A Podcaster’s Guide to Growing Your Audience on Twitter with Shay Thiyagarajah - S3E05

May 4, 2022
Jennifer Tribe

Twitter’s Shay Thiyagarajah joins us for an insider look at the steps you can take to find & cultivate podcast listeners on the social platform.

Jennifer Tribe, host: On last week’s episode, I spoke to Jessi Hempel on how you can use LinkedIn to grow your podcast and audience. Up this week: Twitter.

My guest for today’s show is Shay Thiyagarajah, a partner manager with Twitter Canada, where she helps big publishers figure out how to make the most of  their content on Twitter.

We talk about the Twitter tools and strategies you can use to grow your podcast audience, including a deep dive on Twitter Spaces: how to best plan a Space, how to promote one, how to interact with your audience in a Space, and how to use the content afterwards. If you have been jonesing for a way to get live feedback from listeners during a podcast recording, you’re going to want to hear this. 

Shay and I also talk about what kind of content works best on Twitter, how to tie your podcast into Twitter’s superpower, and the keyword and topic trends the Twitter is seeing dominate the conversation in 2022.

Let’s go.

Why is Twitter investing in audio?

Jennifer: Hi, Shay. Welcome to Supercasters.


Shay: Hi, Jennifer, it's nice to be here.

Jennifer: Let's jump right into the thick of things. How is Twitter thinking about audio and podcasting right now?


Shay: We've started to invest in audio and podcasting, probably through the product you might have seen if you're on Twitter, which is Twitter Spaces. It's one of our bigger product launches in the last two years or so. We launched it in November 2020, and it's essentially a product made for podcasters and creators who build their communities around audio. And it essentially allows users on Twitter to host an audio conversation via their Twitter profile profile and let anyone join. And so that has really been Twitter's first step into that new audio world. And since that initial launch, it's kind of blown out. And now we have podcasters, journalists, publishers hosting audio conversations on Twitter, and it's become like a key core component of the platform.


Jennifer: You say it was developed with podcasters in mind?


Shay: It definitely was. Our product team approaches new products and how we want to launch it to the users, it always comes from what audiences are going to be using these products and podcasters, journalists, really those super users of Twitter, those audiences were kept in mind.

How to use Twitter Spaces to develop connection & content


Jennifer: Let's talk about Twitter Spaces in detail then. So tell us about the feature, how it works, any limitations around it.


Shay: Twitter Spaces has been a product that almost, I think every month or so there's been a new product update. So it's a product that the team is continuously iterating on, but it essentially lets as long as you have a Twitter account, you can host a space. So you don't need to be a podcaster. You can be like me who has 500 followers and I can host a Twitter space and you can go live instantly from your phone. Don't need much production behind you. You can broadcast to everyone essentially, and you can host it with someone else on Twitter, or you can just host it and broadcast it to your followers.


We like to call it an audio DM because you're essentially letting everybody join. But the functionality is really straightforward. It's on your home screen. It's very intuitive. And then the functionality within is you can host an audio conversation, you can record it, you can pass the mic around, which is a little bit different from podcasting. So you can actually invite listeners who are joining live to speak. As well, listeners can react. So there are emoji reactions, so you can really get a feel of your audience's reaction as you host your Space. And so there's a couple of features there that are a little bit different, but also very core to the use case of an audio conversation.


Jennifer: So anybody can use it. You don't have to have a minimum number of followers or have a special account. You can use it from your phone, you said. Can you also use it from desktop?


Shay: You can't use it from desktop. So you can only host it from your mobile Twitter app, but you can listen to a recording on desktop. So anybody who hosts a Space, it's available on Twitter up to 30 days after the fact if you keep it as a recording. And so if you want to continue to tweet it and share it out, anybody can listen to it on desktop.


Jennifer: And can you download that recording?


Shay: The owner of the Space can download it, and you are able to download it within a 30 day window. That's how long we keep the recording for.


Jennifer: So this is really interesting. A podcaster could use it to do a live show where they're getting interaction with the audience, download that recording and then push it to their podcast feed for anybody who might have missed it.


