Welcome to the Grow My Podcast Show
Nov. 28, 2022

36. How to build an engaged community for your podcast with Arielle Nissenblatt

If you're feeling frustrated that your efforts to create an engaged podcast community are not working and taking too much time, then this episode is for you!

"Building a community for your podcast is such a great way to turn a passive listener into an active fan."

Arielle Nissenblatt 

Arielle Nissenblatt is the Head of Community and Content at SquadCast and Earbuds Podcast Collective. She has been working in the podcast space for over six years and is an expert in building engaged communities.

This is Arielle Nissenblatt's story...

"I started a podcast recommendation newsletter in 2017 to get involved in the podcast community.

I was leveraging the newsletter to get free tickets to events and meet people because my goal has always been to be paid to work in the podcast space because I love it.

Along the way, I have learned so much about what it takes to build a community, specifically for podcasters, which I now leverage as the Head of Community for SquadCast." 

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  1. What does building community (buzzword aside) for your podcast really mean? 
  2. How to start building a community that your listeners will actually resonate with 
  3. Best-practice community building through real-life examples

EXCLUSIVE BONUS CONTENT Listened to the episode and feel inspired about building a community for your podcast, BUT want a real-life case study that shows you what success looks like? We recorded a bonus clip where Arielle shared the details on exactly how she implemented her 3 steps for the Earbuds Collective Newsletter. Click here to unlock it

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Related Grow My Podcast Show episodes you may enjoy:

The 3 Secrets to Creating Raving Fans for Your Podcast with Pat Cheung: When building a community for your podcast listeners, you need to identify and activate your raving fans first. Learn the 3 secrets for how to do this the right way. 

How to Growth Hack Live Events for your Podcast: Learn how identify the right live events to attend and tap into existing real-life communities your ideal listeners are already congregating at.

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

💻 Try Capsho for free here

Capsho is an AI-powered podcast marketing copywriter that creates an episode title, description, show notes, social media captions, promotional email, LinkedIn article and YouTube description AND curates a selection of quotes from your episode. All in under 10 minutes with a simple upload of your episode audio file.

🎁 Unlock the bonus clip with Arielle here

📰 Subscribe to Arielle’s newsletter here

🤝 Connect with Arielle here

💬 Send me a message here

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I'm going to be honest with you. Is that okay? I don't really enjoy communities. Am I even allowed to say that as an introvert? I don't love getting involved in communities, especially online ones.

I'm not one to contribute a ton, perhaps, because I don't know if I have anything of value to contribute. I'm not one to broadcast what I'm up to and I'm not one to ask a lot of questions. Now, I'm trying to change some of that, but it's still incredibly difficult for me. And on the flip side, I've always shied away from trying to build my own community, too. When I had my coaching business, it was the thing to have your own Facebook group, to own it, build it, be the facilitator of it.

It was what I was told to do, so I did it. But I can tell you that it has been one of the more difficult parts of owning and marketing a business. Building it was okay, but creating that organic engagement felt like pulling teeth. You know, when you have those Follow Friday posts that has one poor lone person who applies to it and unfortunately doesn't actually get any follows. Yeah, that was what my online community was like, which is why I have so much respect for people who have been able to build those types of communities.

Because, yes, building a community is important. A community that you own and have influence in, especially if you are looking to build your credibility and authority doing that. It's a smart strategy. Building a community for your podcast is such a great way to turn a passive listener into an active fan. But not going to lie, it is super hard.

Fortunately, I had Ariellele Nissenblatt from Squad Cast and Earbuds collective join me on this episode. Who has been able to do this incredibly successfully across different mediums and platforms? Someone who will be taking us through her three steps to building an engaged community. So if you have been struggling with building a community for your podcast, then this episode is for you. My name is Deirdre Tshien, CEO and co founder of Cap Show, the world's first AI powered podcast copywriter.

And this is to grow my podcast show, hey, You okay. So I honestly could not be more pumped for this episode. As someone who has failed time and car time again to build a truly engaged community, I know I have a lot to learn. And who better to learn from than a master and in fact, the head of community on and content at Squad Cast, Ariellele Nissenblatt. And as someone who is just not a natural at any of this, I needed to know more about how it came so naturally to Arielle.

