The Clear & Present Danger: The Real Reason Radio Has To Get Serious About Social Media Now

Posted on July 25, 2012


Radio companies, consultants and insiders in our industry debate the value of social media and comparing that to our core programming on-air and our revenue core pretty much all the time now, but very little seriousness is put to the question of what really happens if we don’t get it right.  There is really something quite different happening in our daily lives that brings with it a significant sense of urgency for understanding social connectivity with listeners on-air and outside of our primary signals.  Technology is allowing consumers with money (the most valuable consumers) to turn wide spread business models on their actual head.  In fact, consumers for most or all retailers and listeners for all of radio and all forms of content are rapidly moving toward a day when they will no longer be chained to retail stores or businesses for purchase or traditional radio channels in their car, at work and home.  In fact, it is worse than that because listeners are going to have revolutionary control over personal taste quickly and forevermore.

This won’t be like satellite radio.   Those that are not working to establish and build golden relationship with listeners in their market and those that are not focused on connecting personalities with top flight content that listeners crave to those listeners are doomed to be the number one choice for advertisers that want to only reach poor people.

This isn’t about revenue.  This is about IF you will survive.  Car companies are connecting the world to younger listeners (first) and all listeners eventually through apps in the car that will create hundreds of thousands of opportunities for listeners to find the perfect niche for them on the drive to work or home, around town or across the country.  Mobile devices are becoming smarter and smarter.  If you want a clearer picture of where things are going, you can reference the July 21, 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal called “The Customer As A God.”  While breakdown at retail is becoming well-known because of “smart phone show rooming,” this article talks about cell phones in a way that should frighten all radio employees:  “Choosing among AT & T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest.  It’s why marketers still talk about customers as ‘targets’ they ‘acquire,’ ‘control,’ manage’ and ‘lock in,’ as if they were cattle.”  The article goes on to warn big business (and indirectly radio) that they better wake up to how big the change from business being largely in control of things to a place where consumers cut you out if you are not smart enough to give them what they want and really connect with them.

The world is rapidly changing in a way that will crush industries.  This is a serious warning to all corporate radio decision makers right down to part time personalities:  listeners are putting us on notice and we better wake up to really encouraging relationship with these people before they are gone because they move on to better choices for them.

Millions of cable customers frighten media executives daily because they are afraid consumers are going to “cut the cord.”  Consumers have done it by the millions with landline phones.  You don’t think technology can kill your radio station?   Just make the social media conversation about how it is a waste of time and the only thing that matters is today’s revenue.

The truth is that content is king.  It was king in 1950 and it will be king in 2055.  The difference is that consumers now have choices that are a lot less expensive to bring to the market and technology is soon going to allow those choices to be free for radio listeners.

What should you be doing?

You should be focused on your on-air product, but you should also recognize the value of building real relationships between your personalities, your brands and listeners by giving them unique content and actual relationship they cannot find anywhere else.  Don’t believe consumers know when they are being given lip service?  Call Bank Of America for customer service or have trouble with anything a major company supplies to your home, car or even work.

Here is what matters now:

1. People crave connectivity with other people.  Don’t underestimate the power of this.

2. Your brands connect because of personalities and great content.  If you get rid of the personalities and content, you will reach a moment in time where you are nothing.

3. Your personalities should be engaged in the community in a meaningful way (this is not a corporate mandate to make it look good).

4. People connect when your personalities take stands to fight for causes they believe in.

5. People connect to people who make it clear that they love the community they live in and work hard to support.

6. People know when you are phoning it in.  Even if it does not look like it, listeners haven’t abandoned radio because they are locked into a certain amount of choices and creating alternative and easy-to-deliver content to environments like your car inexpensively has not existed – until the very soon approaching future.  Your future.

7. Radio should be strengthening local content choices for local consumers and connecting listeners to opportunities that they want every day.

Common sense and actual history shows in industry after industry that when big change takes place the status quo tries to hold on to the way things have always been done and tries to navigate consumer sentiment by forms of mild and sometimes not mild manipulation. However, this time the consumer is gaining speed and ability they’ve never had before.  So, you better place your bet with building relationship and meaningful community service, compassionate cause engagement and focus on your local market.  Learning social media and developing a specific social media plan is essential in making that happen in a way that is less expensive and frankly takes less time to accomplish for you and your team.

Loyd Ford

Join the social media and radio page on Facebook @  Go to the page, click “Like” and you’re in!

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