Shay: One hundred percent. So that's like a an added compliment where you can post it on Twitter, have that Twitter audience engage and then have that file for you to leverage in your owned and operated sites or in different formats. Obviously, if you are inviting everyday users to speak during your Space, you might need to get permission and maybe flag that ahead of time. But that's a way to extend your content or the conversation you're hosting.

What podcasters are using Twitter Spaces well?

Jennifer: Could you give us some examples of some podcasters who are having success using Twitter Spaces to build their audience or develop content like this?


Shay: One of the first personalities on Twitter who started using Spaces when it was in beta was Kara Swisher, her Recode podcast. Not only does she have an actual podcast that she has on the typical platforms, but every week she hosts a complementary show on Twitter Spaces with Casey Newton. And so she really leverages that as a complement to her existing podcast. And then she drives it across both audiences because she's noticed there's a ton of overlap there. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Jon Stewart, The Problem with Jon Stewart, his Apple TV Series. He also has a podcast. He has also started to host a Twitter Space weekly where it's essentially an extension of each week's episode. They essentially source questions from the audience on Twitter, and then they speak to each topic a little bit more in depth. So those are kind of the ways that we've started to see podcasters and talent use Spaces. 


Jennifer: And I think you mentioned that a Space can be made public, so anybody who happens to find it on Twitter could listen in. But did you say that you could also limit it to a certain group of people like just your followers?


Shay: Yeah. So there are three functionalities. You can let everybody listen to a Space, only people you follow, and you also have the ability to remove listeners during a Space if you know they're a character that you don't want listening just based off your own Twitter interaction. That's more of a health and safety feature. Spaces are they're super discoverable on Twitter right now, where essentially every time you host a Space, your followers will automatically be provided a push notification that your Space is live. So if you have a built-in audience on Twitter and you're hosting a Space, they will be notified when you're live. 


Shay: There's also at the top of our Twitter timeline we have a Spaces tab. So the moment anybody opens their Twitter app and they follow your account and they see you're hosting a space, they'll see it at the top of the tab. So there's that high visibility placement whenever you're hosting a Space. There's also  a third key discoverability feature here is we have a Spaces tab where essentially based off your interests, based off what the Spaces are tagged with, there's a rolling list of Spaces that are currently being live that users can swipe through. And so there's that additional piece of discoverability to reach audiences that may not be following your account right now.

Offering private Twitter Spaces to paying subscribers….coming soon


Jennifer: I'm wondering if there is a way to tighten the invite list for your Spaces even more. Like you said, you can make it just accessible to your followers. Could you make it accessible to a subset of your followers without having to manually say this person can't come, this person can't come?


Shay: So far where the product is in its lifecycle, that's not a functionality. But I will say, if you follow the Twitter Spaces account on Twitter, they're constantly asking users of Spaces for feedback and that's kind of been the history of Twitter. We iterate products based off need. The retweet function on Twitter, which is core to our platform, was created because somebody tweeted out, I would like to share somebody else's tweet without manually copying and pasting. And so as is need and requests, I'm sure it's on the team's roadmap.


Jennifer: So where I was getting out with that was just thinking about, you know, a lot of our podcasters have subscription programs, and it would be really cool to be able to offer one of the perks that they offer in their subscription program for paid subscribers is access to something like a Twitter Spaces where they can actually talk to you as the podcaster. 

Shay: So that's a really good point, and I will say that is kind of almost phase two or phase three of Twitter Spaces. Something that the team has really thought about is how can we enable creators, including podcasters, to monetize their content through Twitter Spaces and on Twitter. And so currently, and this isn't available in Canada, but it is available in beta to a select number of creators in the US where they can host ticketed Spaces, where essentially it allows them to monetize access to their Space conversation and they can set the price. A portion of the proceeds go to them, portion goes to Twitter for facilitating, a portion goes to the operator and Apple or whoever was managing the fee. But that is a product piece that we're currently working on and it's in beta. It's closed to a select number of creators, but the goal is to figure out if we can bring it to the masses. 

Jennifer: That's exciting. Is there any sort of timeline on when that might be available to a broader audience? 