I think about podcasts all the time and I think about building community within podcasting all the time. It comes pretty naturally to me to think about ways to bring people together, to discuss ways to grow your podcast, or how to find the right microphone, or how to collaborate with each other. I think podcasting is a medium that is collaborative in nature, and so it is very easy to build communities around that idea. I got into the podcast space almost six years ago. I started listening to podcasts in 2014, which is more than six years ago, but I really started thinking about podcasting in 2016.

It was because I wanted to listen to more podcasts, and I didn't know how to find ones that were worth my time. I was listening to five or six podcasts, and I loved them, but when they were finished for the day or for the week or whatever, I was done. I didn't know how to go about finding more. So I decided I wanted to harness the power of community. So I started a podcast recommendation newsletter that relies on community curation.

So each week of this newsletter is curated by somebody else, and anyone can curate a list and choose any theme that they want. And then they go and they find five podcast episodes on that theme. And if you're a podcaster yourself, you can choose one of your own episodes. It's a great way to get your show out there. But for the most part, it's people who want to show off that they love a certain theme or that they want to challenge themselves to find episodes about X, Y and Z that they're interested in.

So I started that newsletter five and a half years ago, and I've used it to propel myself into the podcast community in a number of different roles. But community is really at the heart of all of that. See what I mean about it being so natural to her? So what exactly does community mean to Arielle? Communities are different things to different people at different times, depending on what you need.

A community can be people that you go out to dinner with, that you just rely on. It's a weekly thing, it's a monthly thing. It can be people that you connect with on the Internet. You never meet in real life, you never intend to meet in real life, but you get each other because you work on the same things. You're always in the same slack channel and you're supporting each other.

It can be different things for different companies, too. So if we go to the more buzzy definition of community, which is, I don't know, everybody's talking about building community for your podcast or for your business or for your this or for your that, for your software, any company can have a community associated with it. But should they is really the question. So McDonald's can have a community based around beta testers of new foods, right? And that's probably something that's really necessary.

We have a beta tester community at Squadcast, people who get access to things early, and that's necessary for us. And it's fun for them and, you know, they get the financial advantage of being able to use QuadCast for free. To a certain extent, that's great for us, right? But what I would say is tough is when people decide that they're going to make a community without consulting the people who they intend to be in that community, whether or not those people want to be part of a community, the word community is buzzy. But there should be a caveat there, which is how does that community want to be defined?

Do they want to be defined at all? So in 2016, that's when the idea for my newsletter came about and I launched it February 13, 2017. I'll never forget it because it is World Radio Day. I didn't do it on purpose, but it's a really nice coincidence. So started the newsletter.

Then my goal was I really want to be paid to do something in the podcast space. I love this space. This is where I want to make a living. I don't know what I want to do yet because the people that I was looking up to at the time were producers. And I love the creative side of things.

And I to a certain extent want to be a producer and wanted to be a producer at the time. But I found that applying to entry level producer jobs was difficult to do without any experience. So everybody was telling me, you need to get experience. But I didn't really know how to get experience. So I decided to try to break in through the business side of podcasting.

So my newsletter really helped that. So my first real break, my first real realization that this could be something, was that I was able to leverage my newsletter to go to events for free. I was able to say, I will run an ad in my newsletter in exchange for a free ticket. And at those events, I would meet people, I would shake hands, I would make sure that I got business cards so that we could go to coffee after that. And it started working.

And listening to podcasts, being exposed to more podcasts, being exposed to more people, made it so that I was constantly having new ideas. And I was becoming entrepreneurially, excited. And every day I was writing a new idea into my notebook and trying to figure out how that could come about. So the idea that came about next was that coworking spaces should have podcast studios in them and I could be the liaison to those podcast studios. And so I convinced a coworking space, that was beautiful.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I convinced them to hire me to build a podcast studio for them. Now I did not know what I was doing. That's the fun part here. I knew how to do a podcast recommendation newsletter.

