“I deep early, man!” The soon to be immortalized words of Andrew Alliance, this week’s Profitcast spotlight and all around excellent human being. What an episode! Andrew and The Real Brian get real in this week’s episode, talking about the importance of building a relationship with your listeners as the key to growing a meaningful audience.
The correlation between building relationships and growing a podcast audience has come up a few times on Profitcast. The concept itself certainly isn’t anything new, but the lessons and insight we get from the various perspectives each time it does come up is incredibly humbling and grounding. Numbers aren’t everything, slowly sponsors will begin to see that, but sometimes, in our podcasting heads, we still don’t fully understand what that means. When we look at our numbers and see them dip, or see them plateau, or compare them with podcast audience numbers similar to our own, we don’t think of the individuals who make up those numbers. We only see the number. And that’s dangerous.
Luckily, Brian seems to sit down with a fellow podcaster who has some much needed wisdom right when our attention starts to lock in on the number of our listeners rather than the names of our listeners. Andrew’s approach to audience growth is all about relationships, and he’s very adamant that the format of podcasting enables and encourages the kind of relationship building that other classic mediums have never been able to match.
Social media is certainly changing the way we listen to radio, with the ease of communicating being what it is now. This morning, in fact, I was listening to a local country station here in Minneapolis, MN and they wanted people to call in and tell what city they’re from and what that city is known for. It happens that one of the women on the morning crew grew up in the same city I did and she said that our hometown (Burnsville, MN) is known for the Zombie Ladies. I spent 18 years in Burnsville and had never, ever heard of the Zombie Ladies. After I tweeted this to the station, some other Burnsville guy calls in and confirms what the host claimed. (I still don’t entirely know what they are talking about.)
As they moved on from Burnsville to other Minnesota citizens, they were reading posts from the Facebook page and playing calls from people who’d phoned in, and there is definitely a certain degree of engagement that occurs in radio. Calling into a radio station isn’t anything new, by any means, but Facebook and Twitter provide a new dimension to the historically one-level of engagement radio has always been. But the caveat is that there are so many country radio stations across the United States that I can literally just hit the Forward button on my tuner when I leave the Twin Cities and find another within a click or two. Unless I invest in Sirius radio, perhaps, I’ll never listen to that Minneapolis-based radio station while I’m in another state (heck, even 2 hours north) because there is another identical station playing the same 25 songs over and over. Why bother?
Podcasts are distinctly different because they build communities that transcend distance. As Brian mentions in the episode, Arrow Squad is a perfect, current example of this. What I love about that community is the way it can bridge the gap between listeners in Australia, the UK, and Canada, and even amongst the hosts (Brian is in Colorado, of course, I’m in Minnesota, and Kevin is in Massachusetts). A country radio station does not have this same type of requirement; a Minneapolis-based country radio station does not need to cater to Australians (but it is on iHeart Radio, so if you really want to…)
Even though we do much, if not most, of the talking when it comes to hosting a podcast, listening to our listeners can be the most important thing we do when trying to understand audience numbers. Andrew mentions that when he was asked to provide numbers, I think to a potential sponsor, he did as he was asked, but followed it up with commenting on the loyalty of his listeners and the strength of the community. This is important because the trust he’s forged with his listeners is translatable in influence.
Trust is influence. Isn’t it easier to follow through on a recommendation when you trust the person doing the recommending?
I am not a big movie watcher. I will go to all the comic book movies in theaters, but I prefer sports. I just don’t like wasting time with movies that I don’t think I’ll like. This past week I had dinner with a friend who was surprised I hadn’t seen Draft Day (Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner). I told her, very frankly, that I just didn’t know anything about the movie. I see previews, but they do nothing to really tell me what the story is (kind of like ALL the Superman v Batman trailers that came out prior to Comic Con). She took the time to explain the general concept, then told me her reaction to it, and because I know this woman pretty well I knew how to interpret her recommendation. If she had told me to watch it, “Because I loved it and it is about football…” I might not have been as inclined to care.
There are a couple things about this scenario I just laid out that I think are important to note, particularly in the wake of Andrew and Brian’s conversation. If we’re talking about building relationships through respect and listening to one another, and overall just being friends to the people who care about the same stuff we care about, then there are three things I take away from this simple conversation with a friend about a football movie.
1) We were intentional about having dinner together. Before the recommendation of the movie ever happened, we had already planned to have dinner. (Brasa, in Minneapolis, is an excellent choice… If you are ever in the area.) In the podcast translation, we build a rapport with listeners to encourage them to come back.
2) We talk about individual interests in order to find mutual interests. The conversation originally started because I told my friend that I primarily watch soccer in the summer (in addition to Falling Skies, which I podcast about), and even though she doesn’t watch soccer, she does watch football, because her husband was a quarterback in college. See how we got to a movie about football? These kinds of conversations happen because we’re intentional about learning about the people around us.
3) Stop scratching the surface! As Andrew says, unless you go deep, you’ll never know if you can go deep! Maybe a conversation about football movies isn’t incredibly deep, but it’s certainly not scratching the surface. The movie clearly impacted my friend to an extent that she found it worthwhile to tell me about it, and that only came about, as I said previously, because we ping-ponged between individual interests until we reached a point where she had a recommendation for something I would enjoy based on her understanding of my interests.
Last week I wrote about how conditioning in sports is vital to getting ahead and giving an athlete the opportunity to pull past others of equal skill level. I think building relationships is definitely on par with that concept. It’s not the same as constructing a schedule in order to take control of your life, but it is certainly part of refining an aspect to a podcast that isn’t 100% connected to your presence behind the mic. It is absolutely part of it, because presentation of ourselves behind the mic is part of it, but it is not all of it. If we don’t spend time off the mic interacting with listeners, can we ever hope for more than an audience similar to that of karaoke night?
A huge thank you to Andrew for being on the show this week! Be sure to check out the links to his podcast and Twitter below, and let us know how his perspective on relationship building impacted you!
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