7 Ways to Promote Your Podcasts (Without Ads or Sponsors)

Discover 7 alternative ideas to promote your podcast without ads or sponsorships, including hashtag contests and giveaways.

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read
Business & Marketing Strategy
Campaign & Contest Ideas

Whether your podcast is just getting started, or you haven’t quite hit the big-time (yet!), there are plenty of ways to put your podcast in front of new listeners without paying for ads or pounding the pavement for sponsorships. In fact, it may just take a bit of time and creativity to get some fresh listeners hooked on your content.Check out this list of 7 alternative ideas to your run-of-the-mill ad and sponsorship promotions. By varying your strategies, you could be tapping into all-new listener potential and setting yourself up for podcast fame.

Run a hashtag contest

Hashtag contests allow you to create a unique hashtag and then curate a feed of posts that use that specific hashtag. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Charge your current listeners with a challenge or quest - not quite like seeking a grail, but one that’s light and fun, and that will draw some well-deserved attention to you and your podcast. Then, participants will post their entries using your unique hashtag.The best way to explain a hashtag contest is with a few examples. You’ve certainly heard of the #icebucketchallenge in which participants pour a bucket of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS. Currently, the #icebucketchallenge has nearly 700,000 posts on Instagram.The challenge that went even more viral was the #mannequinchallenge in which participants stand perfectly still while the camera continues to move. If you need to see a #mannequinchallenge post for yourself, you can scroll through the near 2 Million posts of perfectly posed people participating in this internet sensation.

So, what would your hashtag contest entail? A dance-off? An art project? A shout-out? Get creative and charge your listeners with something they can do relatively easily and also have a bit of fun with.Take your hashtag contest to the next level by displaying the entries in a gallery on a landing page with voting enabled. It will give participants one easy place to direct voters and see other entries.

View and Create Your Own

Incentivize reviews

Let’s face it. These days, reviews are the gatekeeper to earning our trust and interest. You don’t want to be shady in how you acquire them, but there’s no harm in nudging your current audience to take a few minutes to say what they think about your podcast online. Throw in a small incentive to make it worth their while.Each week, my favorite fitness podcast chooses a review to read on-air and sends the reviewer some free merch. There’s no rule the review has to be 5 stars, but I’m sure giving this podcast a glowing review doesn’t hurt in being the review chosen.If you’re just starting out and don’t have mountains of merch to offer reviewers every week, you can try an alternative incentive. Offer to meet them and buy them a beer, offer to have them on an episode of your show, or even let them suggest a future episode topic.

Much like a hashtag contest, you can even ask reviewers to create a tweet or Instagram post using a unique hashtag so you can display these reviews in a gallery. Once you’ve gathered some quality reviews, be sure to display them on your website or landing page.

Create a comment to enter contest

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, it doesn’t get much more quick and easy than a comment to enter contest. Simply create a post on one or more of your most followed social media networks. Then, ask followers to comment on it. If it’s on Instagram or Twitter, you can even ask them to tag a couple of friends - this will help you expand your reach to others who may be interested in your podcast.When you’re ready to choose a winner from your comment contest, you can do it the old-fashioned way, as in, “eeny meeny miny mo”, or you can import the comments to contest software and use a random-entry selection method to choose a winner truly at random.

Create a subscribe page

A subscribe page can be very simple, fast, and cost-effective in regard to setting it up, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. Subscribe pages allow you to collect something very powerful - an email address. When someone opts-in to your mailing list, whether they listen to your podcast or not, you can use email best practices to continue to market to that person so they convert into a loyal listener, long-term fan, and best of all, a referrer.

Display a gallery of listener content

Just like any media genre, podcast fans are not shy when it comes to using their time and talent to create fan art. Needlepoint, silk screening, macaroni portraits - the sky’s the limit. I’ve even seen a likeness of a podcast host painted onto a massive donut. Create a unique hashtag your fan artists can use when posting pictures of their masterpieces and collect those posts into one incredible gallery.The creativity of these My Favorite Murder Podcast fans is boundless. Their gallery of fan art spans for days.

View and Create Your OwnYou can even turn this gallery into a voting contest. With contest software, enable voting on gallery images. You can then gate the gallery with an email capture. When fans of your podcast ask their friends and family to vote on their entry, those voters will submit an email address into a form to be able to cast their vote. As mentioned above, use this email to obtain an opt-in and convert these voters into loyal listeners of your podcast.

Create TikToks or Reels

If you’re closing your eyes wishing the TikTok trend will quietly fade away, I’m sorry to say that it’s here to stay. Despite its controversial past (or maybe, as a result of), TikTok has exploded in growth over the year 2020. In the US alone, TikTok usage has risen by 85%. To compete, Instagram released Reels in August of 2020.There’s a good reason for this revolution in short-form video-creation apps. Short snippets of video are easy to digest. The tools these apps offer can go a long way in helping you to easily create videos to sneak peek upcoming episodes, post announcements, corrections, updates, follow-up content, or do something silly just for a laugh.The Joe Rogan Experience uses TikTok to post highlights of his notoriously long episodes, allowing users to sample episodes without committing three hours of their day.

Run a giveaway

The good ol’ giveaway should be a staple in your “get the word out’ bag of tricks. Why? Giveaways offer a myriad of benefits. They instill excitement, promote top-of-mind awareness, and allow you to collect valuable data from potential listeners.On top of all that, they’re extremely versatile. Giveaways can be simple and straightforward, such as an entry form displayed on a landing page with the instructions, “enter to win.” Or they can incorporate other elements such as a puzzle to solve, a quiz to take, or even an image to scratch off to see if they’ve won.

If you’re looking to run a giveaway, one of the most important things to consider is the prize you’ll give away. It has to be juicy enough to entice participants but also related to your podcast in some way. In other words, you want it to be the type of prize that will be juicy to the same type of people who would potentially listen to your podcast.

So, remember

When you’re ready to grow your audience, your go-to doesn’t have to be financially draining ads or jumping through sponsorship hoops. Try a few of these other methods - a hashtag contest, a series of TikTok videos, or even a simple giveaway may be enough to tip the balance in getting you on your way to podcasting stardom.

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About the author

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read

Jessica Miller-McNatt has been with ShortStack for over a decade and has served in every role from Marketing Team Lead to Customer Success. Her journey in martech continues to fuel her fascination for what drives growth. Jessica's favorite weekends are spent in the North Georgia mountains, chasing waterfalls and exploring with her family.

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