I knew about podcasts in Los Angeles. I knew who the key players were who the production houses were. And I knew that people wanted to be recording podcasts and I knew that businesses should be creating podcasts for their businesses, but I didn't know the details of how to make that happen. So I learned on the job. I was hired to build a studio and I found engineers and I figured out how to create a pricing page and I figured out how to run social media for this coworking space that now had a podcast studio and that continued to make me connections.

And I would have networking events at this coworking space and that led to more connections. And eventually I was hired to work at Castbox, the podcast listening app, to do marketing, to help with their inapp curation and to do social media and a few other things like that. And that's what really spurred me onto this podcast marketing angle, which I'm now deeply entrenched in, is how to actually grow your show and how to grow your show with community and with collaboration. And then from Casbox I moved to Squadcast. Squadcast is a recording software, so I had not previously been on the I guess Casbox is technically a software, but it's more of a product.

Squad Cast is a software that helps you record podcasts remotely and I use Squad Cast before I started working there. For about six months, I had an early pandemic podcast with my friend. We were recording on opposite sides of the country and I was in love with Squad Cast. And so when I saw that they had a job opening, I was like, hell yeah, I want to work for a company that I love. So it kind of all comes full circle, which is I wanted to be paid to work in the podcast space because I loved it.

And now I am paid to work in the podcast space for a company that I think is really doing amazing things and is empowering creators. And we have a pretty strong community approach too. Oh, this is so gold. Okay, this is exactly where I failed. I started a community because I was making it all about me and my business.

But really I didn't take the time to understand whether my audience even wanted to be part of a community and if they did, what that would even look like. I'm not sure if you're listening to this and realizing that you're in the same boat too, but if you are, then hang with us. We're going to take a quick ad break and when we get back, Arielle is going to share her three steps to building a community for your podcast. We are going to jump straight into how us podcasters me and you can build a community for our podcast to engage, create conversation, and retain them as listeners. And we have Arielle Nissenblade here to help us with it.

Let's get into it. First question to ask when building a community for your podcast is, does that community want to be a community? I alluded to this before, but don't get wrapped up in the buzziness of the word community. Think about what your ideal listener is doing while they're listening to your podcast. Maybe your podcast is a business podcast, and maybe you're really dropping a lot of information and they want to be writing things down while they're listening, or they're taking notes on their phone, or they're otherwise having discussions with their friends about what you're talking about.

And that's the community that they're building with their friends. But they don't necessarily need to be involved with the rest of the people that are listening to your show. Maybe it could be that you, within the content of your show, create opportunities for people to be involved. Maybe you ask people to call in. Maybe you have a discord channel that you've been building since the beginning, and you have really strong incentives for why people should be involved.

That might be reason enough for people to, quote, join your community. But maybe your podcast is about maybe it's a really immersive audio drama and it's scripted and the characters have a lot of character development and there's a lot writing on your listeners ability to fully immerse themselves into this story. But they don't necessarily need to be involved in a community for every single audio drama that they listen to. So think about what they're doing. Think about their reactions to your show, and think why you as a person would want to join a community.

So think about how many places on the Internet that you frequent offer opportunities for you to be involved further. And how many of those can you actually take advantage of? There are only so many hours that you can spend on the Internet and not drive yourself nuts. So what does your community or your potential community offer that another community does not? And it is possible that you do offer something, but you really need to define that.

And you need to make it very clear. This is so powerful. Because essentially, Arielle has given us the permission to step right back and question whether our audience even wants to be part of a community, whether it makes sense for them and in their lives because perhaps they're already part of too many communities, or that our content and topic doesn't even make sense. Or if we're not creating anything different to other communities already available, then why create one at all? Given this frame, I really wanted Arielle to start to dig into some real life examples she's experienced.

So squad cast. When I started in 2020, there had always already been a community, right? There was an undefined community. People that use Squad Cast, some that were vocal about their love and support of Squad Cast on social media, some that would email the founders and say, thank you so much, some that would come up to the founders and the people who work at Squadcast at podcast events and say, we really appreciate you. Thank you so much for creating this.

