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What Twitter Podcasts means for thought-leaders and community builders

After Facebook abandoned its attempt, Twitter is the latest to try integrating podcasts into their app. But they’re making some crucial mistakes that prove that really, social media wants nothing to do with podcasting. So if that’s the case, what can we do about it?

What is the excitement around Twitter’s “Podcasts” tab? What’s the plan, and how does it affect leaders using audio to build trust and strengthen relationships? Also, why do social media and podcasting have such a fraught relationship?

Twitter’s announcement

Starting Thursday, August 25, we’re integrating podcasts into Twitter as a part of our newly redesigned Spaces Tab. We know that some discussions need more than 280 characters, and bringing people closer to the ideas, content, and creators they know and love is core to Twitter no matter where the conversations take place… These new hubs will also feature the most popular and engaging podcasts from around the world.

A quote from senior product manager Evan Jones goes on to explain why this means podcasts like ours won’t be found:

What we’re really trying to capture here is as if it’s like another user recommending you something.

What Twitter should do instead

If you tweet the link to your podcast episode, we know how to get the actual podcast it came from. We can surface real listener recommendations as playable audio within the app.

Why Twitter’s podcasting implementation is doomed to fail

Twitter was an open platform almost from the beginning. There are two credible and open directories they could access for podcast listings, yet they’re curating their own list of “popular” shows (ie: true crime, straight white male comedy, and sport).

This isn’t about providing a better experience, it’s about user retention, and maximising time in-app.

Audio is a secondary medium

When you listen to a podcast, you’re inviting the host into your life. You’re bringing them along while you do your daily stuff.

Video, on the other hand, demands our full attention. And while we’re attentive, we’re also able to click and tap on ads.

Facebook tried integrating podcasts and it didn’t work

We’re in a different state of mind when we scroll. We’re not ready to put our phone down and listen to something long-form, we want to keep getting quick hits of info.

What makes us share things?

Anger, fear, excitement, and laughter. These four key emotions are what drives social sharing.

Long-form audio might elicit those responses, but finding a context-free clip that can be shared on social media to create that same reaction is difficult.

The pivot to video

We’re being told that in order for us to compete as podcasters, we have to include video.

Those who gain to benefit from the video hype are those that traffic in ads, which are far easier to track in streaming video than they are in downloaded audio.

Podcasting is a slow medium

Podcasts are a counter to social media in lots of ways. They provide a moment of respite, a moment of pause. They give us permission to choose how to engage our eyes and hands.

How can we make social media work for us?

Most of us don’t have a big enough social audience to move the needle, and tactics for converting audiences can only work so much.

Building a real audience takes time. In the meantime:

  • Keep having the conversations that need to be had
  • Make the show you want to hear
  • Seek out answers to the questions you’re asking
  • Quietly build your back-catalogue of insight and info
  • When people discover it, they’ll have a treasure trove they’ll thank you for

If you’ve been at this for a number of years, ask yourself

  • Am I learning stuff?
  • Am I having fun?
  • Am I building authority in my field?
  • Do I have the energy to make it to the next milestone?

If none of those questions elicit a “yes”, let’s have a chat.

Links

Get clarity on your podcast’s positioning and growth potential.
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Occasional updates about new webinars, courses, and other things we create to make your podcasting life easier.

