How can you measure the success of your podcast?

The audio format has become an important channel for marketers and PR pros, but the metrics can be tricky. Downloads alone don’t tell the whole story. Here’s what to examine.

Podcast listening has exploded in recent years.

Almost a quarter of Americans over 12 said they had heard a podcast in the prior month, up from 21 percent the previous year, according to the 2016 Infinite Dial study from Edison Research. In addition, podcast listeners dialed up an average of five podcasts per week.

The medium can be a superb way of establishing authority, and PR and marketing pros have jumped on the bandwagon. Podcasting also requires fewer resources than video and is frequently more accessible to consumers.

Still, how do marketers and PR pros know whether podcasts meet their business goals?

Podcasters typically focus on the number of daily, weekly or monthly downloads of each episode. However, top podcasters and measurement experts emphasize that meaningful measurement entails more than just counting downloads.

Building an audience takes time. Downloads may be minuscule at first, says James Carbary, founder of Sweet Fish Media and co-host of the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. In addition, downloads don’t measure two major benefits of podcasts: relationships and waterfall content in other media.

More personal and strategic relationships

Brand managers can initiate relationships with clients, partners and industry experts by asking them to be guests on their programs. Those relationships can lead to business referrals and other opportunities, Carbary explains on The Huffington Post:

During your interviews, you’re having human-to-human conversations and you’re able to connect in a way that doesn’t require black text on a glowing screen. Podcasts are a rare form of media that cut through the formalities of typical business protocol and allow you to create strategic relationships in a genuine and personal way.

Podcast audio files can be repurposed into waterfall content—blog posts, guest posts, social media posts and other marketing materials. You can measure effectiveness of that content with Google Analytics and a social media measurement tool.

“By measuring the true ROI of your show (relationships, written content, backlinks, social mileage, and guest blog posts), you’ll start recognizing the significant impact that your podcast is having on your brand,” Carbary concludes.

A baseline survey

If the main goal is brand building—establishing your CEO or other executive as an innovator—your desired outcome is an increase in the percentage of your target audience perceiving the CEO as a leader, says PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing. In that case, first conduct a survey to establish a baseline metric.

Ask your audience whom they consider leaders in the niche, and have them rate your CEO and other authorities in terms of innovation and expertise. Repeat the survey at the end of the year or campaign to gauge progress toward that goal.

Between surveys, track the download figures as well as exposure of key messages. Feature your key messages in several places in each podcast, Paine adds. By tracking the percentage of people who listen to the entire podcast, you can determine how many key messages they heard.

What do listeners say?

Podcaster Florante Valdez says the number of reviews offers the best gauge of podcasts. “Sometimes podcasting just ends up as a numbers game, much like a basketball [game],” Valdez writes in All About Podcast. “If you look at it on another angle, the success of a podcast is not just about the numbers. It’s really about your listeners.”

Reviews indicate whether you’ve reached your target audience, and critical reviews help you improve as a podcaster. Ask listeners to leave reviews; don’t pay for them. Remember that you seek a defined audience; don’t try to please everyone, Valdez advises.

As podcasting becomes an increasingly popular communications channel, it’s essential for PR and marketing teams to measure the effectiveness of the online audio programs.

Leading podcasters and measurement gurus agree that analytics are essential, but they offer varying perspectives about the best strategies and metrics for measuring podcasts. Podcast measurement strategies also vary depending on an organization’s marketing and PR objectives.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog.

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