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Thursday, August 11, 2011
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Does Social Media Pay Radio Dividends?

Follow the radio industry today and you'll find an unusually high amount of chatter about participation in social media. "Friend us on Facebook," "Follow us on Twitter" are the predominant calls, which will soon be joined by "Drop us into your Google+ circle." Of 7 major group web sites visited, all had links to Facebook. 5 had Twitter links. None mentioned HD Radio on its home page (which is for another article).

Group Station
CBS 102FM Jamz
Cox B98.5 FM
Cumulus KFOG FM
Clear Channel 99.5 WGAR
Greater Media 107.9 The Link
Emmis KLBJ New Radio
Radio One 100.3 The Beat

Taking into consideration the importance that is now placed on social media within the radio industry, the following are a few natural questions: Why?; Is anyone measuring the amount of work going into maintaining this social media presence?; Is any station tracking what this work is delivering back to the station?

"Generating response, replies, comments, or "likes" are meaningless data sets unless they can be tied to a revenue generating number." Not to spend too much time on any of these questions (they are asked more to get you to think about your answers than to demonstrate what I've been tracking), let's just look at what goes into each phase. Then, see if you have a methodical way to gauge ROI.

Without a systematic measurement of performance, going through the motion of keeping a social media presence - reqardless of which SM you choose to highlight - is similar to offering an advertiser an on-air schedule and refusing to track anything that resembles "success" for them.

Working backwards, is your station measuring the response received each time a post is made to Facebook or Twitter? Are metrics pulled to tell you if the time spent posting is delivering anything more than an ability to say that you're on Facebook and Twitter? Are postings ad-hoc? Or, have you designed a system that allows for fast posting and replies to posts from visitors?

It's only a guess, but I'm going to vote that in the radio industry there's essentially no tracking of what is happening once a post is made. Not knowing if there's revenue generating response is far worse than thinking the effort to post is worthwhile simply because you have over 5,000 people who have "liked" your page, especially if you have contests that require audience to "friend" the station to enter.

The next and, in my opinion, more important piece of information you can track is how much time is devoted to creating a post (which should be multiplied by how many posts are made each day). Again, we fall back on the "response" metric to quantify whether that time is worth putting into posting.

Generated response, replies, comments, or "likes" are meaningless data sets unless they can be tied to a revenue generating number. So let's carry this last issue one more step and ask if your radio station has a way of telling how much revenue is generated from a post, or series of posts.

Over the past year I have been methodically posting to Facebook and Twitter, tracking those posts back to page visits, and turning those page visits into dollar amounts. I hold my measured social media interaction to dealing with Audio Graphics' independent artist web site,, and our "Intro to Indie Artists" programs. Doing some basic math gives a fairly accurate picture of time spent posting to revenue generated from posting, and I'm prepared to say that - as I've been doing it - the return on investment is not worth the effort.

Now comes the caveat, which all in the radio industry must take into consideration. Because this past year has been spent setting up a measurement system and a systematic way of posting, I very well may be approaching it wrong. So, to be certain that my hypothosis is correct, my next step will be to alter how I've been doing the posting to see if it will push an improvement in results.

I'm not yet prepared to answer if posting to social media is worth it; that will come in a short amount of time now that the methods of measurement have been created, after I alter the original posting system. Which brings us back to the main observation and how it relates to the radio industry. You may have a Facebook or Twitter icon on your station's web site; you may keep asking the on-air audience to "like" you on Facebook, or "follow" your station on Twitter, but is the energy you are putting into these actions generating anything of value?

The radio industry must get away from its shotgun approach that uses wishful thinking. The only way to verify results is to create your own analytics system for social media, and to begin measuring work-in against revenue generated.

Fail to do this, and you have no proof that your Facebook or Twitter campaign is working - which is no more than what radio provides its over-the-air clients.

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