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Audience-building lessons from my experience as a podcaster, Part 2

Eleanor Beaton

This is the second missive in a 3 part series I created on audience-building lessons I have learned from my experience as a podcaster.

You can and should also read Part 1.

I call Insight #2 “Never Break the Bond.”

When you are starting out as a podcaster, you have no real audience. Therefore, you do not have a bond with your non-existent audience.

One commonly-used strategy to grow a podcast is to interview guests who have audiences and ask those guests to share their interview with their people.

Early on I used this strategy and it helped me grow a big and loyal podcast following.

When I looked at my stats in those early days, my interviews would nearly always get more downloads than my solo shows. That’s because both my guests and I promoted the show. My guests brought me audience members, and I gave them valuable exposure too. A win-win situation that continues to this day.

Then something funny happened, around episode 80 or so. My solo episodes started getting roughly the same amount of downloads as my interview episodes.

By episode 150, my solo episodes got MORE downloads.

Indeed, whenever I grill listeners of my show, Power + Presence + Position on what they like about the show, they tell me the same thing over and over: your solo episodes. Turns out, while many of my listeners listen to every show, there is a segment of my audience who will only listen to my solo episodes.

This puzzled me, so I looked into it (by following the 3 step process I lay out below).

Early on in my podcasting career, I established the foundation of the bond I have with my listeners…that I am a provider of focused, practical and actionable insight.

My solo shows get more downloads because I have control over the content, and carefully structure the show to deliver insight in a focused and practical way.

My interview shows tend to be more story-based. They are far-reaching conversations about other women’s experiences. For a listener, I was, in some cases breaking the tacit agreement I had with my listeners to be a provider of focused, practical and actionable insight. – This breaking of the bond was ESPECIALLY true if I interviewed an unfocused guest unused to delivering valuable insight in brief soundbites (more on this in a minute).

Today I am A LOT more choosy about who comes on the show – you’ll notice I generally invite-only clients or friends who are experienced interviewees or entertaining speakers. The reason is that I have spoken to them a lot, and therefore I know they can deliver the kind of focused insight my audience expects.

Please don’t get it twisted and think I’m suggesting you shouldn’t have guests on your podcast.

I’m saying, get clear on the bond you have with your audience and try not to break it. You’re human – it will happen. Just try to avoid it. In 2021 I had a guest on the show who was not as clear in expressing her ideas as I’d have preferred. I aired the interview but a part of me regretted it afterward and still does. I hate wasting your time as much as I hate wasting my own.

This bond or tacit agreement isn’t true of just my show. Once I interviewed the producer of The Social (a morning talk show), and she said they frequently saw that having celebrity guests on the program didn’t necessarily lead to higher ratings because people LOVE to hear from their hosts.

The point I’m making here is that the tacit bond you have with your audience to provide a certain type of experience is really, really important.

For instance, I have a bond with my email readers, which is why you almost never read me hocking other people’s stuff to my email list – even though I could make great “affiliate commissions” – because I work so hard to earn your attention and trust, why the eff would I sell it away? (Not on my list? Sign up here)

Here are 3 tips to put this insight into action whether it be for your podcast, email list, Instagram audience, whatever.

  1. Talk to your audience, observe their habits and think deeply about the experience they rely on you to deliver.
  2. Write that experience down in a simple sentence. Example: I am a provider of focused, actionable insight.
  3. Each time you make something for your audience, ask yourself if you are upholding that bond.

Your goal isn’t to be a robotic superhuman. It’s simply to be aware, and be clear that in those instances where you ARE breaking the bond, you have a good reason.

This is a super important insight in building an audience. It will require work and discipline on your part, But you know what they say…you can’t buy loyalty. You have to earn it.


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