Radio stations should embrace every form of communication available to them — especially easy-to-use texting and apps.
Credit: Photos courtesy Mark Lapidus Broadcast radio has a serious communication problem.
We may be terrific at sending content out but we’re terrible at receiving from, and responding to, our listeners.
Even when the main methods of feedback came from the phone lines in the control room, faxes and mail, radio stations performed poorly. These days, the norm outside of radio and television is a continual conversation, so broadcast stations run the risk of appearing out of touch and potentially even irrelevant.
Active media consumers are growing accustomed to offering their opinion instantly, yet many radio stations are neither set up to receive feedback properly nor capable of doing anything with communication once it is received. The typical program director is too busy to handle this function, so I’m going to suggest something radical for our industry: Consider creating the new position of social media manager.
While you may not be able to accomplish the herculean feat of creating a full-time role right now, you may be able to string together enough freelance funds to make this a 20-hour-a-week job for starters. Assuming you hire correctly for the role, this will also give you ammunition for mounting a proposal for the next budget cycle.
Let’s get down to details.
The primary reception buckets you should consider operating: Mobile/SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, posts to your website(s) and phone calls. It’s perfectly okay to expand your communication toolset, but think twice before reducing any method that allows your listeners to communicate with you.
A perfect example of premature abandonment concerns SMS, or text messaging. As Twitter’s growth has exploded and the media have touted its power, we’ve witnessed stations either underutilizing or completing dropping the art of SMS.
The assumption is that texting is yesterday’s news and that pretty much everybody does Twitter. Even among the younger set, though, that’s quite a reach.
Not only is SMS alive and well, it still has the best open rate in media that I’ve ever seen. If you aren’t able to receive communication from your listeners 24/7 by SMS, you are missing a huge part of your audience and eliminating the easiest and fastest way to create instant engagement.
And while we’re on the subject of mobile, I must say I’m bewildered to see that most of the mobile (broadcast) radio streaming apps lack any method of sending feedback — thumbs up or down on songs, messaging back to the station or voting on polls.
The primary function of your new social media manager will be to engage your listeners personally by first closing the loop in received communication and then later proactively communicating. As he figures out how best to accomplish these tasks, he will then train and direct your on-air personalities.
A word of supreme caution: Radio people are natural-born marketers. Every successful DJ in America is great at teasing the next song or event, whether on- or off-air. Plus, the inclination of program directors is to use all their power to promote tune-in and time spent listening, so they encourage DJs to sell, sell, sell!
However, engagement and communication with listeners is not primarily about marketing, and this is a challenging adjustment for those so accustomed to messaging that’s all about themselves. Social media engagement is primarily about real content.
Here’s where the light bulb is supposed to go off. Your social media manager and personalities must live and love your actual product and be able to communicate emotionally with listeners about it. As a news or talk station, your engagement is topically driven and so your social media manager has to be a news junkie with an understanding of how to deal with divergent opinions on hot topics.
As a music station, your social media manager must be aware of the latest song releases, tours, personality news, pictures and gossip. Yes, you should still carefully insert marketing messages into your content discussions; do this by making it relevant to the ongoing discussion and not just random plugs for on-air tune-in.
People continue to talk about active communication engagement, or social media, as part of the future. This is not correct. This is happening now, with or without radio’s involvement, so make it your business to start socializing.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. He can be reached at [email protected].