Hacking Podcast Ads: How to Reach Podcast Audiences with Paid Social Ads

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Hacking Podcast Ads: How to Reach Podcast Audiences with Paid Social Ads

Brett McHale


May 16, 2018

Whether you listen to them daily or just overheard a conversation about last week’s Radiolab between two leather-clad, ponytail-sporting fellas on the train this morning, I’m willing to bet you’re familiar with podcasts.

The Opportunity in Podcast Advertising

Over the past decade or so, the once-obscure medium has become increasingly popular among, well, everyone. According to Podcasting Insights, “44% (124 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast – up from 40% in 2017.”

With those numbers, I’d wager it’s next to impossible to find an interest or hobby, no matter how obscure, that doesn’t have a dedicated podcast (or 20). This makes the medium ripe for advertisers. In fact, spend on podcast advertising has also increased to $220 million in 2017 from $119 million in 2016.

podcast ad revenue growth forecast

Podcast Advertising Challenges

That surge in ad spend across the board has resulted in an issue for advertisers: more competition, which means limited space before, during, or after the most popular podcasts. This creates another problem: finding lesser known niche podcasts whose listening audience is going to convert to customers for your business at an affordable rate.

These headaches leave us to wonder whether podcasts are an effective channel for direct-action marketing or if they should be categorized under the “untrackable brand recognition” budget alongside stress balls and toothpicks. Many marketers, particularly those working at or operating small businesses and startups, would rather stick to what is measurable and they know works: paid search and paid social.

bill burr podcast ad extraordinaire

But what if I told you there are ways you can reach those engaged, valuable podcast listeners without ever having to invest in podcast ads yourself?

In this post, I’ll teach you how to use Facebook and Twitter ads to reach people who listen to podcasts that align with your brand.

Using Facebook Ads to Target Podcast Listeners

Even with the changes to Custom Audiences, Facebook advertising offers some of the most advanced demographic and psychographic targeting capabilities in history. It’s almost as if an alien or robot constructed it to study the true nature of human behavior…

use facebook audience building tools to target podcast listeners

When something increases in popularity (podcasts for example), discussion around that topic gets some legs under it, and it becomes a potential targeting parameter within Facebook’s advertising platform.

The trick here is to capitalize on topics that are relevant to your business. When someone’s online behavior and interests tangentially relate to products they are in market for, diversifying and experimenting with how you reach them can be a clever way to improve your bottom line.

As a broad example, I was able to locate some of the top podcasts as interests in Facebook either by their title or the name of the host:

example of using facebook ads to target podcast fans

What are the implications of this?

Say you currently listen to a variety of podcasts and notice that the advertisers on them either sell to a similar audience as you or compete directly. You can create separate ad sets for each podcast or related topic and create hyper-specific ads for that audience.

Let’s say you listen to the Joe Rogan Experience and you sell a line of nutritional supplements. At the beginning of each podcast, Joe reads an advertisement for his company’s line of supplements called “Onnit”.

You can leverage this knowledge by targeting fans of the Joe Rogan Experience with Facebook ad copy that both mentions “The Joe Rogan Experience” and the benefits of using your brand of supplements (possible competitive advantages over others in the space). The added familiarity with the podcast will increase the relevance of your ads and generate more attention than if you simply marketed them to a broader, less-specified audience.

You can do this with multiple podcasts by creating an overarching “Podcast” campaign with your desired objective in mind (conversions, link clicks, website purchases, etc).

Example:

Campaign: “Podcasts – Lead ads”

Ad Set: The Joe Rogan Experience Ad: Joe Rogan Audience-Relevant Ad

Ad Set: NPR Podcast Ad: NPR Audience-Relevant Ad

By breaking up podcasts by topic, host, and genre, you can be flexible and creative with your ads. You can experiment with the tone of your copy in relation to the tone of the podcast.

Another implication of this is the fact that it is no secret who is advertising on which podcast and how frequently.

Paying attention to the types of brands that are advertising directly on the podcasts and how much they do so will give you a pretty good idea of how valuable those audiences of listeners are.

targeting podcast advertisers using facebook ads

Alternatively, you can target individuals who have interacted with those brands using Facebook (as depicted above) instead of targeting the podcasts on which ads are read.