Transcript

00:00:00Mark
After Facebook abandoned its attempt. Twitter is the latest to try integrating podcasts into their app, but they're making some crucial mistakes that prove that really social media wants nothing to do with podcasting. So if that's the case, what can we do about it?
00:00:16
Welcome to the Podcast Owner's Manual, your handy reference guide to taking care of your podcast and yourself. I'm Mark, your podcast producer, consultant and coach. And today, we're talking about Twitter and the excitement around their Podcasts tab. What's the plan and, um, how does it affect people like us who use audio to build trust and strengthen relationships? I'm also going to explore why I think social media and podcasting has such a fraught relationship and how we can set our expectations accordingly.
00:00:52
So in August, Twitter put out an announcement. Uh, quoting. Starting Thursday, August the 25th, we're integrating podcasts into Twitter as part of our newly redesigned Spaces tab. We know that some discussions need more than 280 characters and bringing people closer to the ideas, content and creators they know and love is core to Twitter, no matter where the conversation takes place.
00:01:24
All right. What they're going to be doing is organizing audio into what they call hubs. Here's the issue coating again. These new hubs will also feature the most popular and engaging podcasts from around the world. And that's the bit that sort of got my hackles up when I, when I read this back in, uh, uh, the end of August, because I thought, right, they are, they're making the mistake that a few people When they pivot into podcasting or, uh, or, uh, as I've called it before, cannon balling into the swimming pool of podcasting without really knowing much about the landscape or the long tail of podcasting, the stuff underneath the uh, under the iceberg under the bit of the iceberg that we see.
00:02:12
So, there's another quote, uh, from Switzer senior product manager. Evan Jones, uh, which goes like this. What we're really trying to capture here. Is as F it's like another user recommending you something. So what they're trying to do is make smart recommendations of popular podcasts. So. let's the real here, that does not include us. It's not to say our shows aren't popular, but we're not Serial or the Daily or My Dad Wrote a Crime Drama or whatever, and that's really what they're going for. That is their understanding of podcasting. It's not my understanding of podcasting. No problem with those shows, but again it's not really what fuels our fire.
00:02:52
What sort of got me hot under the hot, under the collar, really with that thing it's as if it's like another youth user recommending something is. Why don't they just do that? People, share podcasts all the time on Twitter. Now you might not be a big Twitter user and that's, that's absolutely fine. I wanted to make this episode, cause I know not everyone's that into Twitter, but it has been sort of in, in the zeitgeist and, and there has been a bit of buzz about it. So I kind of wanted to talk about it and it is. An important social network, still for many people. And it is actually where a lot of podcasters hang out. And what podcasters do, what listeners do, is they share what they've listening to. They share recommendations, not always, uh, and we'll get into a bit of sharing and what kinds of things people share in a bit. But people do. And they might share a link to an episode from their podcast player. They might share a link to the episode on the that podcast's website, which is what I always prefer people do.
00:03:52
So what Twitter wants to do is they want the audio to be played in the app. That's the whole point, right? That's what they're doing. They want to retain listeners in the app and we'll talk about that as well.
00:04:01
So a way of doing that means, in order to do that, they need the audio from the podcast episode, so they can put it in their own player at the bottom of the screen, so that as you continue to browse and scroll through Twitter, and maybe even temporarily closed the app, although don't close it for too long because then Twitter will want you to come back, is they want that audio to, to continue playing and they want the Twitter app to own that audio.
00:04:23
So in order for them to do that, they need to be able to get at that MP3 file. That's all doable. We can figure that out. That's actually very easy to do. So this idea that they're going to be creating this, curating this list of podcasts that they're going to dane to recommend as if they're being recommended by users, instead of actually looking at the graph of what people are recommending and serving that up. Because if they did that, they'd crack this. But they, that's not really what they want to do.
00:04:51
But here's why I think Twitter. And its relationship with podcasting is ultimately, uh, fleeting and as just about as unremarkable as Facebook's. Now you may or may not know that Facebook, as I hinted at the beginning, they flirted with podcasting as well in the, in a similar kind of vein. Little player at the bottom that the persisted as you scrolled and enjoyed your time on the Facebook platform. it was slightly more egalitarian than it than what it looks like Twitter is doing, because it was actually based on the social graph and, It was a lot, it seemed a lot easier for podcasts to get in. It still wasn't done the right way, but it was done slightly better, and without this sort of weird idea of curation.
00:05:30
So going back to Twitter specifically, twitter was born kind of as an open platform. I credit a lot of Twitter's early success and its growth to the fact that they opened up their systems so that anyone could build apps and web toys and all sorts of fun, little things off Twitter data. A few years later, they would severely curtail that and make it a lot harder to get out their information when they realized how valuable it is and when they can, uh, sell ads on it. But also that getting at information is, is using their resources as well.
