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Chris Brogan on Social Media Strategy for Radio – Part 1

Chris Brogan doesn’t do a lot of interviews, and it’s because he is in such strong demand.  Chris is a well-known name in digital media circles.  He’s a social media advisor and the author of a terrific new book called Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online and the co-author of the modern classic Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.

This is the first part of our two-part interview.  Today, Chris has some lessons in social media for radio and some criticisms over the way radio is currently sold relative to rising digital media.  Tomorrow he tackles online radio and the way stations use live streaming video.

Listen to our entire interview here – or subscribe to all the Mark Ramsey Media podcasts at iTunes.

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Chris, when we talk about social media strategy, what are we talking about?

We’re talking about how you use the various social media tools to handle your existing business communication needs. That could be marketing, it could be customer service, it could be sales.  We’re talking about how you go down those roads to deliver further business value.

Okay, so if I’m a radio station looking to develop a social media strategy, what are my first steps?

Radio stations are looking for a few things.

They’re looking to keep their audience quite engaged.  They’re looking to show some value back to their sponsors (that’s really the basic business model there).  Radio stations get paid when sponsors feel like they’re having some kind of impact using the station.

So the strategy begins with using listening tools to find out who’s who in your local target audience.  If you’re a digital radio station, you can search and find who’s talking about the various topics you cover on the web.  If you Google the phrase “grow bigger ears,” I walk you through how they do that in a blog post.

After you’ve listened and you find where your audience is, the question is how can you drive a little more value for your various sponsors?

For example, if you’ve got a sponsor selling golf club memberships and you’re local to this particular country club, then you might start looking for golfers who are talking about being in your area or visiting the area where your audience and your sponsor is.  You can start actually targeting and making conversations happen.  And if the audience is amenable to it, then of course you’ve done a bit of service to your sponsors.  And it’s a lot more two-way.

I think there’s a lot of opportunity to do more two-way conversation, because if you think about your typical on-air persona, it doesn’t allow for back-and-forth but you can easily do it online.

Chris, that brings to mind another question:  To a great degree, radio broadcasters view the social media tools as extensions of their marketing and promotional capability, and this type of marketing (unless we’re talking about contesting) typically isn’t two-way.  How can they think differently about this and view it as something bigger than simply another way to promote their wares?

First off, listening applies here.  You can actually listen at the point of need.  You can find people who are open to the opportunities you’re selling.

So as opposed to just blurting out that “we’re sponsored by Buffalo Trace Whiskey,” it would be great to be watching people talk on the social web or talk in blog posts about using or consuming that kind of a product, and then you can actually jump into the conversation, talk to them about what they’re interested in and “oh by the way, I happen to be sponsored by Buffalo Trace Whiskey.  Have you ever tried that?   Do you like that?” etc.  So there are a lot of opportunities for that sort of a thing as well.

What do you say to broadcasters who say this sounds great, but there are two problems:  First, the numbers seem really small compared to the world of broadcasting.  And second, advertisers pay us for the number of ears we reach, and with that smaller audience, it messes up our business model?

To be honest, the numbers that are getting quoted a lot by most of the ratings services are all sort of back-of-the-envelope guesses.  There’s a whole lot of extrapolation that comes from the mainstream marketing machine as far as how many people are listening to any given station.

There’s not a lot of reality between what the quoted circulation is and real consumption.

The online opportunity is to say we can track exactly who takes an action.  Otherwise, it’s what I call the “shiny store syndrome.”  If I have a video on YouTube and I get 10 million views of that video but I get four more sales, is that a real success or not?

So what I tend to do is look for ways to measure on the dollar sign because that’s really the opportunity that’s going to move the needle somewhere.

What I tell clients is don’t look at the numbers and simply how much you spend; look at whether or not you can actually track uptake in sales based on the execution.

When you say “on the dollar sign,” you’re saying measure the end result that one is trying to achieve, not the number of ears one gets along the way, right?

Exactly.  Because, again, I just don’t think that the “ear” numbers that we’re getting in mainstream media or “eyes” in television are actually accurate anymore.  And it’s time for a change.

I had a conversation with another author who used to be with P&G, and he said in terms of the mass amount of reach, those numbers are generally discounted by advertisers anyway because they’re so far from the sale.  That relates to the point you’re making.

Right.  What I’m saying is who really gives a rat’s a** if you say my audience is 65,000 strong.  If you don’t make four more sales after buying some advertising space on that particular show, then who cares?

I would spend a lot of my time using the social tools to build relationships, build community around the would-be sponsors that you have; not necessarily about your content, but about the kinds of people who would need to consume that content with whom you’re actually placing your advertising relationships, and then see if you can actually move the needle.

Especially with the social website tools, you can have tracking, you can have links and actually measure the success of those links, and then you can show it to the advertisers and say “you know what, I got you 125 clicks and I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but look how many of those converted to a sale?”  If you say 40, then I had a 30-something percent success rate on anyone who looked at your sales material and actually took an action.  And of my 65,000 listeners, a 100-and-something came.

That’s the real percentage.  That’s the real number, and I can show it to you on a graph.  As opposed to “here are some people I think might be listening to the station sometimes, and here’s how old they are because that’s what they said in a survey, etc.”

You’re not arguing that broadcasters face diminishing prospects, are you?

No.  Actually, I keep thinking that there’s a lot more opportunity in things like broadcast radio as well as satellite, but I think we have to rid ourselves of this whole mystique about it being one thing and the social web being another thing.

I think a lot of these stations are starting to falter.  So many programming formats don’t work the way they used to.  I think the opportunity is to really get in there and shake it up.

As I’m watching some stations decline, I have seen two come up in the Boston market where I’m based, and I think about it with my wallet and say:  Could I spend a little differently if I had access to the air?  And I think the answer is “yes.”

I think too many broadcasters used to say “I have this money now.  I’m just not going to jump to this other thing,” and then they were saying, “I lost some of that money, but I’m still not going to jump because at least I have some of it.”  Instead, they should be saying “I’m ready to make some investments and I know it’s going to be smaller yields in the short term, but it’s going to grow.”

I mean that’s like saying “I have 10 acres of crops, and even though I really need 40 acres of crops, and even though I’m losing an acre a year, I don’t think I’ll plant any seeds.”

Here’s what I think:  There’s no such thing as radio per se anymore – or television or advertising agencies – it all falls under the same banner called “media” which includes social media as part of its tapestry.  And if you’re a broadcaster reaching zillions of ears, your job is to give those ears something to do and someplace to go whether or not it’s to a website devoted to your radio station.  True or not?

Yeah, sure.  I think that’s definitely it.

Way back in the 1990s, we were saying “come to this website because I’ll have a whole bunch of ads around it and you can click on something, and hopefully I’ll make some money if you do that.”

The new way we do it is we go where the people are – we fish where the fish are – and we build opportunities to make more impressions.

I think there are a lot of more interesting opportunities today, but it’s going to be more of it’s a blended thing.  If I were a guy holding on to a bunch of radio stations, I would hold on to them, but I would really reconsider my programming, and I would definitely create a home-based “outpost strategy” where there’s main content, and then there’s a lot of effort devoted to going out to where the fish are – to bring some presence and relationship in there.

So, what you’re talking about is not more “impressions” but more impression?

Yes, absolutely.  That’s a really great way to say it.  I think that there’s so much more opportunity to get ahead of people and make relationships happen, but it’s going to be a model where you’ve got to get to where they are.  Don’t expect them to come to you.

Tomorrow, Chris tackles the rising relevance of online radio and streaming and why the way most stations use live video is dumb.  Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my conversation with Chris Brogan.

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