October 27, 2021

If you’ve ever thought that podcasting can sometimes feel like a one-sided conversation, Anchor’s new Q&A and Polls features bring your listeners to the party.

These interactive features open up the line of communication between creators and listeners like never before. Q&A and Polls elevate your audience engagement and help build interest in your show, spark inspiration, and even shape the content and forward trajectory of your podcast.

How Q&A and Polls work

Activating Q&A and Polls allows listeners to engage directly within podcast episodes. Using Anchor, you can select an episode to add a question or poll to, then tap the Community tab to draft it. Once you’re done writing the question or poll, tap ‘Save’ to make it live.

After you have responses, you can tap “See replies” to read them and pin your favorites to display at the top of the episode screen.

While posting a Q&A allows listeners to add one unique, open-ended response, Polls give listeners up to seven options to choose from. You can control how long the poll runs for; the real-time responses will display during that timeframe, and the final results will appear afterward.  

You can edit your questions for Q&As at any time—and choose one or both features to add to any episode you want. Q&A and Polls give you the flexibility to use them however you’d like, and experiment with what works best for your podcast.

Why audience engagement is important for you and your listeners

The opportunity for listeners to engage with you strengthens their connection, leading to greater loyalty, which contributes to overall listener growth. That community you build will spread your podcast around by word-of-mouth and through discussion on social media.

Letting listeners participate in the development of your podcast allows them to become collaborators in a sense. Their feedback can help you shape your content, give you ideas and inspiration, and provide insight into what they like and want to hear from you.

Poll results and pinned Q&A responses not only create content for you to discuss on your podcast but generate excitement within your community. Enticing your listeners with the chance to have their responses featured can keep them interested and inspire others to participate.

Another incentive for increasing audience engagement is that it helps make your podcast a well-oiled machine. The influx of listener feedback all funnels into your Anchor dashboard for easy access.  “Having the Q&A and Polls features built right into Anchor makes it so quick and simple to hear from your audience—something that has been historically challenging in the podcast space,” says Michael Tucker of “Beyond the Screenplay.” How’s that for efficiency?

Audience engagement best practices with Q&As and Polls

Get the most out of these interactive features to mutually benefit you and your listeners. These tactics will increase your audience engagement and accelerate your podcast’s evolution.

Build a rapport with your audience

Q&A and Polls give you access to your audience and the opportunity to get to know them. This will establish a connection with them.

One way to do this is to ask fun, interactive discussion questions to your listeners related to each episode. Tucker uses this approach with Q&As that accompany Beyond the Screenplay, his podcast that explores the stories behind films. “For each episode we release, we include a question related to the film or the topics of discussion. For example, for our episode on the film ‘Whiplash,’ we asked listeners what their favorite movie about obsessed artists are. It’s a fun, quick way to learn more about our listeners,” says Tucker.

This is equally effective for getting to know your listeners as individuals. Beyond the realm of the podcast space, also ask listeners to share stories, experiences, or details about themselves. Questions like how their day is going, their favorite travel destination, what their first concert was, etc., can inspire them to engage.

If you’re struggling to think of what to ask your audience, Scott Lynch of “The Motivated Mind” podcast has insight from his own first-hand experience. “Think about the podcasts you listen to; what questions would you want from the creator? How would you like to interact with the creator? By placing ourselves in the shoes of others we can start to develop a framework of what our Q&A and Polls may look like.”

Discover your listeners’ needs

To help provide the highest value possible for your listeners, find out their pain points, struggles, unrequited desires, and any other unmet needs.

“‘What’s been holding you back recently?' These types of questions allow you to be a fly on the wall. Sometimes it can be challenging to articulate what someone may want to hear for future episodes. By asking a question framed like this, it can provide a perfect painting of the needs of listeners,” says Lynch.

Another example in the same vein is to ask more direct questions about what listeners want out of your show they haven’t yet received, like “what’s a topic you want to learn about we haven’t covered?” or “what can we teach you about or answer for you in a future episode?”

Source inspiration from your listeners

Poll results and Q&A responses can steer segments or entire episodes based on input about episode topics, discussion questions, and guest recommendations, among other content-related components. During episodes, you can choose to reveal results and responses and spend time discussing them in detail. On a higher level, this could even be fodder for an entire podcast concept. What if your podcast was solely based on the questions you ask your audience and their responses? Get creative and have fun with it. The possibilities are vast.

One way you can add variety to the Q&A experience is to pass the mic to your listeners. Let them ask the questions that you can answer on air. This can include an ask-me-anything (AMA) series, questions about the podcast production process, or questions specifically related to your podcast theme, niche, or specialty.

If you find that you’re in a creative rut or are simply curious about the potential of an idea, use Q&As and Polls as a workshop space to explore further and test the waters. “We’ve used Polls to help us make decisions about the future of our show. When we’re weighing options (like which movie trilogy should we cover next), it’s been great to let our listeners share what they are most excited about via Polls,” says Tucker.

This can also be a way to gauge the impact of previous episodes and their concepts. “Each of my episodes offers lessons around mindset and self-growth. I use the Q&A feature to understand if my audience has applied those lessons to their lives and to what success. This insight allows me to understand how effective the lessons were and if my listeners have a more effective approach,” says Lynch. This type of feedback gives you the opportunity to learn from your listeners and how they might use a different tactic.

Use Q&As for open-ended questions, Polls for close-ended

Both Q&As and Polls have their unique advantages and purpose. Q&As are for exploring and learning. Polls have parameters and can help with the selection process.

“Q&As are a great way to let a listener express themself,” says Tucker. Q&As give listeners a prompt, then puts the ball in their court to respond with their own thoughts.

On the other hand, Polls allow you to guide your listeners towards specific multiple-choice options of your selection. “Polls are a great way to discover where your personal excitement and your listeners’ excitement overlap. Polls allows you to maintain some control over the content you create by offering specific options you’re already excited about, yet still involve your audience in the decision-making process,” says Tucker.

“Polls are better at helping you, as a creator, gather feedback when deciding between specific options. For example, if we know we want to talk about a scary movie for Halloween, but we can’t decide which our audience will enjoy most, a Poll is a quick and easy way to make a decision.”

Share listeners’ input

The next step after you receive responses is to share them. This is key to promoting these features for your podcast and inspiring listener participation.

There are a variety of ways to share responses and Poll results, starting with discussing them in your episodes. Specifically, with Q&As, you can share the full response and shout out the listener it came from. This will encourage them to tune in to hear if their response will be mentioned and talked about on the podcast.

Tucker leads with this early on in his episodes to hook listeners quickly. This is also an opportunity to promote the next round of Q&As and Polls you have planned. “To encourage listener participation, make sure to mention any questions or Polls in the podcast episode itself. For example, we try to mention the questions at the top of our episodes: ‘And for all of our listeners using the Spotify app, our question for you guys is…’

In addition to the episodes themselves, share notable responses on the online channels where you actively promote your podcast, including social media and email.

Audience engagement makes podcasting a two-way street

Audience engagement tears down the limitations placed on the podcast format since its inception. Whereas before, podcasting was mostly output and little input, now creators can have a real exchange with their audience.

“Creating a podcast is rewarding because you’re building a community. A community of like-minded individuals. These interactions provide a podium for those on the other side of the microphone. Being a podcaster isn’t always about talking; it’s just as much about listening. This gives us inspiration to hear how our words have impacted the listener’s life and how they’re passing along that knowledge,” says Lynch.

“These features allow you to hear from—and show your appreciation for—the people who care the most about the work you’re doing,” says Tucker.