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Diving Into Social? Check the Water First

Be realistic about what we can accomplish with these tools

Because Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms are the darlings of the media world, the radio industry is spending substantial time, and in some cases money, trying to join the party.

There are excellent reasons to participate, but we must be realistic about what we can accomplish and how we can utilize these tools to drive ratings and revenue.

The goal of this overview is to motivate your top managers to have an informed discussion about how deeply you should delve into social media.

Invest in expertise

If you decide to go all in, you should not rely on someone who simply uses Facebook a lot, or who “lives” on Twitter. It’s not uncommon to find that the person at a radio station in charge of social media is in that position simply as a volunteer, or because he or she has the rudimentary knowledge about how to share material.

iStockphoto/Jesús Sanz

When you hear someone say either, “I’m a social media expert” or “Here’s a list of ­­­­­­­­­social media best practices,” get details about his experience.

True social media experts are rare, and many so-called “best practices” in social media turn out to be nothing more than a series of habits, which lack real research or bona-fide statistical evidence pointing to their efficacy in the business realm.

How does one locate a social media “expert?” With some exceptions, those who really know how to manipulate social media have had the necessary financial funding to access or execute perceptual and focus group studies. An expert in the social media field will also have had extensive experience utilizing several of the top real-time Web topic measurement tools, which are expensive and typically affordable only to major agencies and big brands.

Hiring a qualified consultant with a portfolio of success stories can drive fast, measureable results. Which brings us to my main point: If your social media strategy isn’t structured to drive ratings or revenue, your investment in this area should be small.

You may still want to participate, but you should do so while creating boundaries in terms of staff time spent on social media and on-air emphasis in promoting these platforms. Having a strong community on Twitter may be a great way to build loyalty for your morning team; just make sure the morning crew doesn’t spend so much time tweeting about themselves that the show’s actual content suffers.

It is vital to discuss and strategize how to deal with social media issues. But no matter how far you decide to go with social media, remember that your number one communication asset is still your own airwaves. With so much noise about Facebook and Twitter, it takes a strong leader to remind staff that these are just complimentary features.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Email [email protected].

Social Savvy

Here are just a few issues you are likely to encounter sooner or later on these platforms:

1) Racism and sexism from people who post. What’s your plan when hate messages appear in comments on your station-sanctioned Facebook page? Do you have someone monitoring the comments regularly? If so, have you directed them to remove questionable statements, or do you want them to engage in discussion?

2) What’s your plan to deal with on-air talent who tweet or re-tweet “news” that was not verified and has the potential to create conflict?

3) Will your on-air talent be permitted to maintain “personal” Facebook pages and/or Twitter accounts that they use only for friends and family?

4) If copyrighted material (like photos) gets posted by your staff, who takes it down?(Attribution is not enough to protect you).

5) Who holds passwords to your social media accounts? If the person who set the accounts up suddenly departs your organization, are they able to hold you hostage?

6) Who determines how often your station posts to Facebook or tweets? Who is in charge of tweeting back to someone who tweets to you?

7) Who monitors your analytics?

8) Who answers questions posted on Facebook?

9) How does your social media plan integrate with your SMS (text messaging) plan?

10) How do your social media assets tie to your website?