Shay: No timeline yet, but I know it is a key priority because it is an ask of the community. Podcasters are content creators. We want to make sure you can monetize the content and so it is definitely a key priority. It's just a matter of making sure once it's available to everybody, it's easy to use, it's easy to facilitate, and it's something that creators can jump in with both feet in. 

How to plan and promote a Twitter Space

Jennifer: You've talked a little bit about discoverability, but also what are some best practices around planning a Twitter Spaces. How do you get people to come to it?


Shay: We always say behind a great Space is a great plan. There's always certain steps I always recommend to all of the partners I work with is you want to tease out your Space. You want to ensure that your followers realize you're about to host. So there's a lot of pre-promotion that's a best practice. Scheduling your Space ahead of time, allowing your audience to click that notification to be reminded when you're live. Live tweeting when your Space is live. If somebody can't join a space in that window of time because they're at work or some other reason, live tweet it as well so they can follow along. When you're in the Space and you're hosting, it is a little bit of a different dynamic than when you're hosting a podcast because these are live listeners, they can react to you.


Shay: They might even tweet you questions. So there is a sense of welcoming the live audience in, setting the rules that if you have any questions, use this hashtag. The recording will be available after for this many amount of days, you know, setting the ground rules before you set the Space. You can schedule a Space up to 14 days before you go live. Take advantage of that 14 days of promotion so that way it's always at the top of the timeline. So it's all about planning and making sure that your audience is notified that, you know, every Friday you host a Space at this time and building that routine and you're building in that tune-in audience week over week to build that habit.

Jennifer: You mentioned so you've got your Spaces going that it can be a good idea to live tweet, to take questions from the audience that are using hashtags. That sounds like it might be at least a two-person job to host a Space doing that. Would you agree with that? 

Shay: Yes. So sometimes this is a two-person show. And with Spaces, you do have the ability to add up to two additional co-hosts. So what we've seen sometimes is you'll have the official show account and then you'll have the talent account. And sometimes the official show account will start the Space off and then pass co-hosting permissions to the talent and then the person who's managing the show account is who's live tweeting. So depending on how big of an experience you want, how interactive, how much engagement you want to drive, you do need an additional person unless of course you're amazing at multitasking and you can hold a conversation, interview a guest and pull some questions. 


Jennifer: Twitter itself is obviously the logical tool for letting people know that you're going to have a Space. Do you find that people also use email or external tools that are good for driving people to Twitter Spaces?


Shay: For sure. Depending on what channels you own, making sure you're leveraging all the channels you have to drive to Twitter for the Space is super key. Podcasters like Kara Swisher she'll mention in her podcast, she'll tweet it out every week. So that's definitely a best practice if you have an email, link your tweet link with the schedule function, so everybody who's on your newsletter can set the reminder themselves. So I would say leverage all their levers that you have to promote your Space.


Jennifer: Because it's live. I mean, obviously you've got the recording that you can leverage after the fact, but because it's live and you want to get people participating at a certain time, there are going to be times that are better than others for your audience. Are there any tools that you recommend for finding what might be an optimal time for your Twitter Spaces?


Shay: I would recommend first understanding how your audience and your followers behave, and you can take a look at that on your ads UI dashboard. Once you log into Twitter, you can go to ads.twitter.com and you can kind of get a sense of your user behavior and then based off maybe time or engagement that you normally get. I think every Twitter user knows when they get the most engagement. Maybe it's a Friday night or if you're a basketball tweeter you know you get your engagement during a basketball game or when news breaks. So I think there's no set formula. I think it really depends on what content you’re covering, what industry or vertical and the behavior of your audience.


Jennifer:  I was on a Twitter Spaces recently, and I think there was a transcription feature. Did I imagine that or was that somebody live tweeting?


Shay: No, there is a transcription feature. And so that's one of the accessibility features that we added since launch. And so essentially, as a host, you can turn on live captioning. So that is also a feature that's available.

How to tie your podcast to Twitter’s superpower

Jennifer: Do you have any rule of thumb, I mean I know it would vary greatly from tweeter to tweeter, but you talked about Kara Swisher and Jon Stewart, which obviously, they're big names. They have big audiences. If someone was a smaller podcaster, what percentage of their Twitter followers they might expect to get on a live event?


