One Answer To “Radio, What Do We Do Now?”

(This post is a response to a call from Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0 and Radio & Records magazine for ideas that can help secure radio’s future. See a pdf here. Note: RemainComm is referenced as “a Social Media consultancy.” Though Social Media represents one of our core competencies, RemainComm encompasses many media strategies, both interactive and traditional.)

As I pointed out in my Social Hour webinar of the same name, it is vital for radio to Join the Conversation online through a well thought out and executed social media strategy and the appointment of someone to oversee it.

For the sake of this discussion, compliments of Wikipedia, “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings and most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”

In radio, too many times our presence on the internet is merely a stake in the ground, allowing us to proudly proclaim, “Yes, I am online!” Radio’s presence in the online space needs to be more than signing up for a MySpace page or Twitter account. It must be about using those tools to reach and build stronger relationships with your audience…to engage them in conversation. The use of social media will allow you to take this one way medium, radio, and turn it into a two-way conversation.

Through the use of social media, once you understand and accept the conventions of it, appreciate the potential it offers, and pitfalls it can present, you can not only be part of that conversation but benefit from it by converting those you socialize with to listeners…for no money…that’s right, for free.

Beyond its very basics of enabling conversation with the audience, this form of communication, as vital to business now as the telephone, radio can realize a host of benefits. Through that social strategy radio can, among other things:

  • Get instant feedback from our P-1’s (heaviest users)
  • Have access to convert the communities of those P-1’s online to new listeners on air.
  • Have a new resource for content. As it has evolved social media provides the tools necessary to put the power of media into the hands of your listeners, transforming content consumers into content producers.
  • By being engaged in the conversation, you will have access to all sorts of potential content, talent, and information.
  • The ability to bring your employees together as a team or community. Radio has done much in recent weeks, months, and years to demoralize it’s workforce, it’s face to the public. Imagine uniting your airstaff, sales staff, promotion staff or front office team in the cause of evangelizing your station or company.
  • Instant access to a vibrant, creative, active community. A community willing to take risks and explore new ways of doing things.
  • New ways of driving people already on line to your online offerings.

I know, those more steadfast in their “business as usual” beliefs are saying, “Yeah, but only kids use this stuff.” While yes, younger communicators are responsible for the proliferation of social media, a far wider demographic continues to adopt this form of communication and it’s media on a daily basis. According to comScore…Blogs attract 77.7 million unique visitors in the US, over 100 Million blogs exist producing 1.5 million posts per day, Facebook has 41 million users, MySpace has 75.1 million, and YouTube commands 10% of all internet activity.

Though the tools to execute this social media strategy are free from monetary expense, there are some costs:

  • Being engaged does require a time commitment. The maintenance of a social presence can easily lead to hours in front of the screen. However with through time management and prioritization you don’t have to let it. Simply setting up a short time daily that you dedicate to online will yield many benefits.
  • Radio’s propensity of giving into trickery and contesting. We are in showbiz and we sometimes have a hard time knowing when to be sincere. Social media was built on the concept of honesty and transparency. Any lack of sincerity will be noted by the crowd and could cause harm to your brand. Approach every interaction as if it were with a friend.
  • Radio must be willing to abandon our desire for constant control. We must operate outside our comfort level…we are a business that is second to none when it comes to talking…we need to achieve that same status for listening. This is a huge change in attitude for us and it really represents the biggest cost to us. Once again, our biggest cost has nothing to do with money…pretty cool.
  • Patience. The building of relationship is a dedication to the building of a brand. There is a need for patience for the use of social media to pay off. Any marketer that tells you otherwise is telling you what you want to hear.

As you wait for the monetary rewards of a strong, engaged radio brand communicated via social media, remember the short term benefits of social media engagement…and it’s very little cost.