Insider Tips for Building Your Podcast Audience on LinkedIn with Jessi Hempel - S3E04
LinkedIn’s Jessi Hempel, host of Hello Monday, shares her best tips for using LinkedIn to grow your audience & build connection with listeners.
Jennifer Tribe, host: I’m Jennifer Tribe and this is Supercasters, the show for podcasters who are serious about growing their audience and earning revenue from their content.
My guest today is Jessi Hempel, host of the Hello Monday podcast and head of the new LinkedIn Podcast Network. Jessi is a journalist, formerly a senior writer at WIRED magazine. Now her title is senior editor at large with LinkedIn, where a big part of her role is to be a creator using LinkedIn’s tools, reporting back to them on what works and what doesn’t, and really championing the podcaster experience on the platform.
The LinkedIn Podcast Network or LPN is new— just launched in February. Jessi and I talk about what it is, how it works for podcasters, and why LinkedIn has decided to lean so heavily into podcasting now.
My takeaway: LPN is a great new program with a lot of benefits. There is some rev share on advertising but you don’t give up any IP ownership and you can continue to layer on other revenue streams like subscription and they are all yours.
In this episode, Jessi also offers some detailed tips on how to best use LinkedIn tools and features to grow your audience on the platform. Her tips all come from personal experience and experimentation promoting her Hello Monday podcast and personally I walked away with a list of things I wanted to start doing better on LinkedIn.
In the bonus section of this episode for Premium Supercasters subscribers, Jessi explains that LinkedIn plans to dramatically expand their podcast network out from the initial eight shows they launched with and she outlines what LinkedIn is looking for in a podcast and how to apply to join the network. We also talk about how Jessi uses LinkedIn Live to deepen the connection with her superfans and the exact way she positions and runs her livestreams. So don’t miss that. If you’re not already a subscriber, go to premium. supercast.com and sign up now for free.
Honestly this episode is jam-packed with nuggets for podcasters of all varieties, so let’s get to it.
Hi Jessi, welcome to Supercasters.
Jessi Hempel, guest: Thank you for having me, I'm thrilled to be here.
What is the LinkedIn Podcast Network?
Jennifer: At the end of February, LinkedIn announced a new LinkedIn Podcast Network. This is a set of four LinkedIn shows that are produced in-house, including the one you host, Hello Monday, and 8 let's call them creator-led shows, I guess external shows. Why did LinkedIn decide to launch this network?
Jessi: Goodness, there are so many reasons, but they all boil down to the same thing, which is that LinkedIn, anybody who is on it will know, is a great hub for conversations about careers and jobs, and we should therefore be the place, the destination for podcasts about careers and jobs. When you want to hear something that has to do with how you're thinking about your path you should, of course, think about coming to LinkedIn. Of course, that seems so simple in our minds, but then we had to figure out what that looked like. And that's actually what I've spent the last year of my life trying to figure out how to do.
Jennifer: Were you influenced in any way by the other platforms like Facebook and Twitter really leaning into audio and developing channels for podcasters?
Jessi: To take it back a step, I think the fact that they are doing that and that we are doing that suggests something even larger, which is that there is an element... You mentioned Facebook and Twitter in particular, right? They, like LinkedIn, they're social platforms, places where people have conversations. And you know the thing about podcasts, you know it, you're a host, is it's a bizarrely intimate format. And so for me, I was host of Hello Monday, and I had been a writer for 15 years before that and written about tech and I had people who liked my work and they'd write and tell me, I like that story or you got that really wrong. And then I started podcasting, and overnight I had people who felt like they knew me, heard me in their ear and felt like I was their friend, right? And that's my favorite part of audio. But there's no great way for my listeners to talk back to me or to talk to each other. That's the shame about audio and where I think all the social platforms see untapped opportunity and potential and certainly where we see it.
What do podcasters get from the LinkedIn Podcast Network?
Jennifer: So tell us how the network works then. What benefits do the shows or the podcasters get from being part of a network?