That's a community, but it's not a defined community, and that community is not being introduced to other people within the community. So when I started in 2020, I decided as part of my job, that I wanted to define that community and give them opportunities to hang out with each other. So the first thing I did was we started a weekly newsletter that went out to everybody on the squad cast. We started a weekly newsletter that went out to everybody, everybody who had given their email address to squad cast, started that newsletter, ran it for about six months, tried to figure out how people like to interact with that. We implemented some opportunities for the community to be highlighted.

For example, we did a Squad pod of the week, a podcast recorded on squad cast that we would highlight. We did a squad shot of the week. So when you're in a squad cast recording session, you take a screenshot of your recording, and we allow people to now it can be branded. In 2020, it was not a branded squad shot. And you have to do control f four or command f four.

Now we just have a button right there on the screen. And that was a community initiative, because it gives you the opportunity to capture your conversation right then and there, and then share it on social and have it as a branded image. And we get those images and we want to share them right? So those are all community initiatives. So we did that in that newsletter, and then after about six months, I decided, great, seems like there's buy in to a certain extent.

So let's see if I make a really clear call to action about if people want to join a more specialized community if they'll say yes. So I put out an email. As part of the weekly email, I said basically, raise your hand if you want to be more involved, if you want to build a Squadcast community. And people responded to a Google form that I created, and in that Google form asked them where they want to meet, how often they want to meet, what does community mean to them, do they want to have a leadership role, and can they commit to a monthly meeting? And people got back to me.

We decided that we would meet to discuss all of these questions. So I had about 150 people who bought into that first meeting. And then from there, we moved over to Slack, because people decided that slack was where they wanted us to be hanging out. We still do have two Facebook groups, because some people do want to be on Facebook. But slack is really the place where our community resides now.

And within that Slack community, we've got a lot going on that I can get into. But that is what that's what the building of the Squad Cast community looked like from the start and where it is now with I Know Dino. This is a podcast that I became aware of because they use Squad Cast and they got in touch with us. And I just love what they're doing. I love the name.

I know, Dino. This is a couple. It's a Garrett and Sabrina, and they love dinosaurs, and they met because they love dinosaurs. And they started a website where they document different dinosaur museums around I don't know if it's the world or just the US. But then they started a podcast, and they have a really active discord server where people contribute to the show.

They say, here's some news in the dinosaur world. Make sure you cover it. Here's a dinosaur that was just heard. Maybe let's do an episode on that. So they open up their show to community, and the community not only wants to talk to them about dinosaurs, but they want to talk to each other about their love of dinosaurs.

What I'm hearing from these particular examples are a couple of things. The first is that is that it needs to be around something that people are passionate about. That's really the only way that people are going to want to spend time, their limited time in your community. So do you have a specific topic or angle with your podcast that you know people will love to be sharing, engaging with others on? The second is that even if you think people are passionate about that topic, you still want to validate it.

So ask them. Ask them to raise their hand if they want to be more involved, and if they do what that would look like for them. Doing this is going to create a level of accountability that will make them active in being involved in your community. And the third learning is that the more niche and different the topic of your podcast is, the more likely that a similar community doesn't exist, or perhaps not enough of them exist. So you can start to bring a different flavor and perspective to building your podcast community.

So how can you think differently about your specific topic and the angle from which you can create conversation from so much gold already from what Earl started has shared with us. So, of course, I just cannot wait to get into step two. So what is step two? You need to build education into your community initiatives because, yes, the Squadcast community decided that they wanted to meet on Slack, and that meant that some people needed to use Slack for the first time. And if you're familiar with Slack, you'll know that if you don't download the app, you won't use it as much as if you do have the app downloaded, whether it's on your phone or it's on your desktop.

And so what a lot of people did was they signed up for the Slack community but didn't download the app, which meant that it was just on the browser and they would get emails. But it's very hard to ask people to click on an email and respond to a conversation and then exit out that conversation and then you won't see it again for another week. So a big part of my initiative here was to make sure that people knew how to use the communication platform that we chose as our primary communication platform. So how are they actually going to stay in touch with us? So we did webinars on how to best take advantage of the Squadcast community initiatives.

