​How To Start A Podcast: Behind the Scenes at Social Pros

I co-hosted my last episode of the Social Pros Podcast this week - at least my last episode as the official co-host.  My friend and co-host Jay Baer signed up a new batch of sponsors and I stepped aside to make room for the new headliners, though I hope to continue pitching in from time to time as a guest host, contributor, heckler, butt of Jay’s jokes, etc.

I’m proud of what Jay and I built - 54 episodes by my count.  Social Pros has played a leading role in sparking a renaissance of the podcast form - see The Work Talk Show, Human Business Way, SocializedBusiness, and others I’m sure.

In honor of the effort, here are some details about the work that went into building Social Pros:

The Backstory

Former Argyle Social COO Tristan Handy and I were looking for creative, counter-intuitive advertising outlets for Argyle and Tristan thought to advertise on a podcast based on previous podcast advertising successes he experienced at Squarespace.  We couldn’t find the right podcast to sponsor, so we figured we might as well just start the podcast.

We already had a sponsor relationship with Jay, so we pitched him on the idea.  It didn’t take long to sell him on the concept and thus Social Pros was born.

Narrow Focus

Social Pros works in part because it has such a narrow focus - real people doing real work in social media.  Instead of boiling the ocean, we set out to build a podcast about social media professionals for social media professionals.  The hyper-targeted vertical orientation created constraints that simplified programming, guests, marketing, and sponsorship.

Repeatable Format

Both Jay and I are super-busy, so we had to come up with a format that worked for the listener and didn’t require enormous prep.  We quickly iterated to find a formula that work:

  • Brief intro and goofy banter about college basketball, parenting, or other silliness.
  • Guest interviews - 20 minutes rapping with the guest.
  • Stat of the Week - 5 minutes discussing a recent social study datapoint.
  • Social Pros Shout Out - 5 minutes discussing unsung social/marketing heroes.

Jay usually prepped the guest interview, though I always had a question or two in reserve.  The Stat of the Week prep generally took 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how much digging I had to do in order to find a datapoint.  If often got suggestions from Jay and listeners.

I can’t remember who came up with the Shout Outs - probably me because of my history of “shout outs” with DJ Waldow - but it was definitely clever idea.  Social pros like to share insightful content and people, so we designed a podcast version of the “like” social gesture.  This is 5 minutes of content that we don’t have to create each week.

If you’re just getting a podcast off the ground, I suggest starting out with a simple, repeatable format.  The Social Pros format started out simple, evolved over time, and I'm certain will continue to evolve in the future.  

Audience Building

This was actually the easy part for us - Jay had already aggregated a massive, well-deserved audience and Argyle had accumulated a massive house email list.  So after a few quick emails/tweets and a handful of episodes, Social Pros had a significant following.

How do you build an audience for your podcast if you aren’t Jay Baer or Argyle?  No idea.  I guess you could ask Jay how he built his empire.  Or you could start a software company.

Guest Contributors

We aimed high when it came to guests.  And thanks in large part to Jay’s network, we bagged some great interviews - Jeremiah Owyang, Howard Lindzon, Scott Monty, Rand Fishkin, Tom Webster, DJ Waldow, and plenty of others.

The guests are important parts of the promotion equation, in part because there is a probably obvious quid pro quo.  Guests were eager to participate in our podcast to promote themselves, their book, their brand, whatever...and then would promote their participation in the podcast.  Definitely a virtuous cycle.


We recorded every episode in one take, live via Skype.  The mixdown and post-production typically took 30 to 60 minutes.  Piece of cake.

So go start a podcast!