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Creating something is really hard. Just finishing a podcast episode or a new video is a victory, and it ought to be enough.
If you’re a creator, you know it’s not. When it’s done, you’ve got to get to people listen, watch, subscribe, share, and so on. That means promoting your work, mainly through social media and email. And that means creating more stuff.
Add to that the fact that posting on social media can feel like shouting into the void, and it’s no wonder lots of creators don’t take the extra steps to promote their shows. But if you can, you should. It’s important.
The challenge is finding ways to create promotional clips and other social posts without adding hours of work or stress to your life. We spoke to a few creators who are good at this stuff to get their advice on managing social promotion workflow, and making sure it’s worth the effort.
Before we get into it, we’ll note that last week we released a bunch of new features to make it easier to create video clips for promoting your work on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, wherever. If time or energy — or the drudgery of exporting to another app just to make a few social-media clips — are what’s holding you back, the new features might help.
Content, not clicks
The problem with promoting your work on social media is that it can be a total waste of time. The way social media algorithms work, it’s hard to get attention unless you either post constantly, do it really well, and build a following — or you pay for it.
Spending money to promote your content isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But if you can’t or don’t want to do that, you have to find a way to rise above the noise.
The best advice we’ve heard on this comes from Mark Asquith, the CEO of the podcast hosting, analytics, and marketing outfit Captivate. In his latest newsletter he implores podcasters to think of Twitter not as a promotional tool, but as a content platform.
Makes sense. You most likely go to Twitter to do things like laugh at tweets from funny people, learn from threads that break down complicated topics, or revel in whatever debate is raging in your little corner of the zeitgeist. You don’t go there to get bombarded with posts promoting podcasts, or YouTube channels, or anything.
So instead of a bunch of tweets just announcing new episodes or begging for downloads, Mark advises “creating a peripheral content thread and going deep into something super specific that sits alongside your most recent episode.”
In other words, something that supplements your podcast. This means only posting stuff that has some kind of value in itself — additional information, anecdotes, or insights on the same topic. We’d add that it could also be a quote or a fun clip from the episode, so long as the viewer doesn’t have to watch the full episode to get something out of it.
After publishing his podcast, Mark will write a thread going deeper on the topic, or tweet about a related experience he’s had, or post the most interesting quote from the episode — often with no link to the show’s website or any call to action at all. That’s not to say he never posts links to his show, but by posting all the standalone content, he’s earning the right to promote to his audience occasionally, rather than just constantly haranguing them to download his show.
Mark’s advice is focused on Twitter, which he’s found to be the most effective medium for building an audience. But everything he’s saying could just as easily apply on any other social network. It just depends where your audience lives.
Start early, find your voice — and give yourself grace
If you’re thinking you’ve barely got the time or the energy to produce your show, let alone create a bunch of supplemental social-media threads when it’s done, we’re right there with you. But there are a few ways you can build social-content into your workflow so it’s not just incremental work (or at least, not too much).
Sabina Wex, a writer and the producer of the Math Therapy podcast who makes TikTok videos for the host’s account, says you should make your social clips only after you’re finished editing an episode — because getting the episode done should be your top priority.
But that doesn't mean you should wait until the end to start thinking about social clips. Every step of the way — researching a topic, prepping guests, writing a script, recording, editing — keep your eye out for stuff that could work on social media. When you’re editing, look for vignettes that give your audience a valuable takeaway, or showcase your guest. And don't forget the bits you cut for time — you could post those as supplemental content.
Second, establish a voice and a visual style on social media and stick to it. If you’re using video clips, create templates and recycle them for every episode. (Another shameless plug: Descript’s new social-video features reduce this to some copy-pasting you can do in a few clicks.)
A consistent look and feel will make your posts instantly identifiable when someone’s scrolling. More importantly, using templates will reduce the number of decisions you have to make and the time it takes to construct your posts. You can focus all of your promotional energy on getting the content right.
Templates will also help you avoid the temptation to try to jump on every meme and trending hashtag. That stuff can be helpful, but it takes time to do the research and then figure out how to bend your content to that week’s micro-fad.
“Trying to do every different trend or TikTok style is exhausting — trust me, I’ve tried,” says Sabina, who also writes about podcasting at the Vocal Fry blog.
One last piece of advice. It also comes from Sabina and it might be the most important of all. If you’ve followed all of these suggestions, you’ve used Descript to streamline the process, and you’re still struggling to find the time, the energy, or the will to crank out social media promos, it’s okay.
“I know how much work it takes to produce a great podcast, and then on top of that, you're now expected to be this amazing and frequent content creator for social media,” Sabina says. “So give yourself some grace around this.”