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Podcast Marketing With Social Contests And Give-Aways

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.

Why Contests Are Still A Good Idea For Marketing A Podcast

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

Podcast marketing no longer focuses on iTunes alone
Podcast marketing no longer focuses on iTunes alone

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

Prize selection matters in podcast marketing  with contests
Prize selection matters in podcast marketing with contests

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"

Contest Structure

Podcast promotion contest structure
There are many facets to consider when launching a podcast promotion contest

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

  1. Subscribe to my show via email
  2. Subscribe to my show's YouTube channel, because I feature lots of cool "how to" and demo videos there
  3. Like my podcast's Facebook page
  4. Join our Facebook podcast marketing group
  5. 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:

At 10:44 – an example of multiple ways to enter a contest

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

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.

podcast marketing with Facebook Ads
The 5 Step Process to Advertise To Podcast Listeners On Facebook

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

Are paid contest marketing platforms worth it?

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

Podcast Marketing with Launch Contests
Podcast Marketing with Launch Contests

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.

Conclusion

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.

If you have a podcast, then one of your top priorities will be to increase your audience size. After all, if you create a podcast to which no one listens, does it even matter?

So at first glance, you may think that running Facebook Ads would be an excellent vehicle to promote your podcast and help increase your listening numbers and subscribers. After all, Facebook will allow you to finely target your audience and do it in a very cost-effective way.

My point with this post is not so much to argue that Facebook is inherently a poor platform to advertise podcasts on, but rather to point out that there is a better way to do podcast marketing than most marketers recommend.

There has been a slew of recent posts on how to best advertise podcasts on Facebook, and I fundamentally disagree with the premise of these posts. Here is why:

So what’s the problem with using Facebook Ads to promote your podcast?

The issue has to do with where to send traffic once someone clicks on your ad.

So many marketers recommend promoting Facebook episodes by directly linking to the iTunes or Android episode pages.

  • They argue this is better than sending people to a show notes page on your site
  • In fact, many of these posts argue that you don’t need show notes pages at all, and can save the time and effort
  • They say that iTunes and Stitcher is after all where you want people to go to subscribe to your show
  • They advise that this is the best way to capture people on mobile devices, by targeting an iOS audience for the direct link to the iTunes episode, and by targeting Android audience and sending them to the Stitcher episode link

I fundamentally disagree with promoting your iTunes and Stitcher podcast links  for the following five reasons:

#1

It Costs Too Much

Sure, your ads may result in getting more subscribers to your podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, but Facebook podcast marketing ads should have a better goal than just to add listeners to your podcast. And the cost per new listener is usually quite high.

Think of it this way, in terms of analytics: “Cost per anonymous listener” IS NOT THE SAME THING AS “Cost per qualified lead or email subscriber.” You could be adding leads for your business, building your email list, increase the rank and traffic for your site, and building a digital asset for your brand.

Instead, you could be getting greater value and ROI from your Facebook ads by focusing on lead generation and list growth instead of on just getting more listeners.

#2

iTunes and Google Play Do Not Need More Traffic From Your Facebook Podcast Marketing

promote-your-podcast-on-itunesYou are paying for traffic that you are sending to iTunes and Google Play Music.

Really?

Instead, your site could be benefitting from greater traffic, rank, and authority.

#3

Blind Dates

promote your podcast with a blind dateiTunes and Google play traffic may slightly increase your subscriber and listener stats at Libsyn or Blubrry. Of course, this cannot truly be measured, since Facebook won’t know how many listeners subscribed to your show on those platforms.

Click here for a complete analysis of Google AdWords vs Facebook Advertising for podcasts

More importantly, you don’t know whose these listeners are. Since you are not capturing their email address, you have much less of a chance to engage with them, even if they are big fans of your show. If you don’t manage to send them to your website and show pages, you are essentially going on blind dates – without ever even asking for a name. So, a very passive way to promote your podcast.

Instead, your podcast listeners could be coming to YOUR site, because you offer valuable additional episode information there. They could be signing up to receive podcast notifications via email, or finding links and resources about your guests, and downloading these resources from you in exchange for an email address.

So, during your podcast, make sure you mention an easy to remember episode show notes link like “mypodcast.com/132” – and mention this often, for example at the start of the show, create your own mid-roll segment inviting people to visit your site, and include it again in the outro.

