Shock! Outrage! Revenge. In recent weeks, newspapers and television newscasts told us that we should feel those first two things about Facebook’s alleged data leakage and then act on the third by deleting Facebook.
It’s hard to face the simple truth: Facebook, Google and scores of other digital platforms have convinced Americans that convenience is more important than privacy. While our society screams when the government obtains or even requests our personal information, we don’t think twice about clicking “accept” on privacy policies as fast as we can slide a mouse.
What does this say about us? For the sake of brevity, let’s just stick to the positive reasons we say “yes” to giving away personal data: We place an extremely high value on social connections. We want the most relevant search results. We want content that we care about.
Why is this important to the radio business? Because it reminds us what it takes to be an important utility to our audiences. If the public, in massive numbers, is willing to give up private details just for social interaction and relevant information, we must go back to the basics of delivering the goods over the airwaves.
Before digital media, radio excelled in creating common ground and connections for its audience. Then came simple, cheap automation, consolidation and small staffs. For a time, too many stations cranked out content like widgets in a factory with little thought about creativity and making connections. In recent years there has been a return to localism, altruism and talent development; but there is still great need for improvement.
How does radio create social connections for listeners? When the medium is at its best, we provide emotional connections to music and artists; fun contests; neighborhood and citywide events; and the mustering of local resources for the disadvantaged.
MUSIC AND ARTISTS
While interviews with the stars of your format are great, access is limited — but thoughts and stories from your listeners are readily available. Giving fans a way to voice their feelings about new songs, or to share stories about what older songs mean to them, adds a relatable dimension to the predictable jukebox and pre-recorded corny bumpers.
It takes time to collect authentic audio, but it can be done via social platforms, attachments to text messages, or the old-fashioned way by recording people in person. These clips can be stored in a library and used every few months.
We tend to forget that “communities” of fans already exist around the core artists of any given music format. It is also possible to activate these fan communities with in-person social events at bars, pre- and post-concert activities, or cover band tributes.
HQ Trivia has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that people will tune in for fun at scheduled times if you have a great host and decent prizes.
For those not in the know, HQ is played exclusively via an app on your mobile phone. The audience currently hovers at around 1 million people per game.
Check it out sometime. It’s a social activity that friends, family, or co-workers can play together, similar to what was on radio for almost a century until collective contesting blandly took over our broadcasts.
By the way, HQ host Scott Rogowsky should be doing a morning show in a major market. Somebody get this guy before TV snaps him up. There’s no doubt that for a personality that big, audiences would show up for appearances just to see him live and get a chance to meet him and hang out together.
Do your personalities host neighborhood or city events? Once common, it’s considered to be too much effort by some on-air talent. There’s a reason politicians “work” a room. Over time, making personal connections convinces people you care about them and that they have connection with you.
I have mounting evidence right now in my inbox that stations are increasing the amount of energy and time to help the needy in their own communities. For those of you who are just watching, get back in the game and do something for someone less fortunate. Everyone wins when stations facilitate fundraising and this is one social activity still done better by radio than any social network.
I recently overheard a colleague of mine tell someone in their early 20s that radio used to be the social network before Facebook came along. While we can’t turn back the clock, we can still a have a huge impact when we build social connections with our audience.
The author is president of Lapidus Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.