Social Media Needs To Be Social

The Relationship Era doesn’t mean using social media and other channels to advertise or publicize or otherwise dictate your message; it means finding areas of common interest and values within to forge conversation and common causes.” – Bob Garfield

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After a recent summit designed to gain the perceptions of very savvy, successful, Millennials, there was, as you’d expect, a lot of talk about social media.  Their comments were interesting, but even more interesting were the questions asked by the audience, primarily radio people.

We think the goal of social media is to promote our stations.  Millennials think social media is for opening a line of communication with each other.  That’s quite a difference in perspective.

So here is my observation: We’re using social media as a way to promote to those boomers and X’ers listening to our stations.  That has zero impact on Millennials, and maybe minimal impact on the generations in our audience.  What I see is many stations trying to act or sound Millennial in their social media.

Social media is bound by interests, which in turn is bound by community.  We’re in an amazing world where like-minded people can join around a concept, idea or cause without the help of any “official” organization.  We should want to be involved where the listener is, how the listener is. Promoting what your morning show said this morning isn’t social, it’s hype. Thinking non-digital natives can build an effort to unite Millennials is a pipe dream.  And we all know that pipe dreams are fantastic hopes or plans that are generally regarded as being nearly impossible to achieve.

Social media is content, and very rarely is compelling content a promotion to listen to our own product.

Investing In Revenue

“As opposed to trying to attract millions of eyeballs and monetize them with ads, branded social networks are less about profitability and more about creating loyal and engaged customers that will ultimately create revenue in more conventional ways.” – Adam Ostrow

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The conversation around radio stations eventually seems to wind up in a discussion of how to monitize digital media.  The answer eludes most radio people, because the idea of building loyalty and creating engagement, and then earning from that, doesn’t make sense.  Interesting, since that’s how radio was designed to be “monitized.”

Some time ago most of our efforts were to not only get people to listen, but to be as loyal as possible.  We wanted to build fans, not just listenership.  Over time, especially after the joys of consolidation, it became a battle for “ears” instead of a battle for hearts and minds.  Instead of being a way to more effectively reach people on a personal level, digital media is in danger of becomming another way to sell things to people.

This isn’t one of those, “why can’t it be like the old days” rants.  Instead, it’s a call to arms for those who still understand that the battle lies far beyond the ear.  Digital and social media don’t need to be a replacement for radio, they can actually be integrated into our plans as a compliment to radio, part of the larger media pallet we all need.  But it requires alternate thinking.

First, we have to understand that both radio and digital media are built on fans, not just listeners.  PPM results show the same thing, with the majority of listenership coming from P1’s instead of listeners.  I know there’s a school of thought that radio is simply cume based, but a radio station of a large base of listeners, without any fans, is useless when it comes to making money.  Success lies in the careful relationship between cume and P1, not just one or the other.

I’m going to step out here and suggest that, just as revenue used to be (and probably still is) a by-product of compelling programming, digital media income will be a by-product of compelling digital media.

There’s no empirical research to show this yet, but I’m willing to bet it’s the hardcore fans of a radio station that move product for the clients.  Occasional listeners, especially those we find spending one hour or less with the station, aren’t helping much at all.

It’s Not About You

“Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.” -Jay Baer

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DMR / Interactive President and CEO Tripp Eldredge and Arbitron Digital Media Manager Manager Jacquelyn Bullerman really helped me understand the importance and value of Social Media at the December seminar in Annapolis.

It’s where I learned what I already know – that listeners are really more interested in what they want, what they have to say, and what what other people like them say than what we think.

I had a friend who taught me a trick several years ago that focused me even more on the listener. he took a station web site and highlighted in red everything that was all about the station, and in green what was all about the listeners. Wow, what color shock. Most radio station web sites are all about the station and what they need, and not about the listener. Most stations social media efforts are exactly the same.

There’s a lot of emphasis on SEO in the web world, how to make your station show up with a better ranking than the competition. I haven’t see any overwhelming evidence of what it does for the station – they’re coming to us from more from Google searches, but what does that mean? Can it be translated into increased cume? More loyalty? Revenue increases?

How about Facebook? What’s the relationship between “fans” and listenership or loyalty? Do we use Facebook to have people learn about us, or for us to understand our fans?

The people really into social media seem to be saying that it’s not about what we are saying to our listeners, but about what they are saying to each other. Could it be that the more we connect with listeners they connect with us the more loyalty they show and the more they recommend us to others?

You mean it’s really not about us? It’s about the listeners and the community they relate to? They’re interested in what each other thinks?

What struck me most about this session was the need to use “the you voice.” Keeping copy, content and concepts focused totally on the listener. It needs to sound like one listener talking to another, the way they’d talk to each other.

What Is New Media?

In the name of progress, our official culture is striving to make new media to do the work of the old.” – Marshall McLuhan

“We’re getting into new media.”

You hear that a lot these days.  Much of the time it means the web site has been updated, or that they have a blog in support of their station.  But here’s the question, is it new media if it’s only purpose is to support old media?

Dove obviously understands this fine distinction with their Campaign For Real Beauty.

A web site for what the consumer is interested in, not what Dove is interested in.  A connection with their family, but Dove still get’s the credit.  KTIS radio in Minneapolis see’s the benefit too.

Why not be a connecting resource for helping the community?  Even Tootsie Roll is getting in on the new media path, with the most subtle, yet clear, link to the product.  Still, they make sure it’s the consumer that’s highlighted.

Gotta love that “Motherhood is full of twists and turns.”

What’s your “consumer” most interested in?  Can you link that to what your radio station is all about?  Then you’re starting to understand one important part of “new media.”