Jess: These eight partner shows that are in our pilot, they depend on us for advertising rather like you might depend on another podcast network. And you know when you use the word podcast network, I feel like that can mean many different things. This industry is still so young that when a company calls itself a podcast network, it can have a lot of definitions. What it means for us is we supply your ad inventory and we also give you a creator manager. And the job of the creator manager is an internal LinkedIn person is to help you be successful on LinkedIn in tending and cultivating your audience. So this is a person who knows how all of our tools work and which ones are best at actually building meaningful community. And we know that the hosts who opt in for this initial program, what they want is to be able to nurture that community in order then to build that audience, to grow that audience in the direction they want. So we supply the advertising, we supply the creator manager and we cover the cost of making the podcast. For the most part, our podcasts already are up and running in other places. They already have their production strategy and we just want to make sure that they can cover their costs so that they can come to the starting line as it were.
Jennifer: And what are the trade offs for the podcaster. Do they give up any ownership of their show? What's the revenue split on advertising, that kind of thing?
Jessi: No ownership of the show. We really don't want to try to compete with a lot of the already existing players. We're great collaborators with Apple and Spotify, for example. We don't intend to limit our show to the LinkedIn platform. In fact, we have one audio player on the platform, but mostly we encourage our hosts to point folks, point their listeners to whatever platform they want to listen on. And as for the rev share, in the pilot, we don't structure it that way. We are still building out the case internally for making LinkedIn Podcast Network into a bigger deal. And we're well on our way to do that. We already know that we're going to do a second round of this pilot program in the fall and that when we do that, we plan right now to expand our portfolio of shows considerably. We don't have an exact number yet, but I think you could expect to see three to five times the number of partner shows that we have now.
And we will also build the tools eventually, we aim to at least, that allow a more traditional and easier to grok rev share model. Right now the lump sum that we give our partner shows for signing on with us, we have done some back of the napkin math about what we think these shows based on their downloads would earn if they were working with us. And we've essentially written them checks. I can't tell you that much more about the checks except to say that I think they're generous as somebody who works in the industry. And also, no one's getting rich off podcasts here at LinkedIn. And in fact, for the most part, no one's getting rich on podcasts, at least when we're talking about creators and hosts in the industry. It's one of the biggest challenges in the podcasting industry. A handful of creators walk away with all the spoils, a lot of the big companies are doing very well.
But for the average host, things seem to get harder by the year, and most podcasts, individual shows, aren't profitable. Eventually the ambition and the goal here is for LinkedIn to help hosts be profitable. We're really trying to figure out how to reward creators. And our goal for being in podcasting is to figure out how over time to help creators be more successful at everything they do. So for many people, including, I suspect, a lot of listeners of your show, the podcast is part of the whole. Maybe you're a person who has a podcast and a speaking platform and a book and a course. Or maybe you're a person who uses your podcast as part of your professional presentation of yourself. In that scenario we hope and expect that you will monetize your brand well. And we think that that will come from how you fit all of those pieces together. Never that you will become a multimillionaire based on the back of that podcast that you had win the LinkedIn Podcast Network. Does that make sense?
Jennifer: Yeah, it does, and it's a really interesting approach. Compared to some of the other platforms where they're asking for exclusivity or some other things, this sounds like really a great way for creators who are a match for the LinkedIn platform— so dealing with career related issues and job related issues — to use LinkedIn as a springboard for growing their audience.
Jessi: We think about it like that. And when we think about careers and jobs and the content that belongs within that, we think about it pretty broadly. I think that the idea of what one's professional life is is at an incredibly eclectic moment. It's really expanding. And so if you're even thinking about whether you might be a match for us, you probably are. Probably what you are thinking about and talking about is represented on our platform. Also it might be worth talking about the difference between what we call our LinkedIn news shows that we produce in-house and the LinkedIn Present shows because I think it's actually fairly different than how our peers do this.
Jennifer: Yeah, let's talk about that.
Jessi Hempel’s role as LinkedIn’s podcasting guinea pig
Jessi: We've got these four shows, they're the LinkedIn news shows, they're essentially the original content, the stuff we make in-house. My show is the sort of flagship, it's called Hello Monday. And the goal of these shows is to teach us what creators need from LinkedIn when making these shows. Essentially the way to think about my job as host of Hello Monday, which is probably 50 percent of what I do at LinkedIn, is to be an in-house guinea pig. I use all the tools and complain directly to the engineers when they don't work right. I figure out everything I need to figure out about exactly how hard it is to build an audience, because if you haven't tried to do this, you don't understand anything about the hustle involved in trying to build an audience from the ground up for a podcast. It is hard.
