging really resonates with. Either way, you need to know what to test.
The Bottom Line
Using paid advertising to build your podcast audience may seem like a no-brainer decision. It’s not. Take into account these five considerations before using paid advertising to promote your podcast. It’s going to be a journey with a lot of trial and error to find what works for you. In another post we’ll go deeper into these sections to really understand how you can use paid ads to promote your podcast effectively.