Podcast Research: What Are Your Prospects Listening to?

It is imperative to understand which podcasts your target audiences are consuming and for what reasons.

Due to the fact that podcasts cover a wide variety of topics, styles, and genres, your potential audience may listen to each with varying intent, or derived benefit. Similar to keyword research, you should take some time to compile a list of relevant topics that your target audience would potentially listen to.

The downside to all of this is the fact that there are so many podcasts out there that fit within small niche markets. You may find that they are not available to target within Facebook’s platform. With that being said, you’re never going to know unless you go into the audience creation tool and test out the list you have compiled.

use twitter to discover which podcasts your prospects are listening to

You are, however, not just limited to Facebook or Instagram…

Using Twitter to Target Podcast Listeners

A short time ago, Twitter as a platform for both marketers and users looked like it was about to fall apart. Since then, thanks in part to news and particular famous users, Twitter has resurged as a popular medium once more.

One of Twitter’s best qualities is that it allows for real-time discussion and in the world of weekly podcasts; that gives you powerful versatility (perhaps even more so than Facebook) when it comes to contextual targeting.

prominent users reinvigorated twitter

If you are familiar with Twitter as an advertising platform, you may notice that it is something of a hybrid between paid search and Facebook. Instead of “Ad Sets” you have “Ad Groups” (similar to search) but the overall campaign structure remains closer to Facebook.

Within the Ad Group section of your Twitter ad campaign, you have the ability to target keywords, interests, behaviors, and lookalikes of followers. For the purpose of targeting podcasts, I would suggest using keywords.

There are two types of keyword targeting on Twitter:

  1. Searches: This allows you to target the phrases that people search for on Twitter. Keyword targeting enables you to target your Tweets so that they show up when people are searching for topics.
  2. Timeline: Target to users based on something that they have Tweeted. This allows you to specify the hashtags and keywords users actually tweet out.

The two sides to this strategy are important because you can reach both users who are passively searching for topics and hashtags as well as those actively engaged in the discussion:

targeting podcasts your prospects listen to using twitter ads

Once again you can specifically cater your ads to be relevant to each keyword or podcast and, just like Facebook, you can target keywords related to the brands who are currently advertising on them as well.

target people talking about brands advertising on podcasts using twitter

Hijack Your Competitor’s Podcast Deals

If your business sells products directly online you will notice that most advertisers who do the same offer “promo codes” for the listeners of the podcasts they advertise on. If someone is patient enough to sit through an ad read on a podcast, often times the brand will entice listeners to visit their website and insert a promo code relevant to the podcast when purchasing. This is a way for advertisers to tie back revenue on their ads and determine which podcast is driving the most volume for them.

hijack competitors' podcast promo codes with paid social ads

You can piggyback on this strategy by offering better deals to podcast listeners directly in their social feeds. This comes in handy if you sell a similar product to those being advertised. The added relevance to the podcast may induce some to act more on your visually enticing ad over the one that they heard audibly on their way to work.

If you’ve got the time and willingness to listen to the podcasts your target audience consumes, note the deals your competitors offer, and beat them. Make it happen!

Managing Expectations

Podcasts are a fantastic medium because they allow you to ascertain certain details about purchasing behavior based on the content being consumed. People listen to them for a variety of reasons and at varying frequency, and their level of engagement can often be representative of how your brand might resonate with them. The strategy I’ve outlined above is a sneaky way to get around having to compete for space with larger brands who have more buying power.

Understanding the “intent” of the listener when targeting podcasts is paramount to your strategy.

Being able to target verticalized topics where individuals are in a certain mindset (business podcasts vs incessant mock drafts or some audio drama) is a key factor in whether or not this strategy will work for you.

Some businesses are simply too niche for this to be effective; the audiences aren’t large enough to target on Facebook or Twitter. If yours falls into this category, I would suggest experimenting with actually advertising on the smaller, less competitive podcasts.

Brett McHale

Brett McHale is the founder of Empiric Marketing, a digital marketing agency dedicated to scaling startups through paid search and social.

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