Just What You Need, Another Social Media Column: One Man's Unsolicited Advice
This Week's 'The Letter' From All Access News-Talk-Sports By Perry Michael Simon
March 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM (PT)
It was strange. Shortly after a friend asked me about social media and who out there would make a good advisor for radio stations looking to "do it right," I encountered a flood of articles about that very topic. Everybody, it seems, is now an expert. Many of them charge for the privilege.
I, of course, am an expert as well. I'll do the advising around here. No charge, either. But first, a digression.
It was exactly eight years ago THURSDAY that I started a blog. Everybody had a blog in 2003. That's because the experts said everybody HAD to have a blog. Radio people were advised to have all hosts blog. So everybody got themselves on BLOGGER or LIVEJOURNAL and blogged away, until they got bored and ran out of things about which to blog. And then they stopped. Well, okay, not everybody stopped, but blogs went from gotta-do-it to meh in record time.
Today, everyone has to be on TWITTER and FACEBOOK, and everyone is, and everyone should be, because they're social media, and social media are everything, according to people who make a living telling people what they should do in new media. Oh, wait, maybe you should do a Groupon thing, too, because THAT'S everything, too. Or is that already passe? I guess it depends on how many 50-percent-off-Pilates deals you can handle. Anyway, this time, unlike how he blog thing played out (for radio, at least), FACEBOOK and TWITTER seem to be hanging on, although you can never tell for sure where we'll be a few years down the line, or are you still maintaining your MYSPACE page?
Maximizing the impact of social media for your business has itself become a big business; All those articles I've been reading are quoting people who appear to be taking money from clients in order to tell them what to do about FACEBOOK and TWITTER. They all, basically, say the same things: Don't use it just to promote stuff. Interact with listeners. Post a lot. Don't post too much. Promote it on the air. Videos, videos, videos. Be personal. Profit!
It's hard to weed through all that. I think the way to approach all of it, though, is to stop thinking of FACEBOOK and TWITTER as a promotional vehicle and start thinking of them as media in their own right. They're not radio. They're not a traditional website. They're not a billboard. They're their own animal, and the people using them have different expectations for what they'll get out of them.
That's why a lot of stations' and shows' use of social media sucks. I see too many "What do you think of the budget crisis? Call in now!" or "Listen for your chance to win!" posts. Why would anyone want to follow that? What value are you offering them? It's no different from the websites that are really glorified sales brochures, which is to say most radio websites. Are you serving the audience's desires and expectations for your social media pages, or are you serving your own? If the answer is the latter, you're going to have a problem, but, then again, if you're programming radio based on your own agenda rather than giving people what they want and expect from you, that's a problem, too.
What should you do, then? People want something more than what they already get from you on the radio, so give them something more. I'm encouraged by stations that do things like FACEBOOK-only contesting, but that's just a small part of it. You have to make following your TWITTER feed or "liking" your FACEBOOK fan page worth something to the audience, and that means tweets that are entertaining or useful or informative, whether that involves breaking news (this is where having a local news department is pretty helpful, although curating news from other sources is part of it, too), tips on great shopping deals, or the host's opinions on topics that aren't being discussed on the air. And responding to listeners' posts and messages is critical; the fact that they know there's a real human being behind the accounts and he or she will respond to and interact with everyone is important not just for radio but for every business using social media.
But you knew that, right? This stuff is pretty obvious. It's just a matter of doing it. Yes, it takes time and creativity, but if you're in radio, you're supposed to have buckets of the latter, and as for the former, if people who work multiple jobs and long hours (ahem) can find time to post and respond to friends and followers, so can you. It's part of your job description now.
(Another aside: If you're interested in a creative use of social media by radio, take a look at PHIL HENDRIE's approach to TWITTER, where he has his characters maintaining individual accounts and interacting with each other in what amounts to an ongoing, extended parallel bit (involving, among other things, a baseball-bat kneecapping, one character's difficulty with gender pronouns, and discussions of hot news stories that always degenerate into personal insults); the tweets are a show separate from the broadcast show, but it serves to remind followers to listen to the show without seeming like a promo)
There you go, yet another What Radio Should Do With Social Media article, at the special introductory price of nothing. That may be what it's worth, but you're not out anything, so stop complaining.
Quick plug: Once again, my wife FRAN and I are raising funds to fight women's cancer by walking in the annual Revlon Run/Walk for Women in LOS ANGELES on MAY 7th, and this year's walk marks Fran's fifth year since her diagnosis and treatment, so we're especially proud to be part of it. If you can donate to the effort, please do; it's a worthy cause. Donate at do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon, and know that every donation will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
What's at Talk Topics, the show prep column at AllAccess.com, this week? As always, there are hundreds of news items and conversation starters and kicker stories, ranging from the serious, like JAPAN and LIBYA and the economy, to the ridiculous, like the woman who hid a LOT of illicit stuff in an unusual place, the women who fought on a subway car over the consumption of spaghetti, and the REBECCA BLACK viral video phenomenon, and everything in between. Go here for the column, and while you're here, read "10 Questions With..." AMERICAN GENERAL MEDIA/BAKERSFIELD's BRETT RECKAMP, who just added two more stations to his duties as PD at KERN. Don't miss the rest of All Access, either, with all the news and features and ratings and job listings and other resources you need, updated all day every day, and all free.
Did someone mention social media?: Follow Talk Topics at @talktopics and Net News at @allaccess to get the headlines in convenient and clickable form. And you can follow me at @pmsimon, if you're interested in my personal thoughts (not endorsed or sanctioned by All Access, by the way).
And I mentioned my blog, which is at pmsimon.com, and I'll mention my other writing outlet, CHRIS HARDWICK's Nerdist.com, where I write about nerd culture from sci-fi to comedy to indie rock and more. Again, those are not All Access' fault, but you can directly blame me.
In the absence of anything better to write down here, and in light of the fact that it's way late and I'm way overdue, I'll just mention that there are a couple of places to make your own comments on this thing, if you haven't yet noticed; you can comment on the version that's in FRIDAY's Net News column, and you can comment on the version you'll find in the menu at AllAccess.com under "Columns." Please do so, whether you agree with me or think I'm an idiot. Or both. Or just tweet your displeasure. You wouldn't be the first.