00:06:11
Why I think that's important is because podcasting is built on an open ecosystem. There are two major directories that, that Twitter can use to mine podcasts. That's how they can find our podcast, my podcast and your show. That's how they can find them. These are solvable problems and Twitter is choosing not to really engage that much.
00:06:34
I liken it to the game Pass the Bomb. Social media is relationship. Is a lot like this game. I don't know if you've ever played it. It's a little sort of kids' party game and you get this little plastic bomb, you know, one of the old fashioned black uh, spheres with a, with a little, you know, fake fuse on the end. You hit the, the Start button, you enable it, and it starts ticking. And you're you just pass it from person to person. That's all you do. Like Pass the Parcel, you just pass the bomb around. And at some point it's going to go off. And it just, you know, rings a bell or it makes us slightly farty exploding noise. That's kind of social media's relationship to podcasting is like Ugh, we don't really want it. And I have some theories as to why that is.
00:07:15
So audio is a secondary medium. It's the kind of thing that you can do while you're doing other things, right? I'm assuming that, uh, you're listening to me now and you're probably not looking at the actual player, whether it's the podcast player or whatever. I'm assuming you're not just sat staring at that player, right? You'll probably doing something else. You might be washing the dishes, walking the dog, having a bath, whatever it is, you're doing other things. And that is why podcasting is so foundational, so fundamental. Is why I believe so much in is that fact that you are inviting me into your life. You're making me a part of your life. You're bringing me along with you while you do your daily life stuff. That's huge.
00:08:03
Now video demands our full attention. We can't do anything else really. And that's, that's important because while we're attentive we're also able to click and tap. And what are we going to click and tap on? We're going to click and tap on ads. That's the hope, right?
00:08:18
And like I mentioned, Facebook integrated podcasting and it didn't work. The reason why, or one of the reasons is we're in a different state of mind or expectation when we're scrolling through Facebook. This is why social posts don't convert to listeners. They really serve as a reminder. It's like having a billboard for Coca-Cola. It's not directly to make you think I need a nice cool glass of Coca-Cola. I'm going to go to my nearest vendor and pick one up. It's just reminding you that the brand exists, right? It's just, it's keeping your keeping that brand in mind and keeping a good association with it. And so that it's not something that, that that goes away from memory. So the next time you're looking for a drink, you think Yeah, Coca-Cola, that's what I'm after. Right? It basic, basic marketing stuff. You don't need me to teach you that.
00:09:17
But w we're in a different state. When we're scrolling through social media. We're not looking to do something long form. We're not necessarily looking to put our phone down and listen to a podcast. We might watch a video because we're already looking at our screen, we're already sort of in that mode, whereas there's nothing much to look at with a podcast and we might not be ready to go and do something else like the dishes.
00:09:44
And so. I think Facebook, I don't think they've released data as to why they abandoned their experiment with podcasting, but I suggest that, or I would suspect that they weren't getting the kind of engagement that they hoped, because of that mismatch. Social media is sort of fast visual stuff. It's quick scrolling, it's quick hits of, of, of information or entertainment. And then move on to the next thing with, whereas podcasting is a much longer form medium.
00:10:14
And recently I've been reading. A book called trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan holiday, which it's really interesting. It's about this guy who it might be cruel of me to say he self identifies as a media douche, but. Yeah. Uh, he's a media douche. Uh, or he was, and now he's using his media douche powers for good, uh, or at least exposing the douchey that, that occurs, uh, within the industry. One of the things that was interesting is he looks at what makes us share things. So if we go back to that question of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, the issue we have is, is, is around sharing, uh, of content. So, what people share on social media tends to be stuff that makes them angry, fearful, excited, or makes them laugh. Most of us aren't necessarily going for those key things. We might get some laughter in there, but it's probably not the kind of thing that you can clip out into a two minute sort of TikTok shareable, uh, memorable piece of content without a boatload of context to go alongside it.
00:11:19
So I'm going to talk about in a bit, what we can do to, to counter out there. But I kind of want to go back to video because there is this push at the moment towards video. Now I don't wanna spend too long in this, but I think it's important. We're being told at the moment that video in order for us to to compete as podcasters, we have to include video and it has to be like a core part. We have to be, like video centric. And I think that's hype. Everybody's talking about the fact that everybody's talking about video. That's what was happening at the moment is there is an, and I think when that happens, I kind of my spidey senses get a little bit tweaked. And so, you know, I then sort of ask, okay, well, we'll give him that. It is just hype and there is no primary source that's saying this it's all my cousin said, then who benefits, who stands to benefit and who does, gets back to that original thing of ads.