And so our best guess is if we employ myself and my three other peers who do this to figure out all of this stuff, then we're going to be better at helping our partner shows, which are the LinkedIn Present shows, solve these problems. And over time that's what we want to do. We want to get, you know, with every round of this, we want to get better at helping you solve distribution, monetization and ultimately building the authentic relationships with your community. So what you're going to see is probably just these four shows. You probably won't see an expansion of the originals. They're not unlike other operations. They're not going to be resourced over and above the LinkedIn Present shows. You'll see an expansion of the LinkedIn Present shows, a pretty massive expansion. That's really where we want to focus our energy.
Jennifer: I love that idea of having your own show to be a guinea pig for what your customers and your partners are going through. I mean, it's part of what we try to do here with Supercasters as well, right? We use our own tech and we're going through the challenges so that we can meet our customers where they are. I love that and I'm not sure that every platform is doing that. In terms of how the initial eight shows were selected, some of them are established shows, but I think some of them are new for the network as well, unless I'm wrong. So can you tell us about how you selected those eight shows?
LinkedIn’s strategy for learning from podcasters
Jessi: Thank you for asking. This is so fun for me to talk about after thinking about it and working on it with our small team for so long. We really wanted to learn something about how to do this from each show. So the shows are really different and that's by design. So you're right. The sort of range includes shows from very established networks like The Next Big Idea, which came from Wondery, and Anxious Achiever, which came from Harvard Business Reviews Podcast Network because we wanted to learn how those shows operate at scale. And we wanted to learn what is the value of bringing a show in that already has a back catalog and how does that work for us? And we also wanted some insight, frankly, into how other shops did things. And we thought by working with their hosts, we could figure out where those hosts pain points were and try to drive into that as opportunity for us.
But then we also wanted to answer the question well, can we successfully help a host launch a podcast? Because my goodness, there are so many people out there who are who are entertaining the question Hey, should I go and launch a podcast right now? And if I have money to spend, how do I spend it smartly in order to get it up and running and build an audience? And so what you see is you actually see four shows that already exist that we brought over. Two of those shows are shows from big networks. One of those shows is a show from a very successful podcaster already who is launching a second show. We wanted to see, well goodness is that a good strategy? Should we be doing that more?
And one of those shows is from an independent journalist who has been very successful in building his show, and we thought, well, he's already got a back catalog. Let's see what we can do when we work with an independent rather than somebody coming from a big company. The rest of the shows are shows where we're exploring, hey, can we help a host grow from the bottom up and TBD because we are three weeks in, so I cannot yet tell you whether we can successfully help a podcast host grow from the bottom up. But I have a hypothesis, and that is that yes we can. We have these great tools and we can do that. It's not just the tools though. We think it's part of being in that host community. So, for example, some of the things that you will see start to roll out are some basic swaps and some of the other techniques that are really helpful for podcasters trying to grow shows.
Using LinkedIn’s newsletter feature to grow your podcast audience
Jennifer: You mentioned creator managers that are helping these hosts use LinkedIn to find audiences and grow audiences. What are some of the tactics and strategies that those creator managers are helping the hosts use?
Jessi: For the most part, everything that the hosts are using, by the way, are freely available to anyone on LinkedIn. It's just that, like with any social platform, I think sometimes it's hard to tell what are the things that are high value and strategic and really going to move the needle for me? And where am I just for lack of a better sort of way to think about it, spending my time needlessly? We want to help hosts answer that question very succinctly. So one of the things that we have seen great traction with is with Hello Monday. I mean, you can look at Hello Monday, actually again, it goes back to dog fooding so that we can best instruct others as a best case model for what we think for the LinkedIn social approach.
So first of all, on Monday morning, when the show drops, I publish a newsletter using a newsletter tool that we have. It's actually fairly easy to get an invite to use this tool. This tool has mostly rolled out to everybody. But in order to be able to access it, you need to be posting frequently enough on the platform. And by posting frequently enough I mean you need to have posted once within the last month. It's not sort of over the top. And the newsletter allows us to embed an audio file. And so on Monday mornings, I send out my newsletter. I have built up a subscriber base over the last three years of close to 200,000 people who get a notification when my newsletter goes out and inside that newsletter is embedded the Megaphone file. LinkedIn does not support all audio embeds yet. It does support Megaphone and that is the one that we use for all of our LPN shows.
