“How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting with a Social Mind” with Oliver Yonchev of the Social Minds Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oliver Yonchev is Managing Director of one of the world’s largest global social media agencies, Social Chain. The agency owns Cast Chain, a new service for the creation, production and distribution of branded podcasts that rival celebrities and publishers. As the US Managing Director, Oliver is responsible for the development of the group’s North American operation, spearheading the company’s plans to open three offices in addition to its NYC office across LA, San Francisco, and Chicago by 2021, and oversees global social media strategies for clients such as Amazon, Coca-Cola, Nokia, Dreamworks, FIFA, Superdry, and Disney.
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Can you tell us the backstory of how your company got started with podcasting?
Following the success of Social Chain CEO Steve Bartlett’s The Diary of a CEO podcast, we made the decision to start our own company podcast, Social Minds. Social Minds is the UK’s first dedicated social media marketing podcast — a title which we were able to establish due to podcasting’s relative infancy in the media space. It was clear from the beginning that podcasts held enormous untapped value.
After researching existing social media podcasts, we found a few in the US that explore social from a user’s perspective, but none focused on the global impact that social media has had on every single business and consumer-facing industry. We wanted to provide an insight into social media, but not as people know it, so we sought out the most inspirational minds from all corners of the business world who are using social in unique and innovative ways, to learn exactly how our industry is permanently altering theirs.
Deciding to launch Social Minds was the result of a changing landscape. Articles were becoming less relevant by the day but there was still a hunger for long-form, in-depth content that you just can’t get from a 60-second Facebook video. Social Minds holds nothing back. From the depths of data science to your Grandma’s Tinder profile, we put the reality of 4 billion people’s daily consumptions under an unforgiving spotlight. By revealing more than a few little-known secrets from behind the scenes, we give our listeners a look through the other side of the social lens.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to Social Chain since you started Social Minds?
The sheer recognition Social Chain has received thanks to Social Minds in just eight months of recording has been incredible. We’ve sat down with guests from Sony, ITV, HMD, Kellogg’s, BBC — big names working on the brand and agency side who have said they are avid listeners and tune into Social Minds for a handle on what’s really going on. Hearing guests we admire tell us they turn to our podcast to inform them about social media never gets old. We’ve had people stop us on the street to tell us how much they enjoyed the latest episode and brands we have admired for years reach out and ask if they can make the trip up to Manchester, UK to record with us.
We started Social Minds to give a cut-through account of social media and what it means in the real world — the jargon and ‘trend-speak’ is difficult to grasp unless you live and breathe social media. We thought it would act solely as a service to our peers within the industry, but such is the nature of social media that Social Minds has become something which speaks to people from all over on a universal scale.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake Social Minds made when first starting?
Creating a successful podcast is about the long game. We’ve learned that the key to success is practice, feedback and understanding your new audience and what they want, and that takes time. We must have recorded close to ten early episodes of Social Minds which never got released. We even launched a pilot episode which was quickly recalled. We made loads of mistakes in the beginning but those missteps provided the crucial learning experiences we needed to make Social Minds a success.
Our first mistake was over-analyzing what was working for other podcasts and taking them as gospel. In reality, you have to take the time to figure out your new audience and what they’ll respond to. Our second mistake was speaking too broadly–an easy mistake to make after a few beers (another wrong choice in the early days). Podcasts might run for hours at times, but it’s more important than ever to hone in on a niche topic or specific topic to discuss in detail rather than give a brief overview of lots of topics. With the right guest, you’ll be surprised at how long you can speak about just one thing.
Which brings me onto my final point: the most important lesson we’ve learned is that there’s such a thing as being too polite when guests make the effort to come on your podcast. When you’re just starting out, you feel like beggars can’t be choosers with guests, so we overlooked the fact that not everyone had the right chemistry with our hosts or the necessary delivery skills to bring their point home. We’ve since learned that it pays to be picky and the more we challenge our guests on their opinion, the more information they’ll give to our listeners. Ultimately, our audience tunes in to hear an expert point of view. If a guest fails to deliver that, we have to be brutal.
