What if Listeners Don’t Want to “Engage” with your Radio Brands?

Follow your Heart

There’s this assumption in digital-land that everybody wants to “engage.”  That “engagement” is the ultimate goal of all digital activities.

So then why is there so little “engagement” with most radio brands online?

Is it because radio brands are poorly represented on digital platforms?  Or is it because most (but certainly not all) listeners use radio not because it occupies their every moment of conscious thought, but precisely because it doesn’t?

The answer is certainly “both.”

Too many radio brands expect audiences to “engage” with their station brands simply because those brands exist online in one form or another.  But establishing an outpost on Facebook or Twitter does not mean listeners will use it (let alone “like” it), any more than publishing a book means people will read it or releasing a new song means people will hear it.

“Usage” is not the same as “attention.”  And “usage” does not necessarily suggest the level of interest that “engagement” usually implies.  Sometimes “usage” just means “usage.”  It means being in the right place at the right time where the right station happens to be playing.  And this is especially true in the world of PPM where cumes balloon and time-spent-listening craters.  That’s the purest reflection of dispassionate usage I can imagine.

Maybe it’s wrong for you to expect folks to “engage” with you online.

Unless, of course, you are doing things online specifically designed to attract a level of attention which goes beyond the low bar that “usage” can represent.

Getting “engagement” online requires doing things online designed to engage.  That means much more than repurposing over-the-air content, tweeting what song you’re playing now, embedding that YouTube clip everybody has already seen, or pimping whatever the contest-du-jour happens to be.

As the great ad-man David Ogilvy once put it, “the consumer is not an idiot, she is your wife.”

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  • Well said Mark,

  • Thanks!

  • Agree completely. Stations that use social media as another tower to simply push out their message are always going to be disappointed in their usage and engagement rates.

  • I think there’s another possible explanation and that is people don’t feel connected to 4 letters (aka the radio station). Do people feel connected to Walmart? Gas station? I don’t think so because they’re just delivery mechanisms for products or services. If listeners are going to connect to anyone it will be the hosts who appear to be talking to them.

    I saw the same dynamic in the music industry when it went digital. The record labels tried to create music services or web portals, but nobody wanted to connect with “Sony/BMG”. It took hundreds of millions of dollars for the labels to learn that fans didn’t care about record labels but did care about artsts and created community around some of them.

  • Thanks Andrew!

  • This is super-important, Michael, because it goes to the heart of what the “brand” is.
    If the station is the “brand” then one would expect that station to maintain a relationship with the consumer. Certainly, many music stations – especially those with strong morning shows – are in this category.
    Talk stations are probably more menus for brands than brands themselves (in part because the “position” of these stations tends not to be “news” but rather “talk”).
    And plain vanilla music stations are likely to have no relationship of consequence at all, other than the “usage” one reflected in ARB.

  • Cool idea, thanks Vanessa!

  • I’d contend that if the connection is the morning crew than that is the brand not the station. Here in San Diego DSC (Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw) are local celebs. Their show is on its 3rd station. I don’t think any listeners connect to the station, but they do to the team and I’d contend that’s the brand.

    Stations are an artifact of arbitrary FCC licensing rules which are wholly irrelevant in an IP world. The station can push like hell to try and make the station mean something but I think it’s a losing cause. Just my take!

  • Maybe there are fewer exceptions to that than I would like to imagine.
    I’m thinking of WMMR in Philly, for example, which certainly looms larger than its morning show (although they loom large too).

  • Thanks Andy. Well put.

  • Carey Edwards

    As usual, refreshing honest remarks on how engagement and usage differ. Unfortunately, the more radio passes unimaginative (i.e. “like if you think these puppies are cute”) & endorsement ad driven content on their social media extensions like FB- the more tainted the waters are for the next round of user experience for many radio brands. Station brands should approach their Facebook & twitter extensions like Talent coaches do with air staff talent; if you can’t be first with breaking news on your content, then have a unique angle on it! Then do it again tomorrow! It’s the very definition of engagement.Gallup’s metric of engagement is based on the notion that it’s a cumulative experience for the user. Passion is only part of it.

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