Shay: So there's no real benchmark. I wish there was a key metric there, and you're right, this is Jon Stewart and Kara Swisher we're talking about, so they probably have a much higher benchmark. But I will say, if you put in the work and the best practice of leveraging a Space as a key part of how you talk with your audience, the consistency, you create Spaces during moments that drive conversation on Twitter. So maybe you want to go live right away or there's an announcement in the news cycle that you're covering that you know will happen on Thursday and you create a Space around that. So I think it really depends on the content and the moment in time. For example, the CBC posted its Space after one of the election debates. And so it's very timely. 


Jennifer: That's a good tip, though, is tying in your Space to some sort of other live event that you know is taking place like a game, an election, maybe like an Apple announcement or something. That's a good tip.


Shay: Yeah.


Jennifer: Twitter also has video live streaming. So how is Twitter thinking about the relationship between video and audio in terms of live events?


Shay: One of the Twitter superpowers and you might notice this as a user is how closely we tie in with live events, right? And when something's happening in the world, you first find out about it on Twitter. And that sometimes gets translated through video like you mentioned. But we have broadcasters broadcasting their show live on Twitter as well. L last year, the Junos broadcasted their show and the CBC broadcast of the Junos on Twitter. And now we have Spaces. So in the way of those two mediums, they’re definitely more of a complement to each other. There are content that is more suited for video, like an award show or stuff like that. And then there's some content that is more suited for audio spaces, which might be interviews or on the red carpet. And I think we really put the onus and the decision up to the publisher, the creator, to use our products in the way that they see fit. But we invest in both equally. 

Jennifer: And do you find in terms of audience pick up, are they both equal in terms of what the audience likes, just depending on what the subject matter is? 

Shay: I don't have the numbers on me, but just based off Twitter has really become a video platform. The TV and Twitter, you're never really watching TV unless you're also on Twitter. The video consumption on Twitter has really grown since lockdown, the lockdown years, which is the last two years. And so if I was to place my bet, I would say there's definitely more of a skew with video consumption on the platform. Audio consumption, Spaces first launched in November of 2020. So we've only had a year and a couple of months under our belts when it comes to the audio space and that user behavior is still adapting and changing. But we're seeing growth. But no, they're different mediums on how and different audiences that use the products on Twitter. 

Jennifer: Outside of Spaces, obviously, Twitter can be very helpful for a podcaster in terms of building audience. So tell us a little bit about some of the best practices that you're seeing podcasters use to grow their audience outside of Spaces. 

Shay: Yeah, at the end of the day, Spaces is a tactic. It's a product on the platform. Spaces should be a piece of that much larger strategy on how you engage with the audience. And so what I always tell my partners is Twitter is the conversational platform. We uniquely own that space. And so if you want to grow your audience on Twitter, you have to talk with your audience. You can't talk at them. And the way you talk with them is one, building up your presence, the way you join conversations, the way you drive conversations based on what's actually happening in the world in real time. 

Shay: You engage with your audience by responding back to their questions. That two-way communication is what really builds a publisher and a creators currency on Twitter. You have to invest in Twitter. You have to invest in your audience on Twitter and understand, the people who are going to follow you on Twitter are those who are super invested. They want to hear what you have to say. And some things they work best on Twitter. If news breaks, you don't have time to record a podcast and kind of push it out. But on Twitter, you can start tweeting about it and reacting to it right away. And then plug in the fact that we're going to be talking about it in our podcast on Friday. So there are moments that you can leverage and take advantage of the live component to build up your audience and drive to your podcast. 

What kind of podcasts do best on Twitter?

Jennifer: Are there certain kinds of podcasts or podcasts subject matter that don't do well on Twitter? I'm thinking on LinkedIn a business podcast would do best. On Facebook, if you're targeting Gen Z, that's probably not the place to find them, so are there podcasts that are a better fit for Twitter than others? 

