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Monica Swanson: “Get to know your listeners.” with Jason Hartman

Get to know your listeners. Ask them questions, read their comments and emails. Use your social media channels to get to know them and serve them well. Answer their questions and take the time to care about them. This is absolutely key to a successful podcast. Your listeners can tell if you truly care, so […]

Get to know your listeners. Ask them questions, read their comments and emails. Use your social media channels to get to know them and serve them well. Answer their questions and take the time to care about them. This is absolutely key to a successful podcast. Your listeners can tell if you truly care, so you really can’t fake this one.


As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Swanson.

Monica is an author, blogger, and host of The Boy Mom podcast. Her passion is encouraging and inspiring moms who are raising boys in today’s world. Monica and her doctor-husband, Dave, have one son in college and three more boys, who divide their time between homeschooling and surfing. The Swansons enjoy growing tropical fruit at their home in the country on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?

Myhusband and I moved from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii 19 years ago for my husband’s three-year medical residency program. By the time he was finished, we had three sons and knew that Hawaii would be a great place to raise them. We had our fourth son and moved to the country on the North Shore of Oahu. My husband worked at a hospital in Central Oahu, and I homeschooled our boys. We grew tropical fruit and our boys spent most of their free time surfing or diving for fish.

My husband and I wanted to raise our boys to be great men. We were intentional about shaping their character and teaching them great work ethics and being careful about technology and other influences in their lives. I started blogging about our life in Hawaii, sharing recipes and photos and surf footage. When I wrote about the teenage years, and how much I ENJOYED having teenage boys, I found myself with my first viral post. Nearly 2 million people read my post “What a Teenage Boy Needs Most from his Mom” in two weeks’ time. More viral posts happened as I shared what we call a “new, old school” approach to parenting.

A few years later I signed with a publisher and in August of 2019 my book, “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most from You”, was born. Just before the book release, I started The Boy Mom Podcast to support the book launch and to create a new place for moms to listen to encouragement on raising boys. I fell in love with podcasting immediately.

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

I think I have loved the process of discovering gifts I did not know I had. I’ve always loved writing, but podcasting is different and somewhat intimidating. Once I started, though, I realized how much I enjoyed this style of communication. I never really liked my recorded voice before, but one of the most common comments I get is how much people like the tone of my voice. I was offered the job of doing the audio recording for The Boy Mom book, and that was so much fun. I’m growing as an interviewer and having a blast along the way. It’s just great to be stretched and to realize you are good at things you might never have guessed before!

Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?

In the first couple of months of doing interviews, I was so nervous. I was a big fan of bestselling author (and mom of 6 boys) Ruth Chou Simons. When I interviewed her, I was so eager to start talking that I missed recording her opening words. I didn’t have the nerve to call her later and ask her to re-record, so I just owned it in my intro and hoped my listeners would understand. They did understand, and I think they also appreciated my transparency. Another time I forgot to plug in my microphone and didn’t notice until 18 minutes into the interview. Again, I was mortified to tell the guest. Fortunately, she used Call Record on her end, so she had the entire recording saved for me (phew!) I have learned to double and triple check everything before starting!

How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?

I have only been podcasting since June of 2019 and I have recorded 48 shows so far.

What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?

I want moms who are raising boys to feel less alone like they have a support system, and somewhere to turn to with their questions, frustrations, and hilarious boy-mom moments. I really try to make every episode practical and helpful, so moms will end each show feeling empowered to parent better, and to enjoy the journey!

In your opinion 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 your content?

What I hear from my listeners the most is that I come across super relatable and conversational. They feel like they are sitting across the table from me, and that makes me so happy! This is the truth: I am just another mom, doing my best (and making mistakes) right alongside everyone else. We are in this together, and I think people get that vibe from every episode.

I think The Boy Mom podcast is binge-listenable because I cover such a great range of topics; it is always fun to see what we are talking about next. One week we’ll be talking about motivating boys to learn, and the next week we might focus on the importance of moms taking care of themselves. We talk about boys and discipline, technology, emotional struggles, character development, as well as dating, health, and acne! Every episode at least touches on boys of all ages so there is something in each episode for everyone.

Also, I try to wrap up most shows with some fun “Boy Mom” questions for my guests. This is a great time to learn what other moms have been through — funny stories, their favorite tips or tools, and wisdom they would give to their younger selves. I pack my show notes with helpful links and try to always offer a free download to add value to the topic from our show.

Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?

I think it really helps to create a schedule so that you break up your podcast work into smaller pieces. Get the editing done early, create show notes and images with plenty of time to make changes, etc. For a while I was doing two episodes a week, and that was just too much. One weekly episode works for me and I really want to do this for the long haul, so it is important to be realistic with how much I am taking on.

What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?

I get my inspiration from my own life raising four boys, as well as from the many emails, comments, and messages I receive from readers of my blog and The Boy Mom book. There are truly endless topics we can cover when it comes to the topic of raising boys!

Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?

Since I listen to a lot of podcasts in my own niche, I look to Heather MacFadyen, host of the Don’t Mom Alone Podcast as an inspiration. Heather has been podcasting for years and she is so comfortable interviewing and podcasting. Her style and warmth inspire me to be a better podcaster!

What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?

Having a genuine passion for your topic. Caring deeply about your listeners. Being confident in what you’re talking about. Staying humble and having fun in every episode.

Your listeners want to feel like they know you — like you’re hanging out in the car with them or folding laundry or going for a walk with them. I think being relatable and conversational is really important. At least that’s what I am looking for in a podcast, so that is what I shoot for. With that said, however, you don’t want to be so casual that you sound like you have nothing (professional) to offer. People need to feel like their time is well spent, like they will get something from you they wouldn’t get hanging out (or going for a walk) with a friend. So it is key to be well-studied, to have something important or different or valuable to say.

