5 reasons why your listeners remain silent and how to activate them

Spoiler. Once, the author of the podcast "What Was That Like" told me that there is only 1% of active listeners among all those who listen to his podcast. Only one person out of a hundred somehow interacts with the content: sends emails, writes reviews or comments, donates the Patreon, etc. The rest remain silent.

But why? If people listen to every episode, they like the podcast, don't they? As a product manager working on podcasters' digital service, I decided to conduct in-depth interviews with the "silent" podcast listeners. I talked to 100 respondents to understand why they remain silent and what podcasters should do to activate them.

Here are the Top-5 insights with my product manager's considerations on coping with them if you are a podcaster.

1. The podcast audience listens to the podcast while doing something else.

If your podcast listeners watch Netflix or scroll their Instagram feed, they need to look at the screen. But listening to the podcast, 88% of them turn the episode on, put their phones aside and do what they intended to do.

40% of those who listen to a podcast at least once a week even no longer WATCH Youtube. They LISTEN to it. They put their phones into their pockets and continue driving, walking with pets, cooking, or doing some routine work at the office. So even if they wanted to react to your Call To Action, their hands are busy, and later they forget what you asked them to do.

"Sometimes the podcaster will ask a question [...], and I want to respond to that, in a review of the podcast, on social media, etc., but I usually am listening while I'm doing something else [...] like I was embroidering listening to a podcast and would have to put it down and make a note somewhere but the worst is when I'm driving, and it happens." (WeAreAllStarsHere from Reddit)

Having busy hands means that if your listeners couldn't find your email address within several seconds after you've called them to email you, they would never do that.

"The effort it takes to remember to write an email coupled with the challenge of finding the contact info for the podcast means that 99% of my feedback goes unsubmitted." (Ebenezar_McCoy from Reddit)

What may help?

- Ask listeners how and where they listen to your podcast. If they listen to it while driving, ask them how long this drive lasts. It will give you an approximate time slot where to input your Call To Action. If they listen to it while having a morning coffee, say something like, "Don't forget to subscribe after the last swallow of coffee."
- Anchor allows sending direct emails and voice messages to the podcaster. BUT only authorized Anchor users can leave messages there. If your main audience is in Apple Podcasts, this will not work for them.
- Galas is a free all-platforms-friendly service for podcasters that lets the audience from all apps interact with your show (Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Spotify - whatever). They may like, send direct voice and text messages to you, and discuss your show with others by voice or text.

2. People want the podcasters to answer them.

Text elementI believe that you answer emails, reply to comments, and communicate on social networks. But if you delay the response, your listeners start worrying: are you too busy, is there something wrong with the email address, or is their opinion as crucial as you told in the podcast?

The listeners have made efforts to write to you, so they may get offended if you ignore them for too long. 38% of interviewees would be doubtful about writing to a podcaster again if they hadn't received a response from him before.

"I hate when the podcaster asks me to email him and when I do this, nothing happens! When I'm writing an email, I think about the text composition, explain what touched me in the show, and what I agree or disagree with. I'd like to know that the podcaster at least saw it". (Julia C.)

What may help?

- The knowledge that you will respond may be an additional motivation for listeners to write you. If you cannot give a complete answer, try to show them that you have read their message (an automatic "thank you letter" may help).
- If there is no teeny-tiny possibility that you may promise your audience to answer their emails, tell them at least that you will read every message.
- Personalized things always work well. Consider gifs, emojis with your picture, digital postcards with you or your podcast logo, and pre-recorded short voice messages. I spoke to a listener who had received a personalized voice message from the podcaster after he donated on Patreon. It contained only his name and a few words of appreciation for becoming a patron. And that's all. But it made the listener so happy. He explained that it was an honor to receive this short message, and he still keeps it as an outstanding award.
- Mention in your episodes that people write to you and that you are happy to get contacted. If your listeners see that others communicate with you and you answer, this will give them hope that their efforts may be noticed.
- Consider a block in your episode where you answer the emails. Ask questions, create quizzes, and discuss the answers in the next episode.
- If you call your listeners by their names, be sure they agree that their names will be pronounced aloud. At least use just the name, not the family name (surname).
- If you use Galas to receive voice messages, advise your audience to sign up. So they will not miss notifications if you or other listeners have replied

3. Typing is too long.

If you are old-fashioned like me and refuse to record voice messages not to bother people, relax. 43% of interviewees send and get voice messages daily. And they'd love to send them to the podcaster.

"Yes!!! That's ideal [to send voice messages to podcasts], and if it were associated at least with that podcast, if not also by that episode, that would be perfect" (WeAreAllStarsHere from Reddit)

Some podcasters successfully insert voice messages from their listeners into their shows.

"I have a podcast VoiceMail line (a Google Voice number dedicated for that purpose). People sometimes call in their questions or comments, and I play that message on a future episode." (the author of WhatWasThatLike podcast)

What may help?