We did that at the beginning, we do that every few months. I actually just put out an episode this week on the Squad Cast podcast, going through a bullet pointed list of all the ways to get involved with Squad Cast. And so the Slash channel is a really big part of that, but education needs to be awesome and thorough. What I particularly love about what Arielle is sharing with us is just how practical these tips are. Who would have thought that we would need to get to the level of educating members of our community on how to even practically get involved, like how to navigate and use the platform.

But that's exactly what we need to do. And it makes sense we need to break down as many barriers as possible in order to make it stupidly simple for them to access and engage in the community. So if you've been journeying along with us so far, you may be wondering about some practical initiative ideas for your community. I mean, I certainly was, so I asked Arielle to give us some examples. So within the Squadcast community, we've got our Slack channel.

That's where most people are hanging out most of the time. On that Slack channel, we have a bunch of different back channels. So we've got Random, which is where people can put anything podcast related. We've got self promo, which is a big one. So if you have a new episode that comes out, you drop a link to it, tell us a little bit about it, and then that channel gets moved over into our weekly newsletter.

So I mention that we have a weekly newsletter for all of Spadcast, but now we have a weekly newsletter for the Squad Pod. So people that opt in to be more involved with the community, that is called Squad Pod Weekly and that goes out on Wednesdays, whereas the other one goes out on Fridays. I love newsletters. So the Wednesday newsletter includes a section that says Member News, and we bring over anybody who posted in the self promo channel over to member news and we highlight them. So that's an opportunity for them to say we were featured in this newsletter.

Also, we have in that newsletter squad shot of the week, and that is a Squad Pod Squad Shot of the week. So anybody within our Squad Pod channel who has recorded an episode can hit the Squad Shot button. Send us that squad shot. If they go to Squadcast FM Share, we get it and we highlighted it to the world. Also, at Squadcast FM Share, you can give us a pre roll ad to play on our own podcasts.

Our podcast is the Squadcast podcast, but every single episode before it starts, we include a preroll ad that says, hey, before we get to this week's episode, I want to tell you about another show that we think you're going to love and it's recorded on Squad Cast. I'm the host of XYZ. It's a show about XYZ. Alright, let's get to the show that is free promo for your show just because you record on Squadcasts. Similarly, we feature Squadcast recorded podcasts on our podcast.

That is what the Squad Cast podcast is right now. It's an opportunity for us to show off the amazing high quality content that people are making on the Squadcast channel. It's an opportunity for us to show off the amazing high quality content that people are making on Squadcast. So go to Squadcast FM Share and just send us your audio and we'll get back to you and we'll let you know if it's a good fit. And then we'll ask you to record a little intro to tell us a little bit about your show and what you're going to get out of this episode.

But really my goal as the community manager at Squad Cast is to make sure that you have the tools that you need to make your show grow so that you keep Squad casting. Right? I mean, ultimately that's what I want is that you are so happy with your own show that you're going to use podcast forever. I love all these and gives me such great ideas, actually for capture as well. But what about for podcasters specifically?

So, a really great example is this podcast that I listened to called how to do the Pot. It's a show about cannabis for women, and the host is so smart, so aware of her niche, she's an expert in what she does. Two of her episodes per month are Deep Dive heavy Topic episodes where she talks about the history of cannabis or why marijuana is seen as a bad word, or what strain you should use if you're looking for stress relief. So it's instructional and it's historical and it's conversational. The other two episodes per month are community generated and what she does, her name is Ellen, she's the host.

She asks for her audience members to send in two to five minute voice clips. And the question that they're answering in those voice clips is, tell me about the first time that you bought legal weed. It's an opportunity for them to share a personal experience that can help somebody else in their quest to understand this new emerging industry of cannabis. But it's also an opportunity for Ellen to take a break because these shows do not take as much energy when it comes to production and also to go after opportunities to collaborate, right? So not only does she go after voice clips from her listeners, but she'll also go after voice clips from other cannabis related podcasters or other wellness related podcasters or other people who are bigger than her show.

