Radio, Facebook, and Twitter
As radio industry executives gather in Washington for this week's RAB/NAB conference, the most pronounced topics seem to be the push to get FM chips in cellphones, performance royalties, and social networks. Those first two have been discussed here in detail, but the last one - social networks - hasn't received the attention needed to draw a conclusion. Let's change that today.
If there's one item people close to new media acknowledge, it's that no one person can be an expert in all aspects of what online offers. Getting to know the nuances of social networks requires time - as does understanding analytics, search optimization, performance royalties (with reporting requirements), email marketing, and creating web site content different from what radio's been putting out as programming for decades. Diversity is broad. Complexity of each aspect is deep and widening.
Over the past 14 years I've spent considerable time on everything except social networking. My excuse, or reasoning, was simple. I do not hold a desire to tell others what I'm doing daily, nor do I care to hear what others are up to on a regular basis. This doesn't mean I've ignored the explosive growth of Facebook or Twitter. It's just that I did not spend time trying to understand how either group of users interacted. That changed about 4 months ago after hiring a social media expert to set up and teach me what all of this is about. It's time to share my findings.
Millions of people are using social networks. Facebook and Twitter sit at the top, so that is where my "expert" suggested we spend time. The plan was to set up multiple accounts for Audio Graphics properties, concentrating on the two closest to my latest interests: 1) connecting independent artists with internet radio stations, and 2) expanding consumer knowledge about RadioRow, our online on-ramp for the internet and broadcast radio industries.
Considerable time and multiple approaches have been tried, each closely measured through metrics and analyzed for efficacy. In a short time we built a fan base on each that rivals most of the radio stations reported on, first in May, then about a month ago (under the headline "Facebook and Radio Industry: Results Worth the Effort?"). Here are a few observations, ending with a caution that the amount of effort in maintaining (emphasize "maintaining") Facebook and Twitter accounts seldom leads to adequate results.
I've said this often, since Audio Graphics went online in January 1997: Thought needs to be given to every action the radio industry takes online, but little thought is given to most everything happening in the radio industry today. Having fewer employees (spread thin over multiple radio-related needs - programming, sales, production, promotion, etc.) reduces the amount of time each department devotes to improving radio's product for advertiser and audience.
- There are a great many people talking on each service; however, few people are listening. The chatter that occurs is mostly "chatter of an inconsequential nature, from people who want to get-the-word-out about whatever it is they feel is important enough to share. Little holds relevance that has profound effect on people outside of their immediate circle. Few items are "Liked" or "Re-Tweeted" to high numbers of people outside of close "friends" or "followers."
- From a marketing perspective, Facebook and Twitter need to be used in much the same manner as a radio industry ad campaign. Think of a radio station's AQH as being the potential audience a single Tweet or Facebook post will reach. Only those friends or followers who are online at the time your message is listed will be exposed. If either group delays accessing, your message moves to a position listed as a "More" or "Older Post" option, which means the reader must go to "page 2." This dramatically alters the number of folks who read what you've written.
- Re-Tweets and multiple Facebook postings need to be altered, that is, reworded. Copying and pasting ealier versions will get you labeled a spammer on either system. As you prepare to make a single message available across dayparts, consider that time needs to be spent on the message so it says the same thing in a different way.
- Large companies hire full-time social network employees because delivering response is a full-time job. Thinking that a simple Facebook comment or one Tweet will pull interest covering the cost of doing either is akin to believing that broadcasting an ad, one time, will do the same. Reach and frequency is as important in the social network environment as it is in an over-the-air delivery.
When entering the social network world, posts must be thought out, created, and delivered multiple times to grab attention. Keep this in the front of your mind while sitting in those RAB/NAB Radio sessions this week. As experts tell you how little effort it takes to establish a Facebook page or a Twitter account, ask them to go deeper in detail about the effort required to maximize response - and what a typical response is for those in the radio industry who fail to follow-through.
This isn't a warning to abandon Facebook or Twitter, only caution that as in life, nothing is as simple as it first appears.
As for my actions in the world of social networking, I'm still looking for whatever it is that's being missed to increase response rates. To date, it appears that response percentages (based against the numbers of people reached) are similar to those experienced with a well thought-out ad campaign placed on a search engine or content network.
Money spent producing results in social netoworking - the employee time and effort - is equal to the cash spent purchasing ads in search or banner placement. The difference is that the latter two give far more detailed metrics for tracking response, and they are more appropriate for a radio industry that, on a station-by-station basis, delivers far fewer web site visitors than a CNN or Proctor & Gamble.
Social networking works best when reaching a huge audience.
A radio station's time is better spent concentrating on improving content and an accountability system for advertisers. Then, your audience will spread the word on their own Facebook page and Twitter accounts, and their small groupings of "Friends" and "Followers" will read what they post.