00:12:16
In the same way that there's this excitement at the moment around Twitter, integrating podcasts, and people telling us that we have to have video in our podcast, it all comes down to the same thing. Who's going to benefit from that? And it's not us,
00:12:29
one of the reasons that there is this interest in video ads is because they convert a lot better. A video ad it's directly trackable. We know exactly what video. At what point they click the ad. What browser, where they were, what, some stuff about their cookies we know. There's all these sorts of things that we know, which is why video ads are a lot more attractive. And now I've talked about video far more than I want to, but I do want to bring it up.
00:12:55
Let's bring it back to podcasting, please. Podcasting is a slow medium. It is a counter to the social media quick wins and short attention span things. And that's not a judgment. I've got no problem with that. I, I've enjoyed my time on TikTok. This counter is a gift. This fact that we are an antidote to that. When your feet are red raw from walking up and down Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn, podcasting is the soothing balm that you apply afterwards. It's the, It's the foot spar that says. It's okay. Now you can just sit with me for a bit and we'll just have a conversation. It's a real gift. It's a moment of respite, of, of pause. It's permission for the listener to choose how to engage their eyes and hands while they're listening with their ears. It's about building connection more than it is about broadcasting.
00:13:51
So given all of these things that I've brought to you, how can we make social media work for us?
00:13:58
So there is a technique called targeted daily engagement, which you'll find linked in the show notes. Or you can just Google that term. The first result is the, uh, the information that you need. And it's a social media technique. It requires a bit of your time every day. I think it's probably unrealistic for people in the kind of thought leader space who are using a podcast to support a wider mission, just because it's like, well, the podcast is one part of your wider mission. So it doesn't necessarily work, but let's sort of hobbier podcasts, or for, for passion projects, it can be something that's worth having a look into. And it's a very simple formula.
00:14:31
Often the problem is that we, we don't have a big enough social audience though. And that's part of what targeted daily engagement is trying to help with, but there are other things that we can help with. And I think honestly, so much of the root cause of our issues. People talk about discoverability and findability of podcasts and share-ability. And do we do audiograms and do we do this, that and the other? And actually, you know what it all comes down to? If you have a big enough audience, A percentage of that audience, each time you throw out a message to say, Hey, check out the latest episode of the podcast, they're going to interact. You know, if you've got 10,000. Uh, followers and 1% interact with that, that's. a hundred people, and it is potentially a different hundred people each time because of the way the algorithms on social media work.
00:15:19
So, the problem we have is how we actually grow the audience. It's not really the techniques to do with how we take the audience and move them along. Because a lot of us, I think we're doing that stuff right. Audiograms are useful. These little video snippets are useful for reminding people. Again, they don't convert to listeners, but they're a way of reminding us. They are the Coke billboard to say, oh yeah, I remember that podcast. Or the next time you're, you're thinking for something to listen to where you're scrolling through your podcast queue, you might think, oh, actually, you know what? That episode sounded interesting. I'll give that a bash. And that's, that's really what it's for. It's not, I've watched this audiogram and I'm now, I must consume this whole podcast episode. It doesn't, it tends not to follow that.
00:16:03
So. at the moment I'm playing with an idea because. I think audience building is a crackable problem on social media. And I'm not nearly developed enough in this yet, but I do have some ideas. And it is something that actually, if it does work, like it goes way beyond podcasting. Again, like it's the fundamental thing of building audiences. But rest assured, if this experiment that I'm running, which is going to take time, it's a long running experiment over over months, If it works, you will be the first to know about it.
00:16:34
So, those are some longterm things to consider. What can we do in the meantime? Keep having the conversations that need to be had. Make the show that you want to hear. C count the answers to the questions that you're asking. Use your own curiosity to fuel the work that you're doing. Quietly, build your back catalog of insight and information. Then when new people discover it, they'll have a treasure trove that they'll thank you for.
00:17:06
If you've been at this for a number of years, then ask yourself. Am I learning stuff? Am I having fun? Am I building authority in my field? Do I have the energy to make it through to the next milestone? Be that a hundred episodes, hundred and 5,200, whatever. And if none of those questions elicit a yes, then I set up a chat and let's see what we can do.
00:17:29Mark
And speaking of chats, if you want to talk about anything. Uh, that I've covered uh, today, you want to go a little bit deeper than you can drop me an email. mark@origin.fm. And you'll find links to some of the stuff that I've talked about today at podcastownersmanual.com. Thank you so much for listening. Take care.
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