So that this access across promotional opportunity. So I love what Ellen is doing with the show is called how to do the Pot. I would definitely check out that example because the other thing about it is that her episodes that are community generated and her other full length episodes, they get the same number of downloads. People are just as interested. And part of that is because it's hard to start listening to a podcast when you don't have that much time and you don't necessarily want to commit to a 45 minutes episode.

So give me a taste of something with two minutes. Oh, I don't know about you, but my mind is in overdrive thinking about all the possibilities. So let's step back. Let's quickly recap on how it is we're going to build our podcast communities. We have step one, which is simply asking, does your community even want to be a community?

Take the time to ask a question and define it. Step two is to then educate the community. Educate them on the simplest things like how to engage all the way up to the different initiatives that they could get involved in. And so what is step three? Step three for building a community is highlighting that community.

So I touched on this a little bit before, but I make sure in the Squadcast community to give opportunities for the Squad Pod to feel excited that they're part of the Squadcast community. So number one, pre roll ads on our podcast. Number two, getting your podcast featured on our podcast. Number three, squad shots in our newsletter. And number four, we do monthly webinars.

And a lot of the time those are partner webinars where we'll partner with a production company or a hosting site or some other sort of software in the podcast space or in the audio industry. And we have teaching opportunities, right? We have people share what they've learned and then teach that to the Squadcast community and beyond. But we also open up, we open up our webinars to the Squad Pod themselves. So if somebody wants to teach something, they are welcome to pitch me on that workshop and then teach that.

And that's an opportunity for them not only to show off that they're an expert in something, but also it's free promo for their podcast or for whatever they're doing in the podcast space. So I of course make sure that that's going to be a worthwhile hour. Spent for the people who are attending. But we love to highlight people for what they are good at. Highlighting Your Community community can be quite simple on your podcast.

Patching in a previous episode actually shared a little bit about this. You could have a short segment where you call them out. You could even do it as part of your Show Notes, perhaps part of a weekly newsletter. There are so many ways that you can take what Arielle shared with us and repurpose it for your own community. So, if we were to recap on how to build a community for your podcast, we have step one, which is simply asking whether your community even wants to be a community.

Step two is to then educate the community. And step three is to highlight your community. So simple, yet so powerful in building your own podcast community. Now, as I've mentioned before, Arielle has been able to build communities for different initiatives and through different mediums. One is the squad cast that she has taken us through, but another is a newsletter she started called Earbuds Collective.

And I was really, really interested in hearing about how she used the three steps that she had just outlined to build a community for her newsletter. Now, what I love about her answer is that she actually sent me through exactly what she did according to her three steps. Some was by design and some was purely by chance. Things like the survey that she sent out, how and what she educated her community on, and how she gets them involved and highlights them. So what I'm going to do is, if you want to listen in on exactly how she was able to build a community for her newsletter using the three steps she just outlined, you can access that as bonus content through the Show Notes.

Completely free, of course. So head over to the Show Notes, go ahead and get access to Arielle stepping us through another very comprehensive example of her building a community. And if you want to stay in touch with Arielle, here's how you do it. The best way to do that is on Twitter. I'm very active there.

My handle is re this and that. I tweet all the time, constantly about podcast recommendations, thoughts about the podcast industry, marketing advice, and then I really love to create opportunities for podcasters to meet each other and to collaborate. So I do a lot of posts like that. I would love it if you subscribe to my newsletter at Earbuds Audio, not only because you love podcast recommendations and want to listen to more podcasts, but also because you can take advantage of curating A list and getting your podcast out there. I will be leaving all of those links in the Show Notes as well.

So head over there, get the bonus content, and as always, stay awesome.

Arielle NissenblattProfile Photo

Arielle Nissenblatt

Arielle Nissenblatt is a Marketing Expert and Consultant, Speaker, and Community Manager at SquadCast. She is also the Founder of EarBuds Podcast Collective, a themed curated weekly podcast newsletter.