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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
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Desperation or Popularity: Buying Friends

You may consider this a continuation of words that appeared here last week, in an article titled "Does Social Media Pay Radio Dividends?" The point being made was this: using my own metrics and accounting system, I believe that working social media within the radio industry provides little in return.

"Does requiring people to 'Friend' you on Facebook so they may enter a contest devalue the value of 'Friends'?" Knowing the importance people place on using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and hundreds of other SM web sites), the question really revolves around how much effort is required, across how many people, before a radio station gains benefit from maintaining a social media presence.

Instead of going through a long list of groups in the radio industry, let's narrow this down to just one - the biggest, Clear Channel. And, before pointing to the most obvious discrepency, let's just look at an item unrelated to the social media issue yet effecting every one of the web sites owned by CC - HD Radio.

Recently Clear Channel did a site redesign across its network. While it desperately needed this action, what's now in front of its site visitors is a template that changes little from one CC station to the next. The web sites have been simplified, but now reflect the opposite of individuality, the main difference being each station's logo tucked in the upper-left corner. As an example, check Clear Channel's six Cleveland station web sites: WGAR, WMJI, WTAM, 106.5, 96.5, WMMS.

This is the major point - there's no mention of "HD Radio." Let's phrase this differently for you and HD Radio's CEO Bob Struble. As Lyndon Johnson said: "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Paraphrased for this purpose: "If I've lost Clear Channel, I've lost the radio industry."

But, let's not digress.

The big push at Clear Channel is now iHeartRadio, which is understandably present at each web site. And the big push for iHeartRadio's new "Pandora like" promotion is the "iHeartRadio Music Festival," scheduled for September in Las Vegas.

When you have a super contest, across hundreds of radio stations, it's natural to: 1) give tickets away through individual station contests, and 2) push your audience to a central online destination for entry. In this case, Clear Channel has elected to have each person, who wants to enter, "Friend" them on Facebook.

Does requiring people to "Friend" you on Facebook so they may enter a contest devalue the value of "Friends"?

Both television and the radio industry today work social media this way. "Friend us on Facebook." "Enter to win." "See your picture on TV." "Hear your name mentioned on radio." In the end, does the action of "Friending" when that action is to gain something (such as a contest entry) hold value?

Social media is a powerful tool, but only when it's used in a way that means something to the "friends." The magic of SM is not in "Friending," but in having those who are your friends pass words on that you put in front of them. To do this there needs to be an emotional, intrinsic attachment to the content - which is something that's hardly ever created by mass media's usage of a social media platform.

Is it desperation or popularity that has people "Friending" your station on Facebook? As a comparative, look at what Digitally Imported has accomplished. DI is an online radio station that doesn't have mega-concerts, or require people to "Friend" it to listen. Yet, Digitally Imported has managed to get 179,242 people do the "Friend" thing.

Clear Channel with its 750 stations and massive iHeartRadio contest has 784,526.

Which "Friends" are better "friends"? And, which do you think are closer to the companies involved?

Perhaps someone at Clear Channel needs to give Ari Shohat at Digitally Imported a call. Just looking at the numbers will tell you he knows something that the leaders in the biggest company in our radio industry have yet to figure out. Social media is not about buying "Friends."

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