#4

No Digital Sharecropping

facebook podcast marketing without digital sharecropping in promoting your podcastIn my opinion, too many authors, speakers, entrepreneurs and small businesses spread their entire online presence across 3rd party platforms. They want authority and recognition in their space but are also conscious of the promised audience, engagement, ease of use and time savings these platforms promise.

They post all of their valuable intellectual capital and thought leadership content on platforms like Medium, LinkedIn or Facebook instant articles. Their videos exist only on Youtube, their podcasts episode only on Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher. In other words, on platforms they themselves don’t own outright, but platforms that have a built-in audience and engagement.

In the long run, this is short-sighted

What to do instead? I am not proposing to avoid these platforms. However, I am saying that traffic to promote your podcast should land on your site.

And this content should live on your own site FIRST AND FOREMOST, and then be shared from there centrally, spreading out to 3rd party platforms for social engagement. Especially if you are using Podcasting as Content Strategy.

The effort involved in creating and maintaining your podcast show notes are well worth it in the long run and pales in comparison to the effort of actually creating your content in the first place. You need to build system for sharing from this central platform only once – the week to week effort of recording episodes and publishing show notes for them adds up only gradually, and much of the process and subsequent syndication of your content can be automated.

For our clients, we specialize in automation of the entire podcast production and publishing workflow, including automatically syndicating your episode content onto many other platforms. The content calendar tools and automation processes we use for this is the topic of another upcoming post, feel free to subscribe to our blog to learn more.

In short, having your own SEO optimized podcast show notes pages allow you to build a much more valuable asset on your site, audience, and email list. Would you not rather have free traffic and rank for your site? Would you not rather earn organic search traffic over time? And I think most marketers would agree that email lists are still the most valuable asset to build for your digital presence. Overlooking the SEO value of your show notes pages is one of the deadly podcast marketing sins I write about elsewhere on this blog.

The Importance of Building A Conversion Optimized Podcast Home Page

Podcast Website Design Patterns For Conversion And List Building

If you agree with the idea that your site is a valuable way to gain podcast subscribers, then you will want to build a great conversion optimized podcast home page. We recently published a video walkthrough which showcases a highly converting podcast website design pattern called “The Upside Down Podcast Home Page”.

#5

Analytics & Measuring Performance

How do you measure your investment in Facebook ads? For me the answer is how many people SIGN UP for your podcast or blog, NOT how many more listeners you might be getting on iTunes.

Before running ad campaigns on Facebook, you get to decide the “Goal” of each ad campaign during the setup process. Simply measuring “clicks to a website” is the weakest form of available analytics, yet this is the only goal you can use when sending traffic to iTunes or Stitcher.

Facebook cannot measure who subscribed to your podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or even if they listened to an episode after clicking on your ad. So how do you optimize or test your ads? If you are sending your ad traffic to iTunes and Stitcher as proposed by many marketers, then the only way you can tell if these ads are even working is to see if your Libsyn or Blubrry stats increased during the time you ran the ad. And of course, even then you don’t know the identity of the people who subscribed.

promote your podcast and know your numbers

A recent marketing webinar from SharpSpring pointed out that focus on conversion rate was by far the most important metric to measure.

A better goal is to measure “Conversions”, and Facebook algorithms are more effective in showing your ads to the best possible and highly “converting” audience. However, for this you need to install a “Facebook Pixel” on your site, so that actual sign-ups to your podcast email subscription list can be recorded on Facebook. Having a Facebook Pixel on your site is not complicated, there are great plugins for this. (My favorite is PixelYourSite, which makes installation and managing Facebook Pixels a snap)

Facebook then improves the targeting of who they show your ads to, based on who signed up, and builds in effect a custom audience for your on the fly during the campaign. This results in a much better use of your advertising dollar.

Conclusion

IMHO, having a highly converting home page for your podcast is critically important – to promote your podcast and build a subscriber list outside of iTunes. And so is having episode specific show notes pages. Most good podcasts already do. So if the way you promote your podcast is to be sending Facebook ad traffic directly to your episode pages on iTunes and Stitcher, I’d encourage you to do otherwise.

 

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