Here’s what works for us — a strategy which we have employed regularly for our own programs and which has found success far more often than it hasn’t. This doesn’t guarantee your success, but it gives you a place to start, you’ll have to figure the rest out on your own.
Facebook isn’t the end all be all, but it is, especially when you’re just starting out, the most effective advertising platform with the most bang for your buck. It is at the core of all of our clients’ advertising strategies and we’ll be showing you what we do for them, here, now. You’ll need a Facebook page and you’ll need a Facebook Ad Account. If you don’t have a Facebook page, make one here, if you don’t have an Ad Account, create one here.
Create an on-going Like Campaign, and a weekly Boost campaign.
Your Like Campaign should have a $5 a day spend. Your Boost campaign should be used on new episode releases and should run for three day on a total budget of $5 a day. Your boost campaigns should be aimed at people who already like your page. You Like campaign should be targeted at an audience which does not already like your page. Forgive me if that seems obvious to you — for many people it is not. The order is: Get people to like my page (discover my podcast) > Get people who like my page to see my new releases (listen to my podcast).
Why do we target for our Like Campaign?
Because we want to more tightly control the type of person we are reaching with our Like Campaign. Why? Because not all leads are created equal and the less qualified the leads the more money you will spend converting leads to likers and likers to listeners. You want your Like Campaign to be shown to people who are most likely to like your page and listen to your podcast.
Who do we target for our Like Campaign?
This is who WE target when growing listenership for our clients.
1. People accessing Facebook on iOS devices only (hold your criticism, please)
2. People Living in America
3. People who list their primary language as English
4. People who are between the ages of 27 and 50
5. People who are of any gender
6. People who like podcasts as an interest
7. People who like three interests highly specific to our content (in an “and” capacity, not an “or” capacity — more on this in a moment)
Why only iOS?
Because it lowers the barrier to subscription and because iOS users are easier to convert. We also run campaigns to target users accessing Facebook via the Facebook app on an Android device, but we did not start here. In the early stages of building an audience, iOS users are cheaper to convert to listeners.
Why only Americans who speak English?
This is specific to us because of where we are. Our podcasts are in America, are produced in English, and are culturally primed for an American audience. It does not make sense, early on, to spend the extra money required to figure out how to market Americanized, English spoken content to other countries or languages. This isn’t a judgment of other countries or languages, it is an admission that advertising gets more expensive the less familiar you are with your target audience. You could target a podcast produce in English in Iowa to folks living in Nagasaki, Japan, but you’re going to have a much harder go of it.
The goal of a marketing campaign is to convert as many targets as possible at as low a cost as possible. This is accomplished by qualifying your targets as much as is humanly possible before spending any money.
Why the age limits?
These age limits work for us and our example content. But keep in mind two things, and again this is based on the premise of the last paragraph of the previous section: Before a certain age, people are not likely to have disposable income (and we are always seeking to monetize our clients podcasts, we want listeners who have the ability to pay to listen or buy product). Beyond a certain age people are not likely to know what a podcast is. This isn’t about exceptions, it’s about averages and statistical likelihoods.
Why no gender restrictions?
Because it rarely ever matters. If you were a podcast about Feminism, you might want to target only women. If you were a podcast about testicular cancer prevention you might want to target only men. That’s not saying the other genders might not take interest in those topics, it’s, again, playing to statistical likelihoods. Most Feminists are not men. Most people affected by testicular cancer are men. Remember: statistical likelihoods are our friend when we’re trying to reduce how much money we’re spending — which we’re always trying to do when we’re just starting out.
People who like podcasts as an interest?
Now it’s time for a picture. Have a look at this.
We are telling our campaign that if our ad it to be shown to anyone, those people must
- Like Mythology AND
- Like Podcasts AND
- Like Folklore AND
- Be accessing Facebook via an Apple iOS device (iPhone or iPad)
Notice we’re using AND (Narrowing our audience) and not OR. If we said OR, we would get people who liked podcasts but maybe didn’t like those other things. By using AND we are saying you must like ALL these things in order to be shown our ad. This is qualifying the lead. If you are someone who likes mythology and folklore, you’re very likely going to be interested in a podcast about those things, especially if you also like podcasts. And, since iOS users have podcasts baked into their phones, it’s likely an iOS user will know what a podcast is and how to listen to one before it is likely an Android user will (sorry, not a judgement of phone operating systems, just what we’ve found to be true in our experience).
So what should our ad look like?
I can give only two pieces of advice here.
1. It should be a video less than 20-seconds in length.
2. It should communicate the personality of your podcast clearly
Why 20-seconds or less? Because the average Facebook user has an average attention span of 8-seconds 
Why communicate the personality of your podcast clearly? Because setting expectations is the single most important thing you can do to ensure a long-term subscriber. You need to convey in 20-seconds or less exactly what the lead can expect so that the lead can assume, one way or the other, and quickly, whether they will like your program. If the expectation you set is out of sync with what your program actually offers? You’re not going to retain that subscriber.
But 20-secconds is 12-seconds longer than 8-seconds! Yup. So, you had better not make a boring video without any passion behind it. That doesn’t mean snazzy effects or stupid humor — it means put in the work to produce a video that makes the connection with your target… you’ll need to KNOW your target audience, intimately, in order to do this well. You won’t get it on the first shot, but you’ll figure it out over a couple of months of testing. Some video will work better, you’ll figure it out as you go.
What can I expect as far as results?
Using this method, not every time but more times than not, we have amassed a 10,000+ Facebook audience within 6-months an for less that $1000. I’m not saying you can expect those same results, the content matters, the niche matters, but this strategy does work.
And what about the Boost Campaigns?
Those are easy. Every week you release a new episode, post it on your Facebook page and boost it for three days with a budget of $15. Target “People who already like my page”.
The purpose of the Boost is to ensure your followers/likers see your content. Why do you have to pay for your likers to see your content? Is Facebook evil and selfish? No. Well, maybe, but not here at least.
Consider that the average Facebook user likes 70 individual pages  and has 338 friends . Yet that same average user spends only 35 minutes on Facebook every day! How the heck are they going to see YOUR post amidst a minimum of 408 posts per day? They’d have to parse 5 posts per second!
So Facebook gives you a way to cut through that statistical unlikelihood by paying to be shown. And since Boosting posts only to people who already like your page guarantees those who see your boost will want to see your boost, you’re click conversion is going to be fairly high.
To grow your podcast audience, you need to put in money, though, and effort. Facebook is the best place to do that. So, you should:
- Have a budget of $150 per month + $15 per week (~$2000 a year)
- Have a 20-second or less video that puts the personality and content of your podcast clearly on display
- Create a tightly targeted audience within a Facebook Like Campaign and use the aforementioned video in it.
- Boost new episode posts weekly and target people who already like your page
That’s all I’ve got for you.
None of what I’ve said guarantees your success, it only gives you a proven framework to work with. If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck.
Important afterthought: In no way do I mean to convey that there are no other growth strategies. Organic strategies have their place. Asking for reviews, encouraging word of mouth sharing, writing and sharing blog posts, regular engagement on social with your fan base, all of this contributes greatly and must be done! You cannot rely only on paid advertising, BUT, it too has its place. Organic efforts and paid advertising should be used in tandem, not as either/or. Look at us for example! We have podcasts, write blogs, engage on Facebook and Instagram, and use paid advertising! It’s a massive effort that requires a lot of work, there is no magic bullet.