- Anchor- we've discussed above. BUT now, you should also keep in mind that voice messages are not transcribed into text which may be an issue if you receive too many messages.
- Galas - we've also discussed above. Galas has the options of Anchor + public voice comments + soon there will be transcriptions of the voice messages automatically into text.
- SpeakPipe allows people to call and leave a voice message. BUT you should have a website and technical possibility to integrate SpeakPipe into it. Also, only your website listeners will be able to call you. So you need to encourage them to leave the platform where they are now and go to your website.
- Vocal Mail is an extension to Google Chrome. It will let your listeners send you video or voice emails which is good if typing for them is an issue. BUT they have to download that extension, or you have to explain how to do it. Also, your listeners will still need to find your email, so make sure your email address is visible.
- Callin allows live chats and usual commenting that reminds Clubhouse. Though the apps work pretty well, they do not contain all the podcasts, and there is not much activity yet.
- Podinbox is a dynamically growing service. Your listeners may follow your link, register, and send personal voice messages and donations. BUT listeners cannot discuss your episodes among themselves in a voice or text (as they may do with Galas ). Pay attention, if you choose a free subscription, they will charge 5% of the donations you get. And unfortunately, they do not provide transcription to the voice messages. Maybe, they will consider it soon.
- Podcastle may be helpful in combination with all instruments mentioned above. With this tool, you can improve the voice messages' sound before inserting them into your show.

4. Your audience may be active, but you just don't know it.

100% of interviewees share the podcasts and episodes with their friends. Nuance: they share it in private messages and use Reddit or specialized groups to discuss their favorite podcasts or advise what to listen to. And they very seldom do it openly in feeds on social networks or Instagram Stories.

"…What I listen to while driving to the office or home is my business. It's not a big secret, but I don't know why I should talk about it publicly. If somebody asks me for advice, I will share it. The exception may be only if the podcast really influenced me, and I think everyone should listen to it. Like it will save their life, or help somehow" (Nick H., respondent )

There are even podcast fans who list the podcasts they listened to into thematic groups. So are prepared if somebody asks to advise a horror podcast as good as "Lore."

30% of interviewed podcast listeners tried to save information from the episode in case they would need it in the future. Often, they write notes or dictate voice memos to keep a brilliant idea they've got after listening to the episode. In this note, they mention the podcast/episode or would like to do it automatically if they knew how.

"I look for inspiration in podcasts. So when I hear anything that may help me in the future, I use my apple watch to dictate a voice memo." (Sophia B., respondent)

What may help?

- One of your listeners represents 100 others. Think what you can do to that one that symbolizes the bigger group (e.g., a list of useful hacks they may download in exchange for a funny password).
- Ask your audience to ping you on Twitter or Instagram when their thoughts coincide or differ from what you say in the podcast. Tell them that you often retweet or reply in your Instagram stories.
- Try to find your audience outside the podcast. Be active on Reddit, not only while promoting your last episode. Answer questions, share lifehacks, or give advice. Also, it's an excellent way to see what your potential listeners say/think about podcasts similar to yours.
- Podpage is a complex service that allows easily creating a webpage for your podcast with zero coding. There are some useful functional blocks that you may add: mailing lists, contact forms, comments, voicemails, etc. BUT listeners may only send direct messages to the show creator and cannot discuss your podcast among themselves in voice. Also, it's not free.- Galas lets your audience be active even without your interaction. It lets the listeners send public voice messages (like Youtube comments), so other people may reply to them and save voice memos that stick to the episode they were listening to.

 5. Listeners don't know what to say or forget what they wanted to say after the episode.

54 out of 100 interviewed podcast listeners could clearly remember situations when they wanted to comment on a particular moment of the episode but couldn't do it. So by the end of the episode, it has stopped being relevant, or they forgot what they wanted to say.

"When I read comments on Youtube while watching the video, I often see comments like "Me too" or "I was 16". These comments look strange without any context. And only in the middle of the video I understand that there was a question "What age did you…?" or "Write in comments have you ever…". People were watching the video and commenting on the go. With podcasts, I can't do so. Because the topic has changed and my answer has lost its relevance" (Olivia F, respondent)

"Sometimes I'd like to respond directly to the podcast to give my thoughts, and by the time it's over, I forgot half of them." (eattrash-hailsatan from Reddit)

18 out of 100 do not comment though they liked the episode. They feel silly to write "thank you" or "good job" after many other people have done it. There were no particular questions at the end of the episode, and the podcaster didn't ask for their opinion on specific topics, so they had no idea what to say.

"If the episode is a monologue, what should I say? If there is no direct question, I don’t have words in my head. All I have is my feeling whether I liked or not the episode". (Maria K.)

What can help?

- Let your audience refresh what they've heard in the episode and recollect the moment they wanted to comment on. In the beginning, you can announce what you will speak about and then close your episode with a short conclusion.
- Ask questions, and call your listeners to share their opinion on specific topics. Do it in different moments of the episode. Assure them that if you tell them you are interested in their view, you do mean it.
- Look at the question you ask your audience as if it’s a survey. It's not necessarily that the questions should touch only on the podcast's topic. Think about what information about your listeners will give a better understanding of them and their preferences. [Edison Research](https://www.edisonresearch.com/edison-research-podcast-listener-survey/) offers a free survey to get you started.
- Terri Lomax and Dr. Dominique Broussard have created their listener survey of balancing data-driven questions, like age and work status, with broader questions like "What do you do for fun?
- Galas lets all your listeners speak out at any moment of the episode. They click your link, record the message and make it public so others may join the conversation. Galas allows them to react with emojis to your episodes or others' comments if it is enough to express their point of view.

People like podcasts because they let them absorb interesting and useful information on the go. They also let them feel that they are closer to the podcaster, sitting at the same table, chatting, and having a good time. Some of your listeners even answer you aloud or in their heads.

 Conclusion. Voice interaction is the best option to activate the silent part of your audience. The part that would love to keep in touch with you and other listeners of your show. Any hack or instrument mentioned above will help. But if you are looking for a free and all-platform-friendly service to connect your audience from different apps, here is early access to Galas. It offers direct voice messages and public voice conversations under your episodes to build a community around your show.

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