Using LinkedIn Live to build connection with your listeners
And I post around that and I also, on Wednesday afternoons, hold a live show using LinkedIn Live. Again, this is a tool that most people can get access to fairly. It's fairly straightforward process. You apply and you're approved. LinkedIn Live has been a game changer because the thing that people who love the show want is presence with each other and with the host. I'm not going to tell you it's perfect because what they actually want, what I actually want is to be sitting in a room with folks, right? We don't have that ability yet, although we are sort of thinking about, in the future what can we do with events? But what LinkedIn Live does for us is myself and the producer, we literally turn on the camera for 30 minutes every Wednesday. Between 200 and 300 listeners tune in. There are about 50 who come every week. It's like a calendar appointment for them. It's three o'clock. That's lunch time on the West Coast. So there are a whole bunch of people who just sit and have lunch with us and we talk about the episode, and that has been extremely fruitful. And also by cultivating our superfans, I think it's a great growth strategy and helps us to understand where to take the show next.
What to say in your LinkedIn newsletter for best results
Jennifer: I want to dig into some of the details on those. Let's start with the newsletter, so you send out the newsletter on the same day that you drop your podcast episode. Is there any other content in the newsletter apart from Hey, we just dropped this episode, and here's a link.
Jessi: There's usually a couple of paragraphs from me as the host saying, Hey, this is why this one really matters. The host personality so drives the success of a podcast. It's our position that listeners really want to hear from the host. But here's the trick with that. I try to get that audio file as high up in the newsletter as I can, because the more text that someone needs to get through before they get to that audio file, the less likely they listen to it and it converts to a download, which is very important to me. Then the other thing is, in that newsletter, I always tell people about office hours and give people the information to find office hours, which happens on Wednesday.
And then I use the end of the newsletter to promote other things that I'm working on. Maybe other shows in the LinkedIn Podcast Network. Other things I want people to pay attention to. The post copy is really important for that newsletter. I've tried all kinds of different things, and what I have found is that post will show up in a lot of different ways in a lot of different places. I usually interact with it on the desktop, but I'm just not most people on LinkedIn. Most people are using their cell phone, and they might be scrolling through their feed and they might only get like one line of that post, right? And they would have to click in order to get more.
So I always try to get my guest's name and a quote into the first line. So it'll be like Matthew McConaughey on freedom, quote: "I love it." That, by the way, isn't real, I just made it up. Skip a line, underneath that I say hey, on this week's episode of the Hello Monday podcast, you will come away knowing. Then I beat through three things and then I say please join the conversation in the comments and I link to the show. And I have found that to be most successful, just as I track my own data. And by the way as with many things in audio, you're going to want more data than you have from LinkedIn. I don't get special data just because I work here. So a lot of this stuff is like figuring out what metrics move the needle for me and tracking them in my own handy dandy Google spreadsheet that I made by myself. I watch and I notice that when I've tried a bunch of different formats and that format was the format that I got the most conversions to read for my newsletter. And so I have stuck with it.
People follow the host, not the show
Jennifer: And when you're positioning the newsletter as something for people to sign up to, are you positioning it as hey, here's our newsletter companion to the podcast or are you saying get notified when the podcast goes live?
Jessi: Neither. Just to back up and think about what I actually think might be going on beneath a host and a podcast. Most people, they don't sign up to follow Hello Monday, they sign up to follow Jessi Hempel. And so awkward talking about this myself because it suggests that I have like a massive ego about it, which I do not. It's understanding a fundamental shift that's happening in branding as a result of the internet. And so we ask people to follow me, follow my newsletter, follow my blah blah blah. And by the way, my wife had a baby last year and I was out on parental leave for like nine six months. And so we had a guest host who all of our listeners knew because she came on all the time. She's a friend, right? And still, the listenership fell off because people come to podcasts to hear a specific host.
So that is a long winded answer to your question, which is what we say is sign up for Jessi Hempel's newsletter, which of course is about Hello Monday. If anybody follows Jessi Hempel because they know that that's her main home and brand. But it also allows for the flexibility for me to change media, which I should be able to do. What if five years from now, I want all of those followers to continue to follow Jessi Hempel on TV successful HBO show she launched or the esoteric set of encyclopedias she wrote. Who knows? I want to be able to take those followers with me rather than have them be attached to a brand or a medium that is less relevant to me as a creator.
