Or do we simply need to change our expectations for engagement around the content we create?
Last year when I decided to launch The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, I tried to focus on how I could make my podcast different to help it stand out from everyone else that was jumping into podcasting. I came up with three ideas:
1 – I didn’t want to have a co-host, and I didn’t want to make the podcast an interview podcast. So many podcasts interview guests, and IMO few do it well. And the few that do, like Kerry Gorgone’s Marketing Smarts do it so well that you’re probably not going to come close to what Kerry does, so it’s better to fight the battles you have a chance of winning.
2 – I didn’t want to have every episode be 45 minutes to an hour. I just don’t have time for it, and now that more and more people are listening to podcasts during travels back and forth from work (which is typically a trip that takes less than 30 mins), a longer episode doesn’t work as well. Plus, what I’ve noticed from a lot of podcasts, whether they have a co-host or not, is that many podcasters seem to approach their podcast as a pseudo radio show. The opening 5-10 mins of the podcast is off-topic banter and small talk that has zero to do with that show’s topic. Some listeners love it, I hate it. Don’t waste my time, get into the show and cut out the fluff. So I wanted to shoot for 20 mins or less per episode for my podcast.
3 – I wanted to create a way for listeners and fans of the show to have a real stake in the direction that the podcast took. My idea was, since #fandamnshow is focused on how companies can create and cultivate fans, I wanted to let the fans and loyal listeners of the podcast have ownership of the show’s direction. I didn’t really see any other podcasts really making an effort to empower their listeners and give them a way to make the show feel like their own. The way I wanted to do this was to encourage listeners to engage with me and fellow listeners via the #fandamnshow tweets. My thinking was that this would be a way for listeners to share their thoughts on the show and also suggest future topics, etc. And I could pick topics that listeners suggested, give them shoutouts during the podcasts, and they could see that their voice was being incorporated into the flow of #fandamnshow so in many ways it would become their podcast, as much as it was mine.
Fast-forward almost a year, and #3 hasn’t happened at all. I’ve been lucky enough to have some listeners (thank y’all!) use the #fandamnshow hashtag to promote the podcast, but there’s been almost none of the discussion around the podcast itself via the hashtag that I was hoping for.
And yet, the audience for #fandamnshow is growing at a rate that I never would have dreamed was possible when I launched the show. Last month the show had over 1,500 downloads, which was a 170% increase over the previous month. April looks like it could double the number of downloads from March. So the show’s audience is rapidly expanding, but the engagement via discussions I am getting around the show via comments here, emails and tweets with #fandamnshow continue to be very low.
Now granted, a lot of that is simply a byproduct of podcasts not being the best channels for creating engagement via discussions. As I said, a lot of people listen to podcasts while they are on the go, and mobile commenting isn’t a very convenient way to engage. At the same time, I see discussions here have fallen for the last couple of years as well, and I’ve already talked about how no one is talking on Twitter anymore (Although I do like the recent ability Twitter added that lets you add a comment to a RT. That’s a nice touch).
The reality is that most of us have decided that we would rather spend our time consuming content, than engaging in discussions about and around that content. The time I spend crafting a comment about a post/podcast/video is time I could take to read another post or watch another cat video on Facebook.
From a business context, this change in how we define engagement could be a good thing. For too long, businesses have relied on ‘soft’ metrics to try to measure social media success. Comments, Likes, RTs and Favorites were tracked, metrics that have little correlation to real business growth. Since these forms of engagement are harder to find, businesses will have to adapt and measure/track more relevant forms of engagement, like leads generated, white papers downloaded and click throughs.
But for all of us, I think we need to realize that the heady days of 2006-2008, when you could create almost any piece of social content and a discussion would spring up around it, are gone.
Pic via Flickr user Udo Springfield