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Community Broadcaster: Liking Social Makeovers

Radically rethinking social media has its perks

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at

If you missed the recent Treefort Music Festival featured on the phenomenal Radio Boise, you would be well-served to observe how one community radio station pulls off effective engagement on social media. In an era where community media, which involves local musicians and festivals so actively, sometimes misses the boat, Radio Boise does it in style.

The Idaho community radio station’s popular excursions into Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere are a pleasant reminder to community media to bring out your best on social media.

Social media is one of those challenging beasts. Is your station struggling with its vision on social? Have you tried a Chrome extension like Crowdtangle and been disappointed in your social media reach? Do you have accounts but don’t feel like you’re getting back what you put in? How does community radio generate some buzz on these things anyway?

I strongly encourage stations to think carefully about stimulating a new relationship on social media. It’s not just a place to dump promo on what’s on the air now. In fact, every platform must be considered its own experience. Facebook Stories and Facebook Live have different user bases, according to research, than Instagram Stories, Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter/Periscope. More importantly, these distinct platforms give you a license to be creative on each of them.

Too often, stations may choose someone to handle their social media accounts — all of their social media accounts — without spending a lot of time considering where they want to be, and how the station should represent itself. The fact is that the lifespan of a social media post is small and shrinking. A scattering of posts won’t get you the results you want anymore. There are simply too many brands, entertainers, stations and other choices available. Oh, and friends and family draw attention, too!

How might you plot a way to maximize your social media reach? Like a station’s program director for broadcast, I have sometimes wondered why the volunteer-rich community radio station doesn’t recruit a Facebook director, an Instagram director and so on. Their task? A platform-based director would program content only for their platform, and tailor it to the interests of these audiences.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Answer the Call]

The anecdotal stories stations share with me quite often revolve around a curious theme. They notice how little overlap there is between the loyal listeners and donors they know and the likes and shares they see on social media. These observations aren’t just wild guesses, though. More studies indicate the hardcore radio listener likes her or his radio primarily and seldom interacts with that content on social media whereas the Twitter or Facebook whiz may not be as tuned in to your broadcast and may instead follow you on her or his favorite platform. The opportunity here is that social media fans’ appreciation for community radio may be borne of things you might not expect. You have a chance to mold your image in a variety of ways.

What if a community radio station had a Facebook director whose only job would be to produce a weekly Facebook Live chat on local issues, get some entertaining video content up twice a week, and then one fundraising appeal every week? How interesting could that Facebook page be to you? You’d likely come by at least a time or two to see what was going on.

What if a station had an Instagram director in charge of curating local posts based around a hashtag each week, doing a weekly Instagram Story about local arts and culture, and was the pitch person once a week for donations? Might this content compel you to give? You would probably watch that appeal at least, and maybe even throw $10 to the station for making a good run at it.

And finally, what if your social media director squad teamed up for a one-day all-digital fundraising campaign, asking new donors to join in at a low rate like $5, or one of your station’s standard levels? They’d have to coordinate their tasks, content and message, certainly, but the risks are low for a lot of potential reward.

Could community media pull off social media directors? It is absolutely doable. Furthermore it shifts the strategy from overworking one person into handling everything. Instead it gives a jolt of innovative energy by empowering people to make each individual platform magical in its own right.

You hear no argument from me, of course, that there’s a constituency of community radio volunteer that is not interested in doing something like this. Yet, bear in mind, your future calls on you to be proactive. Social media is a powerful means of growing your audience and donor base. Rethinking how your community media organization is involved in social media will only benefit you.