Podcast Marketing With Social Contests
Last Updated on April 26, 2021
Promoting a newly launched podcast with a Facebook contest used to be a very popular podcast marketing tactic. The idea was to launch a contest featuring a relevant give-away and to boost it with paid Facebook ads. To enter the contest, contestants were asked to subscribe to the show, leave an iTunes review, and then to email the iTunes ID name used for the review to the podcast host as proof. The podcast host would then enter the applicant into the contest drawing.
In today's episode we examine:
- The reasons why this is not as popular launch strategy anymore
- But also why this podcast marketing strategy is still a good idea today
- Prize selection tips and why they are key for this podcast marketing strategy
- Contest Structure
- We will cover some of the best paid and free contest platforms
- Tips for setting up and running such contests
- Need some help for your own contest launch?
iTunes Focused Launches Have Changed
The reason this was a successful strategy a few years ago was that the "New and Noteworthy" algorithm within iTunes was driven by the number of reviews a podcast would receive in the initial weeks after launch. And contests were a great way to get lots of reviews in a short amount of time.
Since then, the algorithm to rise to the top of iTunes has changed. It is no longer driven by the number of reviews. Instead, at the time of this writing, the number of new subscribers have the most impact, followed by the number of episode downloads. Therefore the number of reviews no longer contribute to being at the top of the “New and Noteworthy” section.
As I have said elsewhere:
I feel that podcasters needlessly obsess about getting into the "New and Noteworthy" section.
The reality is that over the last two years iTunes has become a highly competitive space, given that major popular radio stations have shifted their energies from terrestrial and satellite radio to podcasts as a way to create a digital presence.
And there has been evidence that being featured in "New and Noteworthy" typically yields only a few hundred additional subscribers.
Podcast marketing through “Launch Contest” is less common now
The main reason is that N&N is no longer as influenced my the number of reviews a podcast gets. Besides no longer being as effective, setting up a launch contest usually takes a good deal of time to set up. You need landing pages, marketing automation capability and time. Or money to spend on contest platforms.
But if you have the passion, time and effort to spare, a launch contest will still give your podcast launch a great boost, for some of the below reasons:
But iTunes Reviews Are Still Important
Reviews are still important and should not be ignored. They lend credibility and social proof to a podcast. Seeing that dozens of people are leaving great reviews for a podcast you might enjoy might tip the scale for you to take action and subscribe. On the other hand, seeing a podcast on iTunes with no reviews at all also tells you something.
Why a Launch Contest is Still A Good Idea
Getting reviews and testimonials is as hard as it ever was. We've seen this play out countless times. People are happy to offer leaving a review, but iTunes doesn't make this process very straight-forward. So when it comes down to it, even your friends and relatives somehow don't get around to it without repeat reminders.
Contest Prize Selection
Adding the right prizes and incentives is key. The selected giveaways don’t have to be expensive. It is more important that they be relevant, and related to the podcast topic or context.
So for example, for a customer experience podcast you might have a contest to win free tickets to the biggest yearly Customer Experience conference. That beats offering an iPad as a prize, simply because your subscriber and contest participants are much more likely to actually care about your podcast and topic, instead of just trying to win an iPad.
Another example might be a podcast about podcasting, podcast growth and promotions such as my own show. If I were to run a contest for the Podcast Growth Show, I would choose to give away a premium microphone or podcasting gear package as the grand prize.
Why Choose Multiple Prizes?
But one prize is not enough. By giving away multiple prizes, you increase the desirability and success of your contest simply because there are better odds and many more ways to win.
The most successful contests offer a single grand prize, and then a number of secondary prizes in decreasing value.
In fact, you should give away a free resource for everyone entering your contest. This could be a simple lead magnet PDF, as long as it is related to your podcast's topic and focus.
Podcast Marketing Contest Example Prizes
For the Podcast Growth Show, here is how I would plan to structure my own podcast contest. My goal would be to attract new podcasters. So my prize selection would focus on thinking about what would be relevant for new podcasters.
Pretty much every podcaster I know tried to save money during their initial studio setup. And the thing they most likely tried to save money on is their microphone boom arm. A cheap version of this can be highly frustrating to use, and a more professional model with greater reach and a more solid feel is a pleasure to use. Believe me, podcasters will appreciate the difference.
