3 Ways to Attract “Serial Status” Raving Fans to Your Podcast

3 Ways to Attract “Serial Status” Raving Fans to Your Podcast

By now you’ve surely listened to the final episode of the massively popular podcast Serial. If not, we have a suggestion: jump in with some holiday binge-listening so you can join in on the conversation around this (deservedly) much-hyped audio treat.

For newcomers, Serial is the brainchild of Sarah Koenig and is the spin off of her work at the highly popular program, This American Life. It takes the format of one nonfiction story that is explored, piece-by-piece, each week. Season one focused on investigating the case of Adnan Syed, who may or may not have committed the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 1999. The journalists at Serial spent 15 months sifting through interviews, documents and police reports and conducted interviews with Adnan and others close to the case.

For good reason, Serial is the fastest podcast in iTunes history to reach 5 million downloads. It’s a media darling and a viral smash, inspiring highly trafficked Reddit boards, listening parties and yes, content lovers, even a few podcasts that discuss the Serial podcast! What’s even more intriguing: beyond being just about entertainment, the Toronto police force are hoping that the popularity of the show will help to solve a cold case that happened in 2011.

The breakout popularity of Serial presents a massive opportunity for content marketers. Consumers -- many of whom never even listened to a podcast before -- are now enthralled with the platform. This could be the tipping point, where everyone realizes the power of the podcast that marketers have known for some time now. Now, more than ever, we need to start using podcasting a marketing tool to reach ideal customers.

So how do you attract “Serial status” engagement? Sit back. Press play. We’ll fill you in on three ways you’ll be able to capture the hearts (and ears) of your audience.

1. Master the Art of Storytelling

Serial is all about strong narrative. The story is structured in a way that makes the subject matter grip you due to it being spun artfully. While the case itself is quite interesting, the story goes beyond what’s seen with the average tale.

As content expert Ann Handley says, it’s not just about storytelling -- it’s about “how to tell a true story really, really well.” Serial nails it. Rather than being a dry back-and-forth interview as is the case with so many podcasts, Serial mixes the content up a bit and breaks up interview clips with narrative and then some thoughts, peppered with a few more details and then back to an interview.

You can take the lesson of exceptional storytelling as demonstrated in Serial and apply this to your blogging efforts. Rather than a dry recap, make your product or service the hero. Tell a story about how your team made an impact on a customer’s life. Spin a tale about what you learned at a conference. Go beyond the ordinary when sharing your story. Think about what you’d find compelling when it comes to content. Mix it up.

2. Constantly Gather Feedback

Serial is definitely not static content. The storyline changed throughout the first season based  on events that occurred throughout the week. This allowed for an opportunity to address any comments generated from the previous show within the current program. Engagement with rabid fans of this series allowed for the producers to really connect with their audience and their thoughts. They strategically built it so they could learn more about what their listeners crave -- and can tailor content to that in the future, creating products, new programs or shows that the listeners will sign up for in a heartbeat. It also provides the platform for further calls to action - sign up for this newsletter; share your thoughts with us on Twitter, etc. In Serial’s case, they asked for donations to fund a second season. This simple call to action helped make their next season possible, and validated that their show is something people will pay for to keep it going.

Be sure to consider the feedback of your customers (both existing and future) and have a strong call to action on materials that you may wish to gather input upon. Blog posts, downloads, new product enhancements - these all are great areas where you can harness the power of community and connect with your audience. The ability to course correct early based on their feedback can save you valuable time and energy or conversely, they may bring up a pain point you never considered and open up a whole new market for you to explore. Just as fans are listening to Serial, they are also talking to Serial. And they will be just as eager to speak with you if you provide them with the opportunity.

3. Be Unbiased and Relatable

Sarah, the host of Serial, examines Adnan’s case from all angles without judgment. She voices her opinion here and there, but leaves it up to the listener to make up their mind and draw their own conclusions from the material she presents. By truly inhabiting the role of an investigative journalist, Sarah is doing her job in a way that allows the audience to feel empowered, explore the story fully and not feel spoon-fed. It’s this freedom for the listener to in tandem craft the story that has made this podcast so addictive and inspired so much conversation.

Being unbiased and relatable produces respect, encouraging people to pay attention to your thoughts. How can you do this in your content marketing? Consider the 60/20/20 rule here: 60 percent of your content should be audience engagement; 20 percent should be curating and spreading relevant content for your readers; the final 20 percent should be focused on marketing you. By engaging without an agenda and providing relevant content your readers value, you’ll garner the attention you deserve when it comes time to promote your brand.

So there you have it. While you wait for season two of Serial to be released, take some time to adopt some of its philosophies for your brand. Whether it’s starting your own podcast or applying several of the methods we’ve outlined to switch up your content, Serial is leaving marketers with many innovative ways to re-examine our promotional efforts to create raving fan bases.

Are you a fan of Serial? Do you agree that it’s behind the resurgence in podcasting? Any plans to podcast in your brand’s future? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Ernest Duffoo

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