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3 Ways We Increased Weekly Podcast Downloads by 109% in Two Months

Sep 25, 2017

Nothing makes a podcaster happier than to see the below trend line in Libsyn.

Today Buffer’s podcast, The Science of Social Media, is generating more than 12,350 downloads per week, with that number steadily growing (huge shout-out to all of our awesome listeners!)

But it wasn’t always this way.

As you can see on the left side of the chart, we hit an all-time ‘weekly download’ low in early June of this year. 5,900.

Buffer Podcast Download Insights

Which isn’t poor by any means! Though seeing as how we were averaging roughly 9,500 downloads per week for ten months straight it was a tough pill to swallow. Something had to change.

My co-host Hailley and I threw everything we thought we knew about podcasting out the window and started from scratch.

Here are the 4 strategies we went all in on to turn the fate of the Buffer podcast around.

We 180’d our show format

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming some amazing guests to the show over the past year. Guests like NASA, NatGeo, First Round, Marie Forleo, Rand Fishkin, Ryan Holiday, Mari Smith, Noah Kagan, Jay Baer, and lots more.

Buffer Podcast Guests

They were a huge part of helping to make our show so successful off the bat and a big reason why we are here today.

When we made the decision to move away from typical guest interviews it wasn’t an easy one.

We looked around the podcast industry and realized that tons of shows (and I mean TONS) follow the interview format. And most of these show’s descriptions include something along the lines of:

“Strategies from the biggest and brightest influencers in __[insert topic here]__”

The difficulty was that there were only so many “big names” that we could get to come on the show.

Week in and week out we’d spend several hours pitching guests, writing sample questions, waiting for approval from PR, scheduling interview time, stressing over tiny details, and trying to make the interview perfect. And when we looked 6–12 months out into the future, we knew that the big-name-list would soon run dry.

That’s when we began experimenting with what we called “Bonusodes” and “Minisodes.” Bonusodes and Minisodes were quick (10–15 minute) episodes where Hailley and I discussed social media and marketing strategy.

The ironic part is that these types of episodes only started because we ran out of big-name guests for the week. Little did we know they would eventually help to turn the show around.

As for the guest interviews, we decided that we’d only run them if we made each interview dramatically different than what you might here on other podcasts.

We began to turn the interviews into stories. We interjected, added commentary, took the best parts and mixed them together into a cohesive, easy-listening episode. NPR-style.

Of course, this meant more time recording, more time producing and editing, and more time finding just the right story to tell. But it also meant a new and unique experience for our listeners. That’s our top priority.

If you’re interested in hearing a few of our new interviews, check out:

Branden Harvey — Using Social Media for Good

Paul Jarvis — On Entrepreneurship

Ryan Holiday — Creating Perennial Sellers

Now that we had a new format, we needed ideas. And good ones at that.

We’re repurposing top Buffer Blog content

As we began transitioning to full-time Minisode production in April-May of 2017, we chose episode topics that we thought would be interesting.

Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t.

When they didn’t work it halted growth of the show. That’s no good when you only have one shot per week.

We needed a proven method of generating episode topics that would increase downloads week over week.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Buffer Podcast Episode Ideas

The Buffer Blog is one of the most prolific blogs in the social media industry with more than 1.5 million monthly visitors — AND we have all of the back-end data!

Instead of guessing what topics would work on the podcast, we went into Google Analytics and sorted our blog content by the most page views over the previous 30 days (see chart above).

Viola!

Hundreds of podcast episode ideas at our fingertips sorted by what people are searching for online. Taking this approach has led to more podcast downloads per episode, more reviews, and a higher popularity rating on iTunes.

We’re advertising on Facebook

Once we started to see a slight increase in week-over-week growth to the show, it was time to take the podcast to the next level.

Having a solid backlog of quality episodes allowed us to justify the investment because we knew if someone clicked through to the podcast that they would have a much higher chance of subscribing and listening to additional episodes.

Cue the snowball effect❄️

Facebook Ads have been a huge source of growth.

Here’s how we did it:

Buffer Facebook Advertising Strategy

  1. We set up a Custom Audience targeting all traffic to the Buffer Blog and Buffer.com knowing that brand awareness would increase our CTR and decrease our CPC.
  2. Next we added an additional targeting filter to only deliver ads to iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices and linked directly to the episode on iTunes (rather than the show notes or podcast landing page). This reduced the friction of going from podcast ad >> podcast subscriber.
  3. We chose the most popular episodes from the podcast and started there — $10 per day using the “Post Traffic” campaign option in Facebook. We keep a close eye on CPC and whenever it creeps above $0.25–0.30 we shut it off and start a new add.

We’ve spent a total of $922 over the last two months which has resulted in nearly 4,000 direct clicks to the podcast.

This applies to everything

As I wrote this article I realized that the above strategies apply to much more than just podcasting.

We’ve taken this re-thinking approach and applied it to social media, blog writing, partnerships, videos, design and more.

If something is not working, it’s alright!

It doesn’t mean you’re failing.

It doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job.

And it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t change.

180 your ideas!

Repurpose and curate awesome content. Advertise. Do something wild like completely change the format your audience has come to know and love.