Can you tell us the lesson learned from that?
Don’t launch the first episode you record. Think of your first season as a trial run, keeping it offline and just for the purpose of your own learning. Always get feedback from people you trust, people with experience to offer and people outside of your industry bubble. And, as I said, don’t be afraid to be brutal when it comes to cherry picking the best episodes you record to put out live.
Aside from that, I’d say be patient and persevere. The most important tools in your roster are consistency and constant growth. Podcasts rarely explode overnight and always get better with time, so you have to be willing to invest your time and your resources if you want your podcast to be a success.
How long has Social Minds been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
Social Minds officially debuted on August 17, 2018 and it has aired 29 shows so far. We’re now at a point where we’re looking to include different content pillars within the podcast, so every week we have a standard episode with our special guest and now every month our hosts, Theo and Eve, sit down for a special episode which we call Breaking Social. In this, we cover the hottest social media stories to break in that month and dissect what it means for brands and marketers.
As well as this, we’re planning a few special episodes with our CEO, Steve and our COO, Dom, who will each interview their own industry peers one-on-one.
What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?
We want people to finish every episode of Social Minds feeling confident about the latest changes in social. In an industry which moves at such a rapid pace, it can be difficult to stay on top of every single update. Our job is to translate the marketing jargon you hear every day, leave buzzwords at the door and speak to social media headlines in a way anyone can understand. We want to take even the most confusing topics and show you how exciting they are and how applicable they can be to you. And we aim to spread the contagious passion that we have for social.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Oliver Yonchev!
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1) Book Great Guests. The first guest is always the hardest. If you have industry connections, it’s time to tap those. The best way to sell people on a brand new podcast is to position it as a value exchange, where they stand just as much to gain from coming on your show as you do from having them. Once you get the ball rolling, we’ve found that the best way to find exciting guests is by asking everyone who comes on Social Minds to choose one person they know and admire to introduce us to.
2) Increase Listeners. Once you understood its affinities, interests, consumption habits and the podcasts that this audience engages with, you can strategically reverse engineer a podcast format that is both appealing and offers a clear point of difference, branding that is relevant and compelling, and subject matter that is fresh and distinctive. And build ways to capture your listeners’ data so you can re-market new episodes to them every week. Share compelling video snippets across other platforms and promote your podcast hard in a short space of time, as high podcast placement in the podcast charts (which increases the podcast’s exposure, and thereby attracts listeners) is based on velocity at which downloads, subscriptions and reviews are received. The algorithm also weighs week on week growth heavily, so your first podcast will enter the charts at its highest position because the benchmark starts at zero. Pre-record 5–10–20 episodes before you launch to achieve higher download velocity, episode release consistency and to ultimately drive your podcast higher in the charts. The sum total of your podcast downloads in a certain period of time matters, which means launching 3 podcasts across a week is of value.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. We have a really high quality audio set up in the new dedicated podcast studio now. Curtain sound proofing, professional mics (4 x Shure sm7b worth £1316). We also dedicate time to editing and mastering the audio so that every voice is crisp and clear with minimal background noise. The intro is enticing and full of sound effects (an audio experience) to reel people in, while clips from the episode tease what’s to come. We take pride in producing professional looking video promotional clips by using multiple cameras and cinematic lighting setups. Finally, Social Minds has its own unique brand identity, designed in-house and used across all of our content. The animations, lower thirds and overlays that are used in the promotional material all add to the professional feel of Social Minds that entices the viewer to listen and share.
4) Encourage Engagement. In the early days we were all harassing colleagues, friends and family to leave us positive reviews on iTunes — they really do make a difference. Since then, we’ve found that asking is enough. If you do your job right, your audience becomes hugely invested in your podcast. Reviews are crucial to its success and avid listeners are more than happy to lend their support here.
5) Monetize Your Show. Monetizing can be done in a few ways: Ad placements — programmatic audio; live reads by hosts; subscription fees, and donations by listeners. A podcast should be part of a wider personal or brand strategy — the #1 goal of a podcast should not be to drive revenue, as prioritizing revenue would be shortsighted.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Oliver Yonchev!