You might remember James Watt, from history class, as the inventor of the Watt steam engine.
The Watt Steam Engine played a pivotal role in the industrial revolution. But while it was certainly his most significant invention, it was far from his only one.
Another of Watt’s inventions of note was the flywheel.
A flywheel is essentially an incredibly energy-efficient wheel that stores energy as it spins. As the flywheel moves faster and faster, its momentum fuels the next cycle of the wheel, requiring less energy input to maintain its speed.
Alternatively, if you continue to input the same amount of energy over time, the wheel will spin ever faster.
Pretty boring right?
Unless you’re an engineer… yep.
But here’s the thing.
The mechanics of the flywheel happen to apply perfectly to the mechanics of growing a podcast audience.
An ideal podcast flywheel might look something like this:
Strangers → Podcast Listeners → Podcast Advocates → Who bring in new strangers
Early on in our podcasts, we have to do the initial legwork of converting strangers into listeners and listeners into advocates ourselves. If we’re able to create advocates however, they’ll start to spread the word about the show themselves.
If we do a good job of fostering community around our podcasts, they’ll also play a crucial role in converting casual listeners into advocates.
With each turn of the flywheel, we gain more momentum. More listeners turn into more advocates who convert more strangers into listeners.
The trick, however, is finding the right “energy inputs” at each stage to start the wheel turning initially.
Luckily, these inputs are straightforward.
Each stage of our audience flywheel has a corresponding action in our internal creation flywheel. The actions are as follows:
Engage → Learn → Create → Engage…
Most podcasters start and focus most heavily on the “create” stage of the flywheel.
But this is a mistake.
The easiest and quickest path to growing an audience is to start engaging with and learning about the audience you want long before you ever launch your podcast or create your first episode.
By taking this approach, you know exactly the content to create that would be of most use to them, and will likely have already built up a following who will be eagerly anticipating your first episode.
This gives momentum to your podcast, starting the flywheel turning before your first episode drops.
As you release episodes, you continue to engage with your audience as well as the broader community, learning more about them, collecting feedback, and making better, more targeted episodes.
The longer you follow this system, the more momentum you build and faster your corresponding outer audience flywheel spins.
Of course, while the best time to start engaging with the community you wish to serve is before you even start your podcast, if you’ve already started (which I’m guessing you have), there will never be a better time to start than today.
While flywheels are incredibly effective once they’re spinning, the hard part is getting them up to speed.
This is especially true if you’re starting from a dead stop–which many of us are when we’re first starting our podcasts.
The secret to making the flywheel work for you is to continue putting in the effort at the start when it’s most difficult, knowing that if you stick to the plan consistently, it will get easier and easier over time to create content, attract new listeners, and turn them into show advocates.