I suppose I would say it is important to find that balance of coming across professional and knowledgeable, but humble and relatable too.

You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

  1. Getting started. For me the biggest hurdle was just getting started. Technology has never come natural to me, so that almost stopped me from podcasting at all. I decided to take Pat Flynn’s course to learn how to start a podcast and that made all the difference in the world. You’ve got to get over your fears, so do what you must to take that first step.
  2. Basic editing and production. Most of us don’t have the budget to hire a team from the get-go, so it is important to know enough to do all of your own work at the beginning. Again, because I took a course, I felt equipped to do this. In time it is incredibly helpful to have others do some of the production, but at the beginning, it will help to know how to do it all.
  3. Social media. You must share your episodes. Give a shout out to every single podcast you create and social media is the best place to do that. Fortunately, I was already active on social media because of my blog and book, but this is essential if you are just getting started.
  4. Networking. Because I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, sometimes I can feel very alone in my writing and podcasting world. I have learned over time, however, how very important it is to network with other people in your industry. I have developed many relationships through the internet and social media, and these have been game changers for my career. This takes time and intentionality, but it is so worth it. Find a mastermind group, go to conferences, follow and interact with people in your niche — nothing will help move the needle more than networking with other people, even if you have to do it virtually.
  5. Get to know your listeners. Ask them questions, read their comments and emails. Use your social media channels to get to know them and serve them well. Answer their questions and take the time to care about them. This is absolutely key to a successful podcast. Your listeners can tell if you truly care, so you really can’t fake this one.

Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

  1. To book great guests you really just need to ask. You might be surprised at who will say yes. Again, networking and investing the time to get to know others in your industry will help open the doors when the time is right.
  2. If you are hosting a show that is truly helping people and you genuinely care, I believe the listeners will find you. Be authentic. Cover important topics. Keep it practical and helpful. And then ask your listeners to share the podcast with their friends. I ask for podcast ratings and reviews every show and I ask listeners to share about the Boy Mom Podcast on social media. Listeners love to support a show that they benefit from, and sometimes they just need you to tell them how they can do that!
  3. To produce a podcast professionally, I think it is key to have good sound, and editing. You don’t have to start with the highest end, but a decent set (off Amazon) is adequate. I ordered a basic, but good quality microphone (currently using the Maono USB mic, plus a Shock Mount + Table stand, Pop filter and Wind foam. These come with the USB-B to USB-A Cable.) Editing takes time, so if you cannot take the time to do it, I recommend hiring someone. I put a lot of time into learning all aspects of podcasting for the first six months or so, because I wanted to be able to do everything if I needed to. Once you begin to monetize, you can begin to justify hiring more help and making your podcast sound even more professional.
  4. In my experience, encouraging engagement has been a process of years of delivering valuable and sincere content to my blog readers, social media followers, and now podcast listeners. You cannot expect listeners to engage right away but earn their interaction over time. The more you show that you care about them, ask them questions (send them to your show notes to reply to your questions) and take the time to interact in show notes or on social media, the better. I try to read a review on most of my episodes, so my listeners know that I actually read each and every review myself.
  5. There are many articles available about monetizing your podcast, but I think it is important that that is not your goal from the beginning. If it is, I think you will burn out quickly. When I began the Boy Mom podcast I really was looking for a place to share the overflow of information and topics related to my book. I believe that listeners were able to tell that I sincerely cared about this topic, and about them and their families. I wasn’t thinking about monetizing as much as growing a community of Boy Moms. Over time my downloads grew and that is when sponsors reached out to me. I think it is also helpful to listen to other podcasts in your niche and reach out to new sponsors to pitch your podcast. You want to create a media page which shows your downloads, social media statistics, and any other relevant information with them. Part of my income comes from sending podcast listeners to my blog where I also have ads and earn an income there. Every area of your platform ultimately feeds and supports the other parts. It’s a lot of work, but over time you figure out which platforms and work are most effective and then you know to keep moving in that direction!

For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?

I started off with a very simple microphone system. I recently purchased another set off Amazon (the Maono USB mic + Shock Mount + Table stand+Pop filter + Wind foam+USB-B to USB-A Cable). It comes in a small, travel-size case which is good for me since I travel a lot. I also signed up for a monthly plan with Libsyn for hosting, and I use my current website (Monicaswanson.com) for show notes and links. It is all much simpler than I had imagined it would be!

Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I love this question! If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most good to the greatest amount of people, it would be a movement to inspire parents to get serious about spending intentional time with their families. God gave your kids YOU to parent them, and if you leave it to the culture to shape and mold your kids, you will be sorry one day. If we slow down, put down our devices and parent our kids as if their future depended on it — this world would absolutely be a different place. This isn’t about being a perfect parent (none of us are) or even about spending an abundance of time with our kids (which isn’t always possible) but I’m talking about taking the time to be intentional…to listen to your kids, to walk them through life, guide them in relationships, school, technology…inspire them to dream big, to overcome obstacles, to work hard and be resilient. We are all so busy that it is easy to not recognize the great privilege and responsibility it is to raise kids. Enjoy them. Challenge them. Include them in your work and be involved in their lives. Strong families can change the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’d love to connect with your readers!

https://monicaswanson.com/

The Boy Mom with Monica Swanson & Friends (podcast)

Instagram

Facebook

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

Thank you so much, Jason, it was such an honor to be included in your series!

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