Shay:  You're right. LinkedIn might skew a little bit more into that B2B professional space. But you would be surprised at how many communities live on Twitter and how niche they get. There's a small business community, there's a cat Twitter community, there's hockey Twitter. There's all of these twitters we like to call them that are so niche. And so I wouldn't say there's any podcast that won't work on Twitter because there's definitely a community and a passionate group that will listen. But I will say in terms of the conversations that tend to take bigger pieces of the pie on Twitter are conversations that have to do with live events. That's kind of our superpower. And so if you have a content or a podcast around live events, whether that's news, talking about really important current events, sports, entertainment award shows, anything where you're reacting to something live and drives conversation will do really well on Twitter because that's what our audience comes to the platform for. 

Jennifer: Twitter also recently published a report called Twitter Trends 2022, highlighting some of the key themes that you saw last year. So tell us a little bit about those trends and how you think podcasts might be able to tie into those. 

Shay: Yes, I'm glad you brought that up. So this was a trend report that we released about two weeks ago. And essentially what we did was do a study where we analyzed millions of tweets. We identified common themes, and it wasn't trends of last year. It's trends of these are the conversations that are starting to grow in volume. And will these tweets give us an insight into the movements of tomorrow. And so from that study three big trends stood out. One is what we call fan-built worlds. So this is the growing trend where fans are starting to have a lot more power in content, building tokens. If you think about NBA Top Shot, there's all of these areas where fans really get to drive what the community is like.  

Shay: The second trend is finance goes social. If you're on Twitter, you probably have seen a tweet about crypto. This trend is about the growing conversation around how investing isn't just for somebody who has leftover money. Anybody can invest. Anybody can get into finance if you have a digital wallet. And so there's this whole trend around finance as a social currency. If you know what an NFT is you're cool.  If you have a crypto wallet, that's also cool. And then this last trend is called the great restoration. So this is tied to the growing conversation around sustainability, taking care of our planet, but also taking care of ourselves at the same time. So the mental health, the mental wellness. So these are the conversations that are really growing on Twitter. And I think there is definitely an overlap here of where people go to podcasts as a medium for some of these things. 

Jennifer: In the social and audio ecosystem, there's a bunch of other major platforms, and it seems like they're all sort of overlapping with each other. Right. So Spotify, getting into podcasts, YouTube's getting into podcasts. LinkedIn now has a podcast network. So where do you see Twitter fitting into this larger ecosystem? 

Shay: I'll say now all of those platforms and Twitter is very unique. We own our own space, and now that everyone is kind of investing in audio and audio tactics and mediums, I don't think that changes as much. Actually there's a misconception sometimes that Twitter is a social app. We're actually always found in the news category of the App Store. And so for Twitter, we uniquely own a space that is about following what's happening in the world, that's very current events related and about serving the public conversation. And so Spaces and podcasts that ladder up to that need for users is kind of where we fit in. And the other platforms have their own superpowers. So I definitely think there's a world for everybody. It all depends on what your content is and what audience you're trying to reach. 

Jennifer: On the heels of that, what is Twitter's longer term vision for audio and podcasting on the platform? 

Shay: I wish I could answer, and I had visibility into our product teams and SF. But what I will say is that the long term vision really depends on what the community asks for. So I almost would flip the question to you, like if you could get anything out of Twitter Spaces to take it to the next level for the podcasting community, what would it be? And my bet is that the Twitter team will make that happen with Twitter Spaces. So it definitely follows the need and the trajectory of the community, that's kind of what we've done with all of our products. So that's kind of long-term vision. What will be the user behavior of podcasters on Twitter and kind of follow that. 

Jennifer: Great. Thank you so much for joining us today, Shay.

Shay: Thank you. It's great to be here. 

Jennifer: That was Shay Thiyagarajah, partner manager at Twitter Canada. For a full transcript of this episode, including links to the various resources that we’ve mentioned, go to supercast.com/podcast

You know what’s coming, right? If you’re listening to this episode, tweet us @supercast and let us know and tell us what was your biggest takeaway from today’s episode? For me, it was thinking about ways to tap into live events that people might be talking about on Twitter.

Of course, you can always join the conversation in the Supercasters community by becoming a Supercasters Premium subscriber. It is absolutely free, and in addition to the networking community you also get access to bonus content to help you grow your audience and your revenue. To become a Premium subscriber, go to https://premium.supercast.com/ and click the free signup link. 

Until next time, I’m Jennifer Tribe. Thanks for listening.