The EdUp Experience’s Dr. Joe Sallustio on Podcast Growth

From creating valuable connections with your audience to building strong partnerships with other podcasts and engaging on social media, there’s a number of ways to grow your listener base.  

To learn more about the strategies for podcast growth from the creator’s perspective, we spoke to Dr. Joe Sallustio, co-founder and host of The EdUp Experience Podcast. Joe has been host of The EdUp Experience Podcast since January 2020. He and Elvin Freytes, the podcast producer, recently shared that The EdUp Experience officially passed 200,000 downloads in October.

What is the goal of your podcast?

We looked at other podcasts that were in higher education and I think Higher Ed was one of the probably one of the slower adopting fields to podcasts weren’t a lot of podcasters in higher ed. So we did a look around and a lot of them that we did find were either generated by university. So it was about the university staff and faculty and alumni. So you obviously have a really niche audience. So we took a look and we said, what if we do a podcast that brings on some of the highest level leaders within higher ed but we use a more relaxed type of format to get them to open up and tell us what their struggles are, challenges and successes.

As of October 2, The EdUp Experience officially passed 200,000 downloads. That’s a pretty big deal. How did you get to that point?

Yeah, it’s hard to pinpoint, but I think so. At the end of 2020 we had just passed 10,000 downloads. We had like 11,000 total, and we didn’t think we would ever hit 10,000. We said if we do this podcast for a couple years and we get a couple 1,000 downloads out of it then it will be worth it. So here we are coming out of our first year with 11,000 downloads and our minds were blown. We could not believe that we had that many. And then that next year in 2021 was obviously when it blew up for the first two or three months. We started getting to about 1,000 downloads a month. And what we did I think is we really have played with frequency. So we were putting out one episode a week to start and then we went to two. Then we went to three. 

How did you keep the growth momentum going?

Social media. LinkedIn. We even started doing Throwback Thursdays. Here’s this episode from six months ago that you may have missed and here it is, again, if you never caught it. Once you create that content, it can be repurposed and the question is, how will you repurpose it? So we have Instagram, personal accounts, Instagram business account, same thing for Facebook, same for LinkedIn. And we tried to grow those accounts so that every time we put out an episode, there were more people following it. You have to have a communication strategy. You can’t just do a podcast, you have to find a way to get it out.

Are there other things that you like to do to build community and spark conversations?

We are higher ed insiders. We were two people that worked within higher education, so I think that gave us some credibility. That and I think it just caught fire over time and that people do like to be entertained when they listen to a podcast. And higher education is one of those industries that you could talk about forever and never be entertained. Unless you want to know all the ins and outs and boring bits. If you don’t create some engagement and excitement over it, then nobody will listen. So that’s what we tried to do, we incorporate things like games and fun sound effects.

What was your approach to strategic content audits and analytics?

At first we looked at how many people were listening to each episode. But then we didn’t, it just felt like the time we would spend analyzing the episode listens and downloads would be better spent communicating on social media that the podcast exists. So we take that time and use it for working on the podcast and interacting with our audience. So we really just let it happen naturally.

What are some of the challenges of podcast growth?

I think the biggest challenge for us from a growth perspective has been consistency. If you’re going to commit to a schedule and to a frequency of episodes, then that means it’s recording frequency and production frequency. And we don’t have a team. It’s just been the two of us, myself and Elvin this entire time. 

So what happens when one of us takes a vacation? Or one of us gets sick? Then one of us has to pick up all the slack, and we hold full time jobs. I podcast every single day during my lunch break. I go on camera, record, take a bite. And then when my lunch is done, I’ve done a podcast recording and I go back to work. It’s hard to keep that up. Like eventually you don’t take a break. So consistency is the biggest issue and the most important thing to keep up with.


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