And then that leads me to one super key quick takeaway, which is if you are a creator of any sort, a host of any sort, and you are on LinkedIn and my primary call to action when I land on your profile is to connect, change it immediately. It's really easy to do, go into your settings and change it to follow so that when I land on your profile, my primary action is set to follow and begin to build your follower base, right? So I've got my newsletter. And that's like 200,000 subscriptions. I've been working on it for like three years. I tell people in my podcast, go to that. I then ask people to follow me on LinkedIn, and I think I have close to 70,000 followers. And that's useful because first of all, it will help to determine over time where my content lands in the feed. It's a flag to our young but growing artificial intelligence program that this is valuable content, but also it allows me again the flexibility if I want to launch another newsletter to bring my followers to a different place.
Jennifer: You talked about taking followers with you. Does LinkedIn allow you to export email addresses from your newsletter list?
Jessi: No, it doesn't. This is sort of a fundamental structural issue to all social software platform that for the most part social companies haven't been able to figure out. And here's where I talk to you first as a creator. And this is why LinkedIn hired creators so we can complain about these things. I have a personal newsletter. I keep it on Substack. I would encourage anyone not to use Substack per se but to use a platform where you get to own your newsletter. To own your followers. That is the most key thing that you can do over time. It doesn't mean that the newsletter feature isn't super valuable on LinkedIn. So the way I think about it, though, is I create dedicated marketing content for my newsletter, which is to say I direct people to the audio file. I give them a couple of paragraphs. Every once in a while I also do a super meaty essay of some sort. But whenever I do that, it's a cross promo. I publish that in my Substack newsletter. And if you're smart about this, you can actually really smartly use your LinkedIn newsletter to drive follows to your larger wherever your home base is as a creator. You drop your first two paragraphs of that thoughtful meaty essay on why inflation is terrible into your newsletter and then tell people go find more about this here and put your deeper dive somewhere else.
Simple ways to build your podcast brand on LinkedIn
Jennifer: Anything else you think podcasters should know about using LinkedIn or that you see they aren’t using to its fullest?
Jessi: I covered social media for 17 years before I came to work at LinkedIn. I watch this stuff very closely and I feel really proud of the fact that LinkedIn, for the most part, truly walks the walk. It is for the most part, like really safe, vibrant conversation on social, well cultivated. Iif you are not very active on it, it's worth the time to at least figure out how to be present on it. And so that goes back to switching from connect to follow, but also a few low hanging fruit, like put a background with the branding of your company or your podcast behind your profile shot. You would be amazed at how many people do not do that. And yet our SEO is so good that when people search for you, often your LinkedIn profile is going to come up very close to the top. So use that branding space. Our profile it's is it the best design in the world? Yeah, I won't comment on that. But it does give you this really wonderful ability to highlight and feature content that you want people to see. Just make sure you've used it. Feature your best three shows at the top of your profile. So that table stakes, if you're not going to invest any more time when people search you out you know that your LinkedIn profile is going to come up close to the top. They get the branding of your show and the best work that you have.
Jennifer: I've got some edits to make to my profile after this. Thank you so much for joining us today, Jessi.
Jessi: Thank you so much for having me and for creating the show.
Jennifer: That was Jessi Hempel of Linkedin and host of Hello Monday. For a full transcript of this episode, including links to the various resources that we’ve mentioned, go to supercast.com/podcast
What were your biggest takeaways from this episode? Like me, do you now have a list of things you want to change or try on LinkedIn? Tweet us @supercast and let me know you’re listening.
Or jump into the Supercasters community by becoming a Supercasters Premium subscriber. It is absolutely free, and in addition to the networking community where you can talk about promoting your podcast on social and all kinds of other podcasting stuff, you also get access to the bonus content from today’s episode with Jessi. We talk about what they’re looking for in new podcasts to join the network as well as details on how Jessi has been using LinkedIn Live and audio rooms to deepen the connection with her superfans.
To become a Premium subscriber, go to premium.supercast.com and click the signup link.
Until next time, I’m Jennifer Tribe. Thanks for listening.
- Jessi Hempel (LinkedIn)
- Hello Monday (podcast)
- Hello Monday (LinkedIn newsletter)
- LinkedIn Podcast Network
- LinkedIn Live overview
- LinkedIn newsletters FAQ