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Can Social Stats Track Your Podcast’s Growth?

Jul 16, 2019

As podcasters, one of the things we have to realize (and if you don't know this already, you will soon have to realize) is that most of the popular social media platforms -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tic Tok -- treat podcasted content as a second-class citizen. 

Most of those services expressly forbid the posting of audio-only files as native content. Yes, you can post a link to your audio file. But you can't upload the audio directly to your social media account. You can’t for one simple reason:

Sharing audio socially is not what most social media networks were designed to do. 

Podcasters have been enamored with social media since the beginning of social media. (Which, by the way, came after podcasting. Podcasting started in 2004, and today’s most popular social media sites came after that. Yes. All of them.) We podcasters know the power of social media,  and we work hard to use social media well so that our podcast and the episodes of our podcast reach our audience. 

Except we get obsessed over this reported “power of social”, oftentimes failing to understand what outcomes podcasters like us should actually care about. 

Many of my clients are apprehensive when it comes to social media. They're not sure how to determine if their efforts on social media are having a positive impact on their podcast. Specifically, they lament the fact that their social shares for their podcast often fail to get many likes, re-shares retweets, thumbs-ups, hearts, comments or other kinds of social signals we’ve been told are critical to our success.

My answer: So what?

All of the social metrics your chosen social media platform reports back to you simply tell you how your content is fairing on that social media platform. Scroll back up and re-read my “second-class citizen” comment if you need. But understand this: Social platforms were not designed to share podcast content. 

Once you internalize that, you’ll realize that getting “performance” from your social media posts have very little -- if any -- impact to your podcasting efforts. 

Social metrics are a poor proxy for podcasters, by and large. If you roll them up across platforms, they’re all designed to report on one or more aspects of “engagement”. Not engagement with your podcast. Engagement of your social shares. That’s it.

The bad news piles up when you take a look at your engagement rate. That’s a number that every one of those social platforms will report to you. It’s the gold start. Right now, pull up the analytics page for your chosen social media profile. Now go look at your engagement rate. Chances are, it's probably pretty tiny. Like, single-digit tiny. And if you are lucky enough to see double-digits when you log in, look closer. There’s probably a decimal between those two numbers. Oops.

That's the nature of social media. And you're trying to share second-class citizen material: an audio file, a link to an audio file, or a link to a page that contains an audio file. You're trying to get them off of that social media platform, and that's an obvious problem for the social media platform, a large company which has a vested interest in keeping people on their platform.

Of course, with the advent of audiograms and social sharing clips from various podcast listening apps like Overcast and many more nowadays, we podcasters (and our fans) are better able to share engaging podcast content on social media platforms. But even with that, the typical social metrics don’t really matter all that much. 

Can social media help expose your content to more people? Absolutely. But this miniseries is all about stats, and I want to help you understand which social stats matter to your podcast. My answer? Probably none of them, especially if you or your show doesn't have a huge social media presence. 

Not that you should chase a huge social media presence. And you definitely shouldn’t try to buy your way to a huge social media presence. That’s not going to do it. And if you do, you’ll see your already dismal engagement rates continue to approach zero. So don’t do it. Seriously.

Social media can work for podcasting, but only if you have an engaged social media following. If you do not have that well... I'm sorry. It's probably not where you should be spending most of your efforts. 

What social media metric matters for podcasters? None of them, really. 

But social shouldn’t be avoided. If you have an established an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tic Tok, etc, with an engaged audience, then you should absolutely be sharing your podcast content on that social media platform. But not exclusively. And you should always check to see if shares of your podcast content get more or less engagement than non-podcast content on that network. It’s possible -- perhaps likey -- that the audience you’ve built on social doesn’t care much about your podcast. If that’s the case, then accept that reality and stop beating a dead horse.

If you do not have a social media presence, don't sweat it. There are more important metrics. We'll get to some of those metrics through the rest of this week

See you tomorrow for another Podcast Pontifications