- 1st Prize: Premium RODE PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Microphone Boom Arm (a $109 value)
- 2nd Prize: A Great Dynamic Podcast XLR and USB Microphone – The Audio Technica AT2005 (a $79 value)
- 3rd Prize: 15 copies of our "Podcast Marketing & SEO Online Course" – (a $97 value)
- 9th-25 Prize: Our Podcast Marketing Bible Ebook (a $9.97 value)
- Prize for all contest entrants: "How To Market Your Podcast" ebook and access to our online "Podcasting Resources Guide"
As I previously mentioned, the launch contests of yesteryear focused on getting iTunes reviews. But that should no longer be the only focus now. For me, it is much more important to attract the right listeners to join my email list and to subscribe to my podcast through email notifications.
So my focus would be to get contest entrants to
- Subscribe to my show via email
- Subscribe to my show's YouTube channel, because I feature lots of cool "how to" and demo videos there
- Like my podcast's Facebook page
- Join our Facebook podcast marketing group
- Leave an iTunes review
Multiple Actions to Enter The Contest
These are multiple actions to take, and people might think this is a lot to ask just to enter a contest. And that is right, except:
Each action completed creates additional chances to win the prize
So the logic is this: You must subscribe to my email list, that part is required because otherwise I cannot communicate with you and send you the prize. But if you complete the other additional steps, each completed tasks enters you in the contest additional times, greatly increasing your chances of winning one or more prizes.
And, each action is weighed differently: For example, subscribing to my Youtube channel is worth an additional 5 entries, but leaving an iTunes review is worth 25 additional entries.
The genius of this approach for podcast reviews is that it makes it a no-brainer for a contest entrant to do the hardest thing: Leave you an iTunes review.
Later in the podcast I explore the differences between a DIY approach versus utilizing one of the contest platforms out there. This approach of multiple contest entries for multiple actions is only possible by using proper contest management platforms like.
An example of multiple actions to increase your chances
In our video we feature a great example of this in a contest currently underway. The company is Syrp, and they are giving away some photo gear. Click below to start the video at 10:44 seconds:
Is it necessary to validate iTunes Reviews?
Unfortunately I don't know of any platform that integrates with iTunes directly to validate if someone actually left an iTunes review. But in my mind, most people will do so if asked, because they are afraid of missing out and being found out. What if you were to ask them for the iTunes name they left a review under before sending them their prize?
- Note that with the Gleam.io platform, there are several easy ways to enter a contest by answering a question or by leaving a comment – and here you can simply ask the user to enter the iTunes name under which the review was left.
Creating Contest Landing Pages
If you want to create a contest, you will want to set up a contest landing page. A contest landing page is a distraction free website or page where you can send ad traffic to, and where people can learn about and sign up for your contest.
You can build such pages manually, but you may not need to when using the contest platforms we will discuss a bit later. They handle the creation of and simplify the design of landing pages, and some even allow you to create multiple versions of these pages and conduct A/B tests to see which ones perform best.
Q: Do you need to A/B test pages? A: It depends. There are people out there that have tested their contest pages. Here are some links to these tests and their outcomes. Why not learn from their tests and model your landing page on their winners? This will save you time and effort.
Generally speaking, it seems that contest landing pages with video perform better.
The Facebook Ad Campaign
Once you have a landing page, it's time to set up a Facebook campaign to boost your contest landing page. Facebook marketing is too big a topic to tackle in this episode, but here are a few tips to make this work:
Setting Up And Using Facebook Ads Manager
- Here is a complete walk through and instruction set from our friends at Buffer
Creating A Facebook Ad
There are many easy ways in which you can create a Facebook ad. You shoot a quick video or FB live post, create one or more images about your contest, and come up with some fun language to use for a Facebook post.
We use the AIDA method when creating Facebook ads and landing pages for contests:
- A =Attention – Ask a provocative question or make a statement that earns the attention of your audience
- I=Interest – Expand on attention grabbing line with something that will peak their interest and explain.
- D=Desire – What's in it for them to enter your contest. Duh, that's easy, right?
- A=Action – This is the call to action, what you want them to do
Finding The Right Audience
The key in making Facebook ads effective and affordable is to show your contest ads to only your very best, most relevant audience. In Facebook parlance this is called "audience targeting". If you have never done Facebook ads before, this can be a bit tricky. Basically you are trying to limit the number of people who see your ads to only those interested in your primary topic.
Targeting Podcast Listeners
But that is not all: You also want to make sure the audience your Facebook ads are shown to are likely podcast listeners, and that part is much harder.
We have a 5 step process to target likely podcast listeners on Facebook. It walks you through our method on Facebook Ads manager, and you will learn how to target people generally interested in your podcast's topic, but who also are likely podcast listeners.
Free vs Paid Contest Platforms
Should you use a paid contest platform like the ones we outlined above? Or is there a way to build this all for free?
Advantages of Paid Contest Platforms
Paid contest platforms are the way to go. For a relatively low monthly fee they offer a range of distinct advantages over a DIY approach.
They integrate with social networks. This means they validate that someone actually shared a post, liked your Facebook Page or Youtube channel. All of this before they are entered in the contest.
Most paid platforms offer pre-built contest landing pages for you. You get up and running much more quickly, and don't have to invest in fancy landing page builders.
They send out custom email reminders. This saves you from having to create your own email funnels, saving a lot of time.
Some have A/B testing built in. This means you get to test out multiple landing pages to see which perform better.
Here are some of my favorite contest platforms to consider:
- Rafflecopter – One of the most affordable platforms out there. Rafflecopter offers a free plan, trials for the more advanced plans starting at $13 a month at the time of this writing. While an easy platform to start with, it is basic.
- It lacks some of the more innovative features features found on higher priced platforms.
- Gleam.io – I really like Gleam.io. It is a smart and flexible contest platform. It rewards people to take multiple actions to promote you while entering your contest. This increases the viral potential of your podcast marketing or launch contest. After having reviewed about 10 different contest management platforms, Gleam has emerged as my favorite. It is, however, not the least expensive, the Pro plan being $45 a month.
- Upviral – a good alternative to Gleam if the expense of that platform is a hurdle. By automatically emailing reminders, setting goals and providing incentives/rewards, your contest entrants stay on track and deliver. They get rewarded, you get new subscribers and everyone’s happy! Upviral has an example case study on their site of their own podcast launch contest which resulted in 7000 contest site visitors, 450 leads and 50+ reviews on iTunes.
- Contest Domination – a flexible platform that offers 7 day trial and a per contest payment option for $100 for a month. The benefit of their approach is that you get access to all features, where some of the other popular platform restrict their features for the basic plans.
To summarize these contest platforms, I feel that Gleam is the most innovative platform to try, and you can expect to spend perhaps $90 for a pro plan for a 2 months campaign. The major spend for podcast launch campaigns comes from Facebook ads anyhow, I would expect to spend between $20-$50 a day for the duration of the campaign. Be sure to check out Episode 3 of our podcast on Paid Podcast Advertising – A Look Behind The Scenes [S1E03]
Free Contest Platform Options
If you want to run your podcast launch contest with absolutely no additional expense, here are some ways to do it as well as some things to keep in mind:
- To save money on prizes, you can give away content and prizes that don't cost you anything, like courseware, or eBooks or other premium content you have previously developed
- You can use your own email list software like Mailchimp or Constant contact or even free Gmail automation tools like YAMM (we covered YAMM for Podcast Guesting Outreach in episode XX of our podcast)
- You will need to develop your own landing pages on your podcast or blogging site.
- Rely on your social network for free promotion and awareness of your contest, with a big enough following you can save on promoting your contest with paid ads
- You can use tools like GoViral – a free platform from Growth Tools which ensures and validates social sharing. It is great to use as an add-on for thank you pages.
- Try out GiveawayTools – a new contest design platform that's currently still in beta, but is free and integrates with several social platforms.
So it can theoretically be done for free, but it will require a large investment of time on your part.
My own view is that a zero cost and DIY approach is not likely to succeed
And the question you should ask yourself is about the relationship between time spent and likely effectiveness of the contest campaign you are setting up.
Need a guide to help with your own contest launch?
I've just published a resource for folks wanting to set up their own contest. This is published in "Open PDF" format, meaning the entire guide is provided on-line with no sign-up required, but you can download it guide as an option if you want.
I also offer some ways to collaborate around setting up your own launch contest, from low cost "DIY" sanity checks all the way to "Done for you" contest setup and management.
Apart from getting iTunes reviews, a podcast marketing contest with the right prizes and incentives can quickly add a ton of visibility and email subscribers to your podcast.
While it may not reliably get you into the "New and Noteworthy" section of the iTunes podcast directory any more, having some great reviews still lends social proof and credibility to your podcast. And email subscribers to your show are a permanent asset.
If you decide to run a podcast marketing contest, I recommend using a paid contest